By Mark Brassel
It’s been a long 12-month wait for trainer Brett Thompson but the day will finally arrive when he produces talented galloper Great Choice in the Country Championships this weekend.
Great Choice – a bargain buy at just $5000 – has defied his purchase price, being by champion stallion Redoute’s Choice from dual Group 1 winner, Hollow Bullet.
“We had set the horse for last year’s Country Championships but on the Tuesday prior he had a gallop and bumped a vein in his leg that then began to bleed and he ended up with cellulitis,” Thompson explained. “It was a shame as he was going well and had won both starts leading up to the gallop.”
Great Choice had resumed from an 11-month spell in January 2016, scoring a strong two-length win at Wellington (1100m) before leading all the way to score at Cessnock (1350m) on February 8, carrying a crushing 61kg. The horse was then injured and had 53 weeks off before heading to Hawkesbury and Rosehill for barrier trials.
Left: Great Choice (Leanne Henry) proves too strong at Wellington – the horse returns to the scene in Sunday’s $150K Country Championships Qualifier. Image by - Janian McMillan
“He has won five races so we couldn’t run him in a race as a sixth win would have made him ineligible for the Championships,” Thompson said. “So we ran him in two trials and we were quite happy with both. He ran last (of eight) in the Rosehill trial but the jockey told us he wouldn’t let down on the heavy surface. It was a still a good trial as the winner (Zumbelina) has won four straight in the city.”
The six-year-old was purchased by Thompson for $5000 at the Scone Yearling Sales; his older brother was bought for $850,000 before being exported to Japan.
“As a yearling he was pigeon-toed and they told me he’d never see a racetrack – that’s why he only went for five grand,” Thompson said. “We got him going but he’s had other problems having bowed a tendon on one leg and he did a suspensory in the other. That’s why he’s only had 12 starts (five wins and three placings).
“We gave him stem cell therapy and because of his breeding while he was out, he ended up serving 23 mares. He’s a beautiful horse with a fabulous temperament.”
Thompson, an ex-shearer, is based at Gulgong on the Central Tablelands and has only been training horses full-time for six years.
“I was initially a shearer then started farming and eventually finished with a pub,” Thompson revealed. “I first trained just the one horse part-time and I now have over 40 horses in work.”
A first or second placing at Wellington will ensure Great Choice heads to Royal Randwick for the $400,000 Country Championships Final (1400m) on Saturday April 1. Apprentice Jake Pracey-Holmes has been booked for the ride on Sunday.
Thompson will also be represented by Algeroba in the $100,000 State Wide Sheds Wellington Boot (1100m). The gelding made his debut with an excellent second (half a length) to Pierone at Cowra (950m), after leading most of the way.
“He has a lot of speed but is still green and learning,” Thompson said. “We are really happy with him and he has improved since that run. He worked hard to get to the front then hung around the home turn. He was knackered after the run but has really come on since and has been eating up.”