After an early career which promised so much it could all come down to one race for the Bart Cummings trained Empires Choice.
In the last four year’s he’s not managed a single victory and to most eyes he looks like a horse simply going through the motions waiting to be retired.
Don’t tell that to Cummings though who has persevered with the horse for so long, he still genuinely feels there’s another win in the horse yet.
Having said that time is fast running out and the Listed Lord Mayors Cup at Canterbury today is shaping as the most pivotal of his career.
“This horse has got the ability,” Cummings said.
“He ran a good race last start, he’s working well and I reckon he’s a good each-way bet at long odds.”
Empires Choice is an eight-year-old which once fielded strong Melbourne Cup aspirations.
His breeding suggested he was a chance too with his grandmother Empire Rose winning the 1988 feature event.
Despite his stats not living up to expectations it was always apparent Cummings felt there was something special about the horse, he even ran him in the 2006 Golden Slipper where he was fifth behind Miss Finland.
It wasn’t until the following season where he began to show a liking for the longer distance and his win in the 2007 Queensland Derby had many saying he was the next big thing.
It didn’t happen though and a mix of bad luck and poor form has seen his performances never reach the same heights of the horse which was witnessed that day.
The same year was touted as his Cup year but the arrival of the equine influenza quickly put a spanner in the works for him and indeed the entire racing industry.
It’s plausible that the confinement to his Randwick stables had some part to play in the injury he suffered upon comeback in 2008.
After so much misfortune it would have been understandable for Cummings to pull the plug on his career then however the master decided to press forward, a decision which now seems wrong but that could change in a matter of hours.
To be fair Empires Choice has had limited starts in the last few years, seven to be exact, but in those runs he’s placed just once last spring in the George Main Stakes.
When Cummings says he see’s something you have to listen though and according to the master his two runs this season have shown signs of improvement, his most recent a ninth behind My Kingdom Of Fife in the Doncaster Prelude four lengths off the pace.
Despite that today’s race is where he needs to re-discover his true potential, if not it could spell the end of his career.
“He’s fitter now and if he runs well [today] then we might take him to Brisbane,” Cummings said.
“But he will probably be retired at the end of the season and we are looking to place him to advantage [at stud].”