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New frontier for the Freedman name in Queensland


Hall Of Fame trainer Lee Freedman is on the cusp of opening his Gold Coast stable, and it couldn't be better timing with the Queensland winter carnival approaching, and the Magic Millions National Sale around the corner.


Cover image courtesy of Bronwen Healy

In the balmy surrounds of the Gold Coast Turf Club, Lee Freedman is a Johnny-come-lately. Six weeks ago, the famous trainer arrived in southeast Queensland from Singapore, taking up 20 boxes at Aquis Park for a new life in the sunshine state.

He’s no stranger to fresh beginnings.

Freedman has been in Singapore since 2017, and before that with his brothers in Sydney and various parts of Melbourne. But he’s unloaded the wagon on the Gold Coast, and likely won’t move again.

“It probably seems like I’ve moved around a bit, but most of that has been in the last 10 years,” Freedman said. “This is a move that will hopefully be my last, and I’ll make this my base now and see how it runs.”

The trainer has bought a home in Broadbeach with partner Jo, and has spent weeks shuttling between suburbs, setting up his new stable and new life on the glittering coast.

“It’s really not hard being here,” he said, taking a cheeky dig at the southern states shivering through an April morning. “I’m in my living room doing a few things, looking out at the palm trees outside and it’s going to be 29 degrees.”



No place like home

Freedman announced his departure from Singapore in late December. He’d been there three years, during which time he won a trainer’s premiership and the G1 Singapore Derby with Sepoy import Sun Marshal.

“I’m glad I spent time there,” he said. “The opportunity came for me to do something on my own in Singapore, and the move interested me. And it improved my skills a bit too because you’re only dealing with a set number of horses. You’re not getting a new batch of yearlings every year like you do here.”

Freedman said the restructure of the Singapore calendar last year to once-weekly racing wasn’t ideal for him. He had a stable that was built on two meetings a week, and it suddenly meant that many of his horses weren’t racing for five to six weeks. The time was right to relocate home, and Queensland’s southeast coast was an obvious choice.

“Trying to get space, and take over the same clients as everybody else in the southern states, was going to be an issue." - Lee Freedman

“Trying to get space, and take over the same clients as everybody else in the southern states, was going to be an issue,” Freedman said. “But also, southeast Queensland is the biggest growth-area for population in Australia right now, so there’s good opportunities here for a client base. There are a lot of ex-pats coming back from all places overseas and buying up here.”

The trainer also mentioned that the weather played a small part.

“I think the climate is great,” he said. “Having lived in Asia for three years, I’m used to warm weather now, and it suits me.”

Build it and they will come

No place like home

Freedman announced his departure from Singapore in late December. He’d been there three years, during which time he won a trainer’s premiership and the G1 Singapore Derby with Sepoy import Sun Marshal.

“I’m glad I spent time there,” he said. “The opportunity came for me to do something on my own in Singapore, and the move interested me. And it improved my skills a bit too because you’re only dealing with a set number of horses. You’re not getting a new batch of yearlings every year like you do here.”

Freedman said the restructure of the Singapore calendar last year to once-weekly racing wasn’t ideal for him. He had a stable that was built on two meetings a week, and it suddenly meant that many of his horses weren’t racing for five to six weeks. The time was right to relocate home, and Queensland’s southeast coast was an obvious choice.

“Trying to get space, and take over the same clients as everybody else in the southern states, was going to be an issue." - Lee Freedman

“Trying to get space, and take over the same clients as everybody else in the southern states, was going to be an issue,” Freedman said. “But also, southeast Queensland is the biggest growth-area for population in Australia right now, so there’s good opportunities here for a client base. There are a lot of ex-pats coming back from all places overseas and buying up here.”

The trainer also mentioned that the weather played a small part.

“I think the climate is great,” he said. “Having lived in Asia for three years, I’m used to warm weather now, and it suits me.”

Build it and they will come

Freedman will start with 20 boxes at the Gold Coast Turf Club, but will build that number as enquiries and horses come along. He has a number of yearlings in the breaking-process right now, but he doesn’t want a huge string.

“I haven’t really put a number on it yet, but I don’t want 100 horses,” he said. “Maybe between 40 and 70, something around that, but it won’t happen overnight. A lot of the issues with expanding stables in any state now is getting more space, because it’s limited.”

