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‘It’s a very young stable’: new talent has Michael Freedman bullish for spring

The youngest of the famous Freedman brothers embarks on a new training chapter with a star mare, an army of young spring hopefuls and a determination to keep things simple.

There is a laugh of acknowledgement from Michael Freedman when his career is described as one of many chapters.

The first chapter was as the ‘kid brother’, who tagged along and helped out as the ‘FBI’ – Freedman Brothers Incorporated  dominated Australian racing in the 1990s and early 2000s, led by Hall Of Fame trainer Lee.

Then there was a three-year dalliance with golf course design and construction before he re-joined the family business.

Then there was his time in Singapore, which lasted close to a decade from 2008 and included a trainers’ premiership and nearly 500 wins. A disastrous Hong Kong spell, which lasted less than 18 months was followed by a return to Australia, Randwick to be precise, where he briefly linked up with Ed O’Rourke.

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Michael Freedman and Frankie Lor ahead of the 2017/18 Hong Kong racing season. (Photo by HKJC)

That ended after six months, with Michael partnering up with his brother Richard for what would be a successful stint across stables at Rosehill and Randwick. During his time, Michael re-established himself as the master of the two-year-olds, highlighted by the G1 Golden Slipper success of Stay Inside, while the brilliant filly/mare Forbidden Love also won three Group 1s for the partnership.

Then in April this year, it was all over. Richard joined up with his son Will and Michael was out on his own again. Not that he has taken a backward step since.

Firstly, he kept the stable star, the now five-year-old, Forbidden Love, while he has a host of either lightly raced or unraced three-year-olds ready to make an immediate mark in the new season. Then there is a quality selection of two-year-olds, purchased through the yearling sales either by Freedman himself or by key clients.  

Richard Freedman, Tommy Berry and Michael Freedman after Stay Inside's Golden Slipper win. (Photo by Getty Images)

“It’s a very young stable. That’s largely why we have been so quiet in terms of runners through winter,” Freedman told The Report. “Around 95 per cent of my stable is a mixture of yearlings or two-year-olds that have just turned three. Of all the horses I have in the stable, there are only six horses that are older than three.”

Of all the horses I have in the stable, there are only six horses that are older than three.

That Freedman would have a stable dominated by young horses should be no surprise given his reputation with two and three-year-olds. With a focus of quality over quantity, he has been careful how he has rebuilt the new iteration of Michael Freedman Racing.

“I’ve reached a stage where I’m very keen to keep a relatively small number of horses. I don’t have any real ambitions to have a big string in work. That’s partly because of my time in Asia, where in Singapore and Hong Kong you are limited to 60 horses,” he said.

I’ve reached a stage where I’m very keen to keep a relatively small number of horses. I don’t have any real ambitions to have a big string in work.

“I think that’s the sweet spot, having that many in work, so I am really keen to try and keep my numbers around about that. I enjoy doing that and I want to stay in my lane in terms of size of stable.”

“I love focussing on the young horses, the two-year-olds and the three-year-olds so that is going to be my modus operandi going forward. I really want to concentrate on an area of the market I enjoy, and that I think I have got something to offer.”

Stay Inside wins the 2021 Golden Slipper. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Freedman describes himself as steadfast in that approach, having used his Singapore and Hong Kong experience to hone his craft, which was learned during the heady FBI days.

“At the age of 54, I’ve been fortunate to be involved with a lot of big race wins and larger numbers of horses back in the day and I think where I am at today in terms of size, it’s a nice size that I am keeping it that way,” he said.

So with quantity under control what about the quality? A hint to the strength of Freedman’s three-year-old brigade this spring came when nominations for the Caulfield and Thousand Guineas and the Cox Plate were released this week.

There were four Freedman-trained three-year-olds in the Cox Plate entries, with a combined five starts between them, including the as-yet unraced Hawaii Five Oh, the brother of star mare Libertini. Also there are maiden winners Backrower and Communist and the recent Kembla Grange debutant Bunker Hut.

All four of those colt features among eight from the stable nominated for the Caulfield Guineas, while the trio of fillies in the Thousand Guineas entries is highlighted by multiple stakes winner Queen Of The Ball.

Queen Of The Ball (yellow) takes out the 2022 Widden Stakes. (Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images)

Among the owners of those three-year olds are major stable backers such as the Newgate/China Horse Club colts partnership, Sir Owen Glenn’s Go Bloodstock and John Singleton and Gerry Harvey.

The quality of the current crop of two-year-olds has been boosted even further by James Harron’s decision to strengthen Freedman’s ranks with purchases from his colts syndicate. That list includes Mach Ten, a son of Exceed And Excel who was a $1.2 million Magic Millions yearling, and Gun, an Extreme Choice colt who sold for $775,000 at the Inglis Classic Sale.

Freedman has already had Group 1 success with an Extreme Choice colt, now Newgate stallion Stay Inside, and has been entrusted with some very valuable bloodstock in the past few months.

James Harron and his group have given me a few colts to train this year. That’s a huge plus as well.

“We have accumulated some really nice yearlings through the sales season,“ he said.

“James Harron and his group have given me a few colts to train this year. That’s a huge plus as well. Whilst it’s a fairly small, boutique stable, I’ve certainly got some great support from some really good owners that are all about acquiring quality stock. Hopefully they can translate to quality raceday performances.”

Prominent bloodstock agent James Harron. (Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images)

While she may not necessarily fit the stable demographic, Forbidden Love is very much deserved of her top billing within the Freedman stable. A winner of the G1 Surround Stakes as a three-year-old, she added the Canterbury Stakes and the George Ryder Stakes to her Group 1 resume in the autumn.

She resumes on Saturday in the G2 Missile Stakes at Randwick, looking to add to her nearly $2.2 million in prizemoney with her ninth racetrack win. Freedman says he sees it as a stepping-stone race to her first major target of the spring, the G1 Winx Stakes on August 20.

“We will see how she fares in those two races and then re-assess and make some plans from there where we go. There are plenty of options for her through the spring,” he said.

“I’d just like to see her put in a good performance on Saturday, that doesn’t necessarily mean coming out and winning. If she can put up a really good performance and put her hand up that she is in good order, that would be more than a pass mark and pleasing for me.”

Quality mare Forbidden Love. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Freedman said that he and his ownership group briefly discussed whether to put Forbidden Love through a broodmare sale earlier this year, but the desire to let her race on was strong and so she returns as a five-year-old.

It’s little wonder there is such enthusiasm for the daughter of All Too Hard to race on given her preference for wet tracks and the feast of suitable Group 1 races on offer, both through the spring and in the autumn.

“The owners that are in her are a great bunch of people. They are really enjoying racing a good horse, because we all know how hard it is to get one,” Freedman said. “Some of these owners have been in the racing game a long time, so they are just enjoying the ride.”

 

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