Cruel blow for local chance in $100k Battle of the Bush
HORSE RACING: In a cruel blow to local racing, Monto-owned Emperor Maximilian has been denied a shot at the $100,000 Battle of the Bush final at Doomben today after succumbing to a knee injury.
'Maxi' sealed one of 16 spots in the field with a win at the Bundaberg qualifier last month and was set to line up against country Queensland's best over 1200 metres on Tatersall's Tiara Day.
Trainer Darryl Gardiner delivered the heartbreaking news to the syndicate of local owners after Emperor Maximilian pulled up sore from his last start in Gladstone.
The five-year-old went under the knife in Toowoomba last week to remove a bone fragment from his knee and now faces a seven month layoff before returning to the track.
Vets suspect the brave gelding carried the injury through the qualifier, making the performance in Bundaberg even more remarkable.
The horse is owned by publicans Doug O'Sullivan and Tina McGrath, along with a punters club comprised of Al Little, Brad McInally, Tony Dillon, Peter Dingle, Matthew Dahtler, Adam Fletcher, Chris Yeo, Kyle Ogle, Scott Pattie and Jason Barnard.
The late scratching cut short their fairytale run, leaving the local racing fanatics to lament the loss of a golden opportunity to become the toast of country racing - and share in a rich purse.
"To make the race and have to pull out through injury is very disappointing,” O'Sullivan said.
"There was a big event at the Brekky Creek last night for all the connections so it's a shame to miss out.
"It was devastating for everyone involved, but that's horse racing.”
The inaugural Battle of the Bush is a Racing Queensland initiative designed to celebrate the spirit of country racing during the winter carnival by giving participants a chance to share in the excitement of a Group 1 raceday.
The final was won by the heavily-favoured Mason's Chance, trained by Olivia Cairns out of Mackay.
Mason's Chance was the last to earn a spot in the field after a torrid, 3000km qualification campaign, which included runs at Emerald, Home Hill, Thangool and Bowen, before sealing a place with a win at the final qualifying event in Barcaldine two weeks ago.
Instead of standing trackside in Brisbane as he had hoped, O'Sullivan watched the race from behind the bar at his pub in Monto.
Having seen the bunched finish to this afternoon's race - half a length separating the first eight past the post - he couldn't help but wonder what might have been.
"You never know how we would have gone with the different track conditions,” O'Sullivan said.
"It was a really exciting race - the best part of a dozen nearly crossed the line together.
"(Mason's Chance) was the favourite and the horse to beat.
"Hopefully we'll get another crack next year.”
1. Mason's Chance ($5)
2. Bush Caviar ($8.50)
3. Go Get Sum ($15)
4. Just Call Me Louie ($11)