Owner Bob Peters and jockey Damian Lane believe Western Empire was in need of the run after finishing fifth in the Group 1 Memsie Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on Saturday.
Starting the $4.80 favourite, the brilliant Railway Stakes (1600m) winner loomed as a serious challenger at the top of the straight but finished moderately when beaten 3-1/2 lengths.
Lane gave Western Empire every chance, overcoming barrier 12 to land in a perfect spot one-off the fence in fourth early.
It was the Danny O’Brien-trained gelding’s first start since finishing a luckless second in the Group 1 Kingston Town Classic (1800m) at Ascot last December.
“He looked like he needed it,” Peters said.
“We can only hope that was all it was and we’ll push on.
“I keep saying it’s very hard to do it first-up off such a long break at that level.
“He looked like he had every chance to win from that position, he just didn’t finish off.”
Lane said: “Good return, may have just needed the outing after so long off.”
Snapdancer ($7.50) led all the way to claim her second Group 1, beating the fast-finishing I’m Thunderstruck ($10) by half a length. Cascadian ($8) was third.
Connections raised the $15 million The Everest (1200m) at Randwick as a possible option for Snapdancer, who was rated perfectly in front by jockey Ethan Brown.
“Maybe The Everest is an option for her, but she seems to be really dominant at the 1400,” co-trainer Ciaron Maher said.
“If she did nothing else this preparation, this year has been phenomenal for her.
“She is just going from strength to strength and I think she’ll get better again.”
Kissonallforcheeks was the best of the WA raiders at Caulfield, running third to Chain Of Lightning in the Group 3 Cockram Stakes (1200m).
Graceful Girl ran 11th in the same race and Red Can Man finished a solid sixth to Shooting For Gold in The McCafe 1100 Stakes (1100m).