Lee Freedman is confident the inside alley and recent good form could be the key to his imported Irish galloper Above Average taking out this year’s Sydney Cup at Randwick.
High Chaparral five-year-old Above Average came up trumps with gate one in the 2011 Sydney Cup barrier draw giving them an advantage over their 15 rivals in the $500,000 Group 1 Easter two-miler on Saturday.
Since coming to Freedman’s Mornington stables at the end of 2009, Above Average’s sole win on Aussie turf was his Australian debut in March last year over the Caulfield mile.
Since then he has started 11 more times, his most successful finish in a Group race being second to the Bart Cummings-trained Precedence in the Group 2 Moonee Valley Gold Cup (2500m) in October.
This preparation Above Average has shown improved form with a number of close placings such as his nose loss to Bid Spotter in the Listed NE Manion Cup (2400m) at Rosehill on March 26 and his last-start third to Berlioz beaten just over half a length in the Emirates Airline Plate (2406m) at Caulfield on April 9.
Above Average has had one previous run at Randwick when second to Herculian Prince in the 2010 JRA Plate (2000m) and is also tried over the Sydney Cup distance of 3200m when second to Macedonian in last November’s Sandown Cup and third in a Group 3 race as a three-year-old in the UK.
“He’s a real two miler and that’s a big thing going into the race,” Freedman said.
Current Sydney Cup markets have Above Average rated as a $9 chance at upsetting $5.50 favourite and fellow imported galloper Mourayan.
He is also equal odds with the Chris Waller-trained Hawk Island, yet another overseas import in good form having won the JRA Plate last start on a bog Randwick track.
A nice statistic adding fuel to Freedman’s fire is that Above Average is yet to be beaten by Mourayan.
Most recently Above Average defeated the Sydney Cup favourite in the NE Manion Cup, Mourayan over three lengths away fourth.
Above Average (second) also got the better of Mourayan (third) in the 2010 Sandown Cup.
“We’re really upbeat about his prospects,” Freedman said.
“I think he’s right in the market for the Sydney Cup.
“I see Mourayan is favourite but I don’t think Mourayan has ever beaten him home when they’re met.
“(Above Average) beat him home in the Sandown Cup and he beat him home again in the Manion Cup.
“He’s had a good preparation and we’ve given him some schooling as well which I think he needed just to sharpen him a bit.”
Above Average is also right in the Sydney Cup weight-wise, due to be ridden by Melbourne Cup winning jockey Corey Brown at 54kg, a good drop from the 59kg he carried last start at Caulfield.
“He’s been pretty spot-on, he ran a great race in the Manion Cup and then came back home and ran at Caulfield and was probably a good thing beaten carrying 60kg with the vest,” Freedman said.
“He is dropping a lot in weight and I think he’s got a great chance.”
Other stayers in the market for the Sydney Cup include the Lloyd Williams-owned C’est La Guerre ($6), Gai Waterhouse’s last-start Chairman’s Handicap winning mare Once Were Wild ($7.50) and well-bred Zabeel five-year-old Macedonian ($8.50) from the stables of Peter Moody.
The 2011 Schweppes Sydney Cup will run as Randwick Race 6 on Saturday as part of a bumper eight-event programme brining the Sydney Autumn Carnival to a thrilling finish.
2011 Schweppes Sydney Cup Final Field & Barrier Draw
|#||Form (Last 10)||Horse||Trainer||Jockey||Barrier||Weight||Hcp. Rating|
|1||145X941341||HAWK ISLAND (IRE)||Chris Waller||Glyn Schofield||12||57kg||109|
|2||05160X0053||C’EST LA GUERRE (NZ)||Robert Hickmott||Michael Rodd||9||56kg||105|
|3||80830X4091||ONCE WERE WILD||Gai Waterhouse||Nash Rawiller||17||55kg||109|
|4||2073X82042||MOURAYAN (IRE)||Robert Hickmott||Nicholas Hall||11||54.5kg||106|
|5||73252X5323||ABOVE AVERAGE (IRE)||Lee Freedman||Corey Brown||1||54kg||101|
|6||9366861031||MUIR (GB)||Robert Hickmott||Darren Gauci||14||54kg||100|
|7||5X24138807||TINSELTOWN (NZ)||Michael Moroney||Kerrin McEvoy||6||54kg||100|
|8||0X04823101||BID SPOTTER||Graeme Rogerson||Brenton Avdulla||2||53.5kg||99|
|9||0757511943||MACEDONIAN (NZ)||Peter G Moody||Dwayne Dunn||7||53.5kg||98|
|10||621X4X0165||LARISTAN (FR)||David Hayes||Craig Williams||16||53.5kg||97|
|11||2224X11114||OLDER THAN TIME||Gai Waterhouse||Glen Boss||10||53.5kg||97|
|12||522725676||STRIKE ONE (GB)||Chris Waller||–||3||53.5kg||95|
|13||6287X48180||SAINT ENCOSTA||John P Thompson||Jim Cassidy||15||53.5kg||94|
|14||X749901000||SOLID BILLING||Craig Ritchie||Cameron Lammas||5||53.5kg||94|
|15||4657X87784||COUNT ENCOSTA||John P Thompson||Jim Byrne||8||53.5kg||90|
|16||8706X66212||MONTAHLIA (NZ)||Michael Kent||–||13||53.5kg||89|
|17e||7441X8430||STAND TO GAIN (IRE)||Chris Waller||–||4||53.5kg||88|