The $2.90-favourite Emerald Kingdom led and then toughed it out in final stages of the straight to score a well-deserved win in the Listed Sunshine Coast Cup.
The Robert Heathcote trained son of Bryannbo’s Gift had earned his place at the top of the betting boards with eye catching runs in the Recognition Stakes, behind the all-conquering The Harrovian, The Lough Neagh (when 0,20 lengths behind Soxagon) and The Buffering (when 1.45 lengths behind Soxagon) which were all Listed races.
It was a ‘catch me if you can’ scenario in the home straight as Michael Rodd urged Emerald Kingdom along as he tried to stave off all challengers.
Splendoronthegrass, the $8.50 second favourite who led the hard chasing pack, never shirked her task but, in the end, she had to settle for second spot as Emerald Kingdom’s power and determination held up under pressure well enough to see the main fancy home by 0.20 lengths.
The fact that the first seven runners across the line finished within two lengths of each other highlights the intensity of the battle in the run home.
This was Emerald Kingdom’s ninth win from twenty-two starts.
“I suppose it is fair to say the form stood up,” said trainer Robert Heathcote. “He has been racing really well. Soxagon raced well in the Magic Millions. My guy wasn’t eligible for the that, so this was a lovely fall-back option.
“It’s testimony to the courage of the horse that he got fired up, he got taken on, he carried top weight and he wasn’t going to let them get past.”
Jockey Michal Rodd was also full of praise for Emerald Kingdom.
“He has just got such a big heart … he is a warrior this horse” said Rodd. “You look at his form … two good runs behind Soxagon and not getting beaten far by the people’s champ, The Harrovian.
“There was nothing like that in the race today, but he really had to earn it. I thought maybe in that last fifty I was going to be vulnerable, but he was still really strong.
“He knows his job. I don’t think he needs me to be pushing him too hard. He just wants to keep his head in front himself,” concluded Rodd.