Top Oklahoma-bred 3-year-olds battled over 400 yards in the $355,800 Remington Park Derby on Saturday night. The restricted Grade 2 race was taken with an outstanding effort by Empressum.

Owned by the Guthrie, Okla. Partnership of Jeff Jones and Steve Holt, Empressum had to overcome a poor start, contact from rivals on both sides and then move between those same rivals to contend before getting victory.

“He showed a tremendous amount of heart and determination after what happened out of the gate,” noted winning trainer Heath Taylor. “Rodrigo (Vallejo, jockey) told me he had to split horses in tight to pass those two (Candy Blood, No. 1 and B Cause Im a Hero, No. 3). That tells you something about our horse right there.”

A gelding by Apollitical Jess from the First Down Dash mare Crazy Down Corona, Empressum was fifth just before the halfway point of the derby. Vallejo continued to hand-ride his mount into a slight opening before going to work once they found more room. HR Princess Jess led out of the gate but could not sustain that effort for the entire measure. Candy Blood, who made early contact with Empressum, was very game but didn’t have enough late to hold off the winner.

Empressum crossed the finish line a neck better than Candy Blood, the beaten 6-5 wagering favorite. HR Princess Jess settled for third, another neck back. Empressum handled the 400 yards in :19.625 to earn a speed index of 92. The remaining order of finish included Apollitical Bird (4th), B Cause Im a Hero (5th), A Pollitical Gal (6th), Apollitical Gold (7th), Everlong (8th) and MH Apollitical Spy (9th).

Overlooked at 16-1 odds, Empressum paid $34 to win, $11 to place and $6.40 to show. He won his sixth career race from nine attempts. The first-place derby check of $142,320 moves his lifetime bankroll to $213,478.

This was the first Remington Park Derby win for owners Jones and Holt, also for jockey Vallejo. Empressum provided the second win in the race for Taylor who saddled First Carolina to victory in 2007.

Now a winner of two consecutive races, Empressum may not be finished with what has turned out to be a solid spring at Remington Park, according to Taylor.
“There are some stakes at the end of the meet we might run him in here but he’s also paid into some Texas races too. We’ll let the horse tell us what to do after we see how he came out of this.”

Remington Park racing continues on Sunday, April 18, with the first of 11 events at 6pm-Central.

Tracked by more than 165,000 fans on Facebook and 10,400 Twitter followers, Remington Park has provided more than $260 Million to the State of Oklahoma general education fund since the opening of the casino in 2005. Located at the junction of Interstates 35 & 44, in the heart of the Oklahoma City Adventure District, Remington Park is home to the $1 million Heritage Place Futurity on May 29. Visit remingtonpark.com for more information.