Mike Sheahan talks to Lee Freedman

14th October, 2011

Lee Freedman tells the Herald Sun's MIKE SHEAHAN why he was happy to hand over the reins.

MS: You've been portrayed as a glorified strapper. It's a bit like Mickey Malthouse going back to Collingwood as Nathan Buckley's runner, isn't it? LF: It is in a sense. I think we're doing it for different reasons. I'm doing it because I just needed a break from what I was doing and I wanted to give my brother (Anthony) some opportunities because he's been my assistant for that long. I think being a family business that's probably fair.

Did you hand your licence in? No, I've gone assistant to him (Anthony), but I've kept my licence.

What are you, 55? You should be at the height of your powers, shouldn't you? Well, I probably am, but the body is telling me to have a bit of a break. Mentally and physically I was pretty flat and I needed to make some decisions and fortunately I've got family around me that can step in and take over. It's been good. I've just spent five or six weeks in England.

Baby-sitting that horse with the funny name (Lucas Cranach)? Or being his slave.

Is it just a breather? You never say never. I'm just taking it step by the step at the moment. We'll get through the (spring) carnival and and we'll see what we do after that. Assisting him, I go to trackwork every morning and I'll still be liaising with clients.

With the same sort of enthusiasm you had before? Yeah, but looking at things through a different pair of eyes.

How is going to be materially different if you're doing the same things? There's not a lot of difference. He defers to me on things and I give opinions. At the end of the day, though, it's his call.

What about if he's getting it wrong? That's where it could become difficult. What I think is wrong and what he thinks is wrong may be two different things. All I can say is the stable has been going well while I've been away, the horses look well and when Anthony's got a problem, he always asks me, or he bounces ideas off me.

Will he be good at the job? He's got a very good understanding of horses - he's been around them since he was eight or nine . . . and he's brilliant with two-year-olds. The basic rule in this business is win races or people don't give you horses. It doesn't matter how many dinner parties you chuck or how many faxes you send them - that's all nice and it's important - but I'm just saying it's performance-based and it's not all polish. (The Freedman stable has 80 horses in work and charges a little more than $100 a day in training fees. Racing costs, the farrier, the dentist, floating and food supplements are extras.)

Were you getting grumpy? Yeah. Yeah, I was. They tell me that comes with age, anyway.

No, no, you mellow as you grow old. I've got a different attitude to racing to probably most participants in racing. I love the horses, No.1, that's paramount. No.2, it's a business like any other business. If you're not enjoying what you're doing, you've always got the opportunity to change.

Tell me about the grumpy bit? How did that manifest itself? I don't know. Arguing with Anthony over things, silly things, probably.

Tell us about the horse. Lucas Cranach, Cranassssh as the Germans say, and they actually spit on you when they say his name. Lucas Cranach was a famous German painter.

You've been wet-nursing this horse for some time, haven't you? I've been strapping it, apparently.

You've been a pretty large figure in this business. Bart, you, David Hayes, a handful of Melbourne Cups, that sort of thing? What are you doing looking after one horse? I'm just being me. I'm not Bart, he's not me, and I'm being me. I'm just doing what I want to do. People say, "How could he do it?". But racing's just a part of everyone's life, it's not everyone's life. I'm enjoying this role.

What did Bart (Cummings), Mark Kavanagh, Peter Moody and company say when they learnt you were stepping away? Wouldn't know. Haven't spoken to them.

Anyone ring you? One trainer rang me. Yeah, only one trainer rang me: Tony Noonan, who I get on really well with. "Noons" said "blah, blah, blah," basically good luck. That's the industry. Not dissimilar to football.

Coaches ring each other when they get the chop. Are you disappointed? Couldn't care less, furtherest thing from my mind. As long as my behaviour is within the constraints of society, I don't care what people think. Never have.

Is this like a (Darren) Beadman-type thing? (Laughs uproariously) He found God. He (God) hasn't found me. In a certain respect, what Darren did was probably a reflection of where he was at and he went to religion. That's fair enough, that was his choice. Eventually he came back to what he loved to do and the likelihood is that I will do that too, but not just at the moment. (Anthony enters the office.)

Should I have asked for permission to talk to the strapper? AF: You should have come through me (laughs).

Is it fair to say your star had been on the wane? We haven't had a decent horse probably since Makybe Diva, which is extraordinary really because we've had some nicely bred horses here, but nothing (outstanding). We've won a lot of races, we've been winning between 100 and 150 races every season, but it's not those races you want to win. That was only part of it, though. It's not like I was running away from that. In essence you need to look at your life as a whole, your business, your personal life, all that sort of thing and say, "I think that's the best thing to do for all those things", and that's what I did.

You didn't lose the faith? Anyone will tell you once you know how to train horses properly and achieve the success we've had, you always know how to do it. I've never questioned myself in that respect, but you never stop learning.

Will you miss the fame, the attention? Nuh. I don't really care. I've never really cared that much. A certain amount of adulation is good, but generally I would rather fire up the barbecue out the back with a couple of mates from down here.

Who wins, Black Caviar or Schillaci at four years of age at weight-for-age? Black Caviar. She's the best I've seen.

What about a three-year-old fillies race between Black Caviar and your two, Miss Andretti and Alinghi? I still think Black Caviar wins. That's how good she is. Just knowing the ability of those horses and seeing what she can do. They had enormous ability, she's got freakish ability.

She's the best sprinter you've seen. Best I've seen.

See Vain? I saw a little bit of Vain, yeah ... she (Black Caviar) is fantastic, though. I was hoping she'd win Saturday. Very rarely do I hope other trainers' horses win. She's become public property now. It makes me glad to see a horse that good.

Is she as big as Makybe Diva? Yes.

Are you envious of Moody and Kavanagh? No, not at all. I've had my share of good horses ... perhaps if I go back to training I will again.

Other Stories

Results 1 - 5 of 5 documents

Article Date Title
22nd February, 2012 Celebrating 20 years since Schillaci's big autumn
14th October, 2011 Mike Sheahan talks to Lee Freedman
5th September, 2011 The Anthony Freedman interview
13th August, 2009 Badger discusses Breeding
5th February, 2008 LEE discusses yearling selection

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