Empire's Choice Wins Eventful Queensland Derby

There was to be no Rags to Riches outcome from the BMW Queensland Derby (Aus-I) at Eagle Farm racecourse on Saturday when favored Eskimo Queen, winner of last week's Queensland Oaks (Aus-I) took a tumble with five furlongs remaining.

The filly is reportedly fine after regaining her footing and continuing the chase on her own. Her rider Greg Childs lapsed in and out of consciousness for several hours. He has a depressed cheek bone.

Then if that wasn't enough drama, second favorite Empire's Choice (Redoute's Choice-Rosie's Star) charged through along the fence from 14th place around the home turn on the damp turf track, picking off runner after runner, to win by a head. He then had to survive a protest by Steven Arnold the rider of the runner-up Volcanic Prince.

Which he did to give his trainer Bart Cummings his first Queensland Derby win in 32 years.

The race was worth US$445,000.

For Cummings, who has trained more Melbourne Cup (Aus-I) winners (11) than anyone on the planet and who has always been a dab hand at preparing stayers, it was a wonderful return to the top. He also prepares the horse who finished third, Sirmione.

"I'll will send both horses for a spell now and they will come back headed toward the Melbourne Cup in November, " said 73-year-old Cummings. "The only way you’ll find out if they are up to it is to try it,” he added.

After settling back towards the tail of the field, Empire's Choice traveled sweetly before jockey Damien Oliver asked to put himself into the race approaching the home turn. When the field spread around the bend looking for better ground, Oliver cut the corner and Empires Choice did the best in the run to the line to win by a narrow margin.

"He went through the worst going but did make up several lengths in the straight and just got there in the nick of time,” said Cummings. "He’s only getting better now that he is over a bit of distance and I think he’s got a big future. I really think by the spring he’ll be better again.”

Volcanic Star was tracked by Empire's Choice in the run and he too charged home like a train over the final furlong. He was bumped by the winner, thus the protest, but the stewards deemed it occurred too close to the finishing line to warrant an upheld verdict.

Back in third was Sirmione who, like the winner, had won impresively last weekend in a major lead-up race to the Derby. He came down the extreme outside after being forced wide. To counter this he was on the best part of the track, but his dour effort suggests he'll be a big star in the spring as Australian racing heads towards the Cups.

He was only half a length from the winner when the race ended.

"He couldn’t cut the corner, he had to go right around the tramlines and that cost him a couple of lengths otherwise he might have run second if not won,” said his trainer.

The 12 furlongs was run in the time of 2.32.98 with the final 600 meters covered in 39.78. It was the winner's third win from 15 starts but he has seven placings as well for AUS$853,575 in stakes.

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