Empire strikes back in Missile Stakes upset

Veteran Queensland sprinter Hard Empire has upstaged more fancied rivals in the Missile Stakes.

Rachel King's first metropolitan win of the season has come from an unlikely source with Queensland sprinter Hard Empire scoring a boilover win in the Missile Stakes and claiming some high-profile scalps in the process. 

Starting the rank outsider of the Group 2 field at $71, Hard Empire relished the brutal speed set by Prime Candidate to storm down the outside and overpower Wandabaa ($26) by a half length with Gem Song ($16) another short neck away. 

Favourite and multiple Group 1 winner Forbidden Love ($3.20 fav) could finish only sixth while second pick Belluci Babe ($5) beat one rival home. 

King said trainers Toby and Trent Edmonds had given her confidence Hard Empire was going better than his form indicated and could improve on his unplaced effort in the Ramornie Handicap but admitted the win was still a pleasant surprise. 

"They took the blinkers off him today and just being an older horse I think it just sparked him up a little bit," King said. 

"He's been a little while between drinks but he just needed to recapture that form and he showed what he can do today." 

Toby Edmonds made the trip from Queensland to Randwick to watch the nine-year-old post his first win since the 2020 George Moore Stakes at Doomben. 

He said while Hard Empire didn't come up last campaign, he had been racing well recently and it was the right time of year to take on Sydney's sprinters. 

"We thought some of these good horses might not be quite wound so why not have a go? Edmonds said. 

"This old horse has got good form, he has beaten Jonker up there (in Queensland) and he has been a good, old sprinter for us. 

"He did go missing last preparation but this time in he has been going really well." 

Michael Freedman wasn't sure what to make of Forbidden Love's performance and said the hectic tempo might have come against her. 

"But until we get her home, have a look at her tomorrow and see how she pulls it's all guess work at the moment," Freedman said. 

Hard Empire Is the second Queensland-trained horse to win the Missile Stakes in as many years with Phobetor taking it out for Michael Costa 12 months ago.

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