In a devastating result at Canterbury on Saturday for maestro trainer Bart Cummings, his seven-year-old galloper Empire’s Choice broke down and subsequently had to be euthanised.
The Redoute’s Choice entire lined up for their 25th career start in the $100,000 Canterbury BMW Lord Mayor’s Cup (1900m) but failed to finish after breaking down passing the 600 metre mark.
Jockey Brad Pengelly, who was aboard Empire’s Choice, was thrown to the ground but cleared of injury and was able to continue riding at the meeting.
Breaking their near hind cannon bone, there was nothing that could be done for Empire’s Choice who had to be put down in front of the winning post after gallantly making his way down the straight after the horror incident.
It sent a sombre mood over the day’s racing at Canterbury, spectators forced to watch the awful end to Empire’s Choice.
“He was a good horse, you don’t like to see them go like that,” a noticeably shaken Cummings said of the galloper.
“It’s very sad.”
A steward’s investigation into Empire’s Choice run was launched, but Racing NSW acting chief steward Greg Rudolph commented it was just one of those sad by rare events.
“Unfortunately incidents like this sometimes happen in racing,” Rudolph said.
Empire’s Choice, whose great-dam Rosie’s Star won the 1988 Melbourne Cup, entered the winner’s stall just three times over their injury plagued career including their most notable victory in the Group 1 Queensland Derby (2400m) at Eagle Farm back in the winter of 2007.
The Queensland Derby success came directly after Empire’s Choice’s win in that year’s Group 3 Rough Habit Plate (2020m) at Doomben while their first ever victory was in a 1500m maiden at Hawkesbury in March 2007.
Most recently Empire’s Choice had failed to show any form, their best result since the 2007 Queensland Derby being their third behind Gai Waterhouse’s glamour mare More Joyous in the Group 1 George Main Stakes (1600m) last year.
This season Empire’s Choice had run twice before what tragically turned out to be their last time out on the turf, when fifth in the Group 2 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) beaten over 15 lengths at Rosehill on March 19, and then ninth to My Kingdom Of Fife in the Group 3 Doncaster Mile Prelude (1600m) at Randwick on April 9.
Before hope turned to heartbreak last Saturday, expert trainer Cummings expressed confidence that Empire’s Choice was still fit for racing.
“He’s fitter now and if he runs well then we might take him to Brisbane,” Cummings had said.
Empire’s Choice was also being prepared for a career at stud later this year, the old warhorse considered to be a valuable stallion having amassed close to $900,000 in earnings.
Graeme Rogerson’s Duelled gelding Shootoff ($4.60F) went on to win the Lord Mayor’s Cup by an impressive three lengths from the Les Bridge-trained Mr Clangtastic ($6.50) while Joe Pride’s Vision And Power held on in a close third.
Following the victory, three-year-old Shootoff rocketed to the top of the markets for the $500,000 Group 1 Queensland Derby (2400m) at Eagle Farm on Stradbroke Handicap Day, June 11.
Now paying $5.50 to take out the Derby, Shootoff is also entered for the Group 1 Doomben Cup (2020m) on May 21.
“He’s going to the Derby for sure,” Sydney foreman for trainer Rogerson, Roger Elliott said.
“He’s nominated for the Doomben Cup as well so whether he goes there first or goes straight to the Derby will be up to Graeme.”
Lord Mayor’s Cup third-placegetter, Carneigie eight-year-old Vision And Power, is also Doomben Cup bound.
“He went well and we will go up there for the Doomben Cup because there is basically no other races for him,” Pride said.
Vision And Power is rated a $31 chance in the Doomben Cup odds that are lead by Chris Waller’s star import My Kingdom Of Fife ($4.20) who became a triple Group winner in Australia on the weekend taking out the Group 2 Hollindale Stakes (1800m) at the Gold Coast.