Chairman’s Choice to continue miracle run at Holbrook

Chairman’s Choice, ridden by Brittany Button, wins at Towong. The pair will team up in Saturday’s Holbrook Cup. Image: Ross Holburt/Racing Photos.

It’s a miracle that Chairman’s Choice is alive and racing, let alone still winning races.

Trained in Wangaratta by Andrew Dale, the rising nine-year-old and popular grey galloper returned from a ‘significant injury’ to win at Towong last month. 

Despite being 29 weeks between runs, the Reliable Man gelding carried 61kg to victory when first-up in the 1200m Benchmark 58 Handicap. 

It was a special moment for Dale and four-kilogram-claiming apprentice jockey Brittany Button, who scored her first career victory.

Chairman’s Choice has since franked that Towong form, with Button again in the saddle as he ran second in the 1200m Benchmark 64 Handicap at Avoca on Saturday. 

These recent results are even more incredible when considering that vets had questioned whether Chairman’s Choice would survive the injury, let alone race again.

The incident happened in his stable, where he kicked a bin. While an early diagnosis suggested Chairman’s Choice wouldn’t race again, Dale gave his old stager time in the paddock, and ‘the rest is history’. 

“It happened in the middle of last year, and he kicked out and hit the steel feed bin and smashed the back of his leg, which resulted in a significant impact wound,” Dale said. 

“He gets a bit up and about at feed time and protects his feed from the other horses. He accidentally kicked the bin, which led to the injury from the fetlock down. 

“There was major swelling for two months, so then we basically had to put him in the paddock. 

“We hoped he would start to walk around a bit better. He finally started to look really good, and he came back into work and won first-up at Towong.”

Purchased for $7,500 off Inglis Digital, Chairman’s Choice had started 34 times for three wins when he arrived in Dale’s care in early 2021. 

Since joining the Wangaratta team, the grey gelding, who is part-owned by Sky Racing’s Graeme White, has raced with great success, starting another 33 times for seven wins, bringing his career earnings to over $220,000.

“It’s just the whole journey with this horse,” Dale said. 

“We got him for $7500 online as an Inglis Digital purchase, and we bought him off Nat Jarvis; it’s just one of those things, and we have had a bit of good fortune. 

“He turned up here in tremendous conditions, and he’s gone on to win some races.”

Saturday’s Holbrook Cup is the next target for Chairman’s Choice, but it is set to be a strong race when potentially facing recent Carrathool Cup and Tocumwal Cup winner Decker, the Norm Gardner-trained Cyborg, and the Craig Weeding-trained Big Day Out, among other strong rivals. 

“Now that his rating is up to around 75/76 in country NSW, he is a bit difficult to place, but in these Country Cups, he gets in well after the claim,” Dale said. 

“It’s going to be a hard race to win. We know the pattern with Ross Purcell and Decker, and we just need to make sure we don’t let him get too far in front.

“If we’re drawn inside, he’ll race a bit closer over the 1400m and keep the pressure on him on the tight-turning Holbrook track.”

Button will remain in the saddle, and while the 24-year-old is indentured to Gerald Egan, Dale said he shared a special connection with the up-and-coming hoop.

“It was incredible to help her win that first race at Towong,” Dale said. 

“While she is an apprentice to Gerald Egan, she assists us on a weekly basis, and before she took out her apprenticeship, she was riding trackwork for me for over three years, riding work for us daily. 

“It’s fantastic to see her come all that way. Her sister Kylie (Relf) is one of our trackwork riders, and we have a great relationship with both Brittany and Kylie.” 

It’s set to be a massive day at Holbrook, with the club receiving an incredible 131 nominations for the six-race non-TAB program. 

Dale also has Confessed nominated in the Holbrook Cup, along with seven other chances on the Southern Districts program.