Chairman edges out Easter Mate in thriller
Dester Singapore Gold Cup 'reject' beats $200 long shot for consolation victory
Sheer rejection turned to pure adulation within a week for the connections of Dester Singapore Gold cup "reject" Chairman yesterday.
Just seven days earlier, trainer Lee Freedman and Chairman's owner, Falcon Racing No. 2 Stable, were hoping for two withdrawals to see their rising stayer secure a berth in the Group 1 $1.35 million classic.
But that coveted slot in Singapore's richest race did not materialise and it was back to the drawing board to try and boost the Irish-bred's rating for another crack at gold next year.
Well, like I've mentioned in my best bet preview, Chairman, being a Gold Cup "reject", would be too classy in a Class 3 race.
This was despite the fact the 1,600m trip was not that ideal for Chairman, who won over 2,414m in Ireland when racing as Cole Porter and twice over 2,000m in Singapore.
However, although there is no substitute to class, Chairman really had to slog for a hard-earned head victory over the Steven Burridge-trained $200 outsider Easter Mate, the second least-backed runner in the field of eight.
Jockey John Powell deserves accolades for his patience and well-handling of Chairman, who gave his all when asked to score in 1min 34.98sec.
Powell got the $18 second-favourite out of the stalls beautifully from gate 4 and sat behind Show Far Show Good and Squire Osbaldeston.
Easter Mate was next but soon moved up to eyeball Chairman.
Lim's Royal, who started as the $11 favourite on the strength of last Sunday's win, was last.
Jockey Derreck David drove Easter Mate through a split between Show Far Show Good and Squire Osbaldeston, who had had enough, at the top of the straight.
Powell moved up in tandem but still saving his mount up for the long straight.
Visiting Perth champion jockey William Pike brought the Burridge-trained Lim's Royal home with a top run.
The roar from the grandstand went up a few decibels when Easter Mate, Chairman and Lim's Royal raced up to Show Far Show Good to make it a line of four with 200m to go.
Then it was left to two, as Chairman and Easter Mate kicked away to outdo each other to the line.
As racecaller Nicholas Child put it, Chairman packed "too much class in him". It saw the horse putting his head down when it mattered most.
When the Gold Cup dream fizzled out, it was only natural for Freedman to go for yesterday's race to boost Chairman's rating, and he said he did not have to go too hard on the training since the horse was race-fit for the 2,200m Gold Cup trip.
"He takes very little work. We only worked him, sort of, in bits and pieces over 1,000m to 1,200m. Not very hard," said the five-time Melbourne Cup-winning trainer.
"He's a horse who responds to that so, once we knew he wasn't going to run in the Gold Cup last Sunday, we knew we were coming here, and he has come out and shown a good turn of foot.
"We were sad we didn't get into the Gold Cup but, hey, this will help him get into the Cup next year. We've to think that way."
The Group 3 Colonial Chief Stakes over the Polytrack 1,700m in two weeks' time is an option, but Freedman made it clear that "we've got bigger fish to fry in the new year".
Powell said Chairman gave him a good ride throughout and is a horse looking for further distance.
"I jumped out and got into a nice position and he was probably just too good in the end and outstayed them," said the Australian, who also took Race 6 with On Electric Avenue.
"My horse was kind of fit for 2,200m last week, so Lee didn't do too much with him, you know, when he didn't get to run in the Gold Cup.
"He kind of freshened him up for the mile, but the mile was not his right distance. He's definitely a 2,200m or more type of horse, you know, and was probably lucky to get away with the mile win today."