Champion thoroughbred trainer Lee Freedman is confident the Markdel stable will enjoy a successful Melbourne Spring Carnival this year despite the Hall of Famer announcing his resignation as the operation’s head trainer yesterday.
After dropping the bombshell decision that he would step down as head trainer Freedman, who celebrates his 55th birthday next week, denied he was jetting off overseas any time soon.
“I’m not looking to do that (go overseas) as I said earlier,” he said this morning.
“It’s not something I would rule out entirely but assisting Anthony here…that’s the future for the time being.”
Freedman’s younger brother Anthony was yesterday elevated to head trainer, and Lee has full confidence that the “shy” horseman will do an outstanding job in looking to add to Freedman’s 124 Group 1 wins to date.
“It’s (my stepping down) been in the making for some weeks but I finally made the decision when Anthony put his hand up and said he was keen to drive his career further,” Freedman explained.
“Anthony’s very shy, people sometimes misunderstand that for rudeness.
“One thing he is very good at is training horses.
“I know his capabilities and I think it’s time to let them shine.
“I think it’s the right time for Anthony to take over as our stable’s head trainer.”
Known for avoiding contact with the media at all costs, Anthony must put aside that shyness and take on a far greater role, something Freedman said he will help with.
“Basically one can’t change ones’ personality, but I’ll be there to assist him.”
Freedman’s focus also seems firmly fixed on breathing new life into the prolific Markdel operation.
“My role as assistant trainer is to follow up all the stuff in the stable that needs attention,” he said.
“Dow the track that may require some travel to have a look at some other operations.
“I will be conducting a complete review of our operation.
“Looking at other successful operations, mimicry of best practices to match what we do here against other operations and how we go about things in the training operation.”
When asked if he would miss being in the spotlight, especially with the Melbourne Spring Carnival getting into action, Freedman said he was more than happy to be in the background helping the wheels turn and not up the front driving.
“To me it’s always only been a small part of the whole operation,” he said.
“I’ll still be at trackwork every day, but I’ll be working more behind the scenes, on things like owner liaison and studying how other successful stables around the world run their business.”
Looking at the stables recent achievements, Freedman believes there is certainly room for improvement.
Despite being a four-time Golden Slipper, four-time Caulfield Cup, dual Cox Plate and five-time Melbourne Cup winning trainer, Freedman hasn’t been in the Group 1 winner’s circle since Speed Gifted won The Metropolitan in October of 2009.
And as for the infamous Melbourne Cup, two of Freedman’s wins in the iconic Flemington feature being thanks to the mighty mare Makybe Diva (2004 & 2005), he hasn’t trained a Group 1 winner in Melbourne since Miss Andretti in 2007.
Freedman said that targeting overseas horses for the Spring Cups was still on the agenda and that he may embark on a scouting mission in Europe to potentially discover his next Melbourne Cup winner later this year.
“That’s pretty much on the horizon still,” he said.
“May mean a trip to the UK for a horses-in-training sale later in the year.
“With the exception of Moods (Peter Moody), I think most stables (in Victoria) have found the past couple of years pretty tough going,” Freedman said.
“It was a driving factor in our decision to make a change.
“The last two years haven’t been reflective of our success.”
Anthony himself said he was excited to take on the challenge and believed with the help of all those involved in the stable, the Freedman team could once again thrive.
“I see this as a great opportunity and I’m really excited to be taking charge,” he said.
“Having Lee to assist me will be of a great benefit and the owners we have discussed this with have been very supportive of our decision.
“We are very confident these changes and the ongoing support of our very loyal owners will return the Freedman name back to the top of Australian racing.”
Lee Freedman was also confident this spring would be the beginning of a new era for the venture, saying the concentration would be on the two and three year olds in the stable.
“We’ll probably be training a team of around 70 horses which is a comfortable number,” he said.
“There’s some very promising three-year-olds that look to have the goods.
“So those and the two-year-olds coming through now will be our main attention.
“These are young sort of untapped horses.
“There’s a couple of fillies that come to mind….Baptism owned by John Singleton is one.
“Colts and horses like Masthead…whose come back in very good form.
“Specter also looks to have good potential.”
Golden Slipper fourth placegetter Masthead and the lightly-raced Specter are both heading towards the $1 million Group 1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m) at Caulfield on October 8, two of the 17 horses entered for the Guineas by Freedman at nomination stage on Tuesday.
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