Freedman has hired former Gold Coast trainer and Grafton native David Kelly, who will be the stable’s foreman. Kelly trained on the Gold Coast for a number of years, until relocating home to Grafton in late 2017. He’s a grandson of the four-time Listed Ramornie H.-winning jockey ‘Skeeter’ Kelly, and son of race-starter Rex Kelly.


“David is extremely experienced and well-regarded in the business,” Freedman said. “He has trained himself and was a jockey, so he knows every facet of the game. He also knows the Gold Coast very well, so he was an excellent choice for foreman.”

The yard will open its doors to business on May 21, with Freedman allowing himself time before the new racing season kicks off on August 1. He said the timing was good, because the yearlings would be coming through as 2-year-olds, and further opportunities for new horses were afoot.

“I’m expecting quite a bit of business to be coming up from down south over the next two to three months,” the trainer said. “It’s alright spruiking a business without being open, but I do think it’s better to be open and operating where people can see what you’re doing. That will influence people to send horses. Build it and they will come, isn’t that what they say?”


Shop local

On the trainer’s doorstep, Magic Millions will host its National Sale series in a handful of months, which Freedman admitted was a good opportunity for him.

“The big sales in June will feature a lot of racing stock, with fillies and mares changing hands,” he said. “I’m thinking there might be a bit of business out of that.”

The trainer isn’t sure when his first runners will hit the track, but there’s no doubt Freedman is convinced that southeast Queensland, with its bloodstock scene and winter carnival, is nothing less than a shareholder in the Australian racing game.

“It’s hard to define the industry by one state or one area now,” he said. “As Tony Gollan has shown in the last few weeks, the best Queensland horses are going down and winning good races in Sydney and Melbourne, and southern horses are coming up here and winning good races. To me, this place is just an extension of the eastern seaboard now, in terms of racing.”

“It’s hard to define the industry by one state or one area now... To me, this place is just an extension of the eastern seaboard now, in terms of racing.” - Lee Freedman

The trainer will pay close attention to the local bloodstock market. He has a number of yearlings in-hand by Queensland sires Spirit Of Boom and Better Than Ready, and said it was logical that the local industry would factor heavily for his clientele.

“You’ve got to be mindful of the stallions that stand here, because the progeny will be eligible for the QTIS bonuses,” Freedman said. “That’s important up here, as it is in other states. A lot of my local produce will be by those stallions, because people will want to access those bonuses.”


Band of brothers

The Freedman success story has become generational, and it has gone on for a long time in Australian racing.

Lee Freedman has trained the likes of Makybe Diva (GB) (Desert King {Ire}), Subzero (Kala Dancer {GB}), Miss Andretti (Ihtiram {Ire}) and Super Impose (Imposing). Those are just a handful of champions that the master trainer has put his name to, and his life is decorated heavily with trophies, cups and sashes of every race imaginable on two continents.

He’s also tied strongly to his siblings in the south.

“I’m still very close with my brothers,” he said. “Although we run separate businesses, they’ll be interchangeable businesses between the three stables... Melbourne, Sydney and the Gold Coast. I think the idea is sound, and I think it will work well.”


Freedman said he still cheers the success of his brothers, who have had a vintage season to date.

“They’ve done very well this year, and I point out to people that they haven’t been given these horses,” the trainer said, referring to G1 Blue Diamond winner Artorius (Flying Artie) for Anthony and Sam Freedman, and G1 Golden Slipper winner Stay Inside (Extreme Choice) for Richard and Michael Freedman.

“These have been horses that were sourced at the sales and bought by my brothers, and there are far bigger and more vaunted operations that claim success but don’t have that sort of success. So it just proves that they’re good judges of young horses, and they can manage them well.”

“These have been horses (Artorius and Stay Inside) that were sourced at the sales and bought by my brothers... So it just proves that they’re good judges of young horses, and they can manage them well.” - Lee Freedman

Despite this, Freedman isn’t letting his pedigree dictate his Queensland ambitions. He said there's only so far a good name will take you, and that he still needs to get out there among the locals while building his new business.

“I don’t think people send horses to a name,” he said. “They send them to a person they’ve met, or had some contact with on the phone. People up here don’t really know me other than as a raider from down south for many years, and now I’m part of the community. I need to meet people, get out and about, and I’ll make it my business to do just that.”

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