Lee Freedman and Anthony Freedman, David Hayes and Tommy Smith   Leave a comment

Changing landscape as great trainers come and go almost as fast as great horses

  • by:Matt Stewart 
  • From:Herald Sun 
  • December 14, 2012 12:00am
Lee Freedman

Tough gig: Lee Freedman and Anthony Freedman have ridden the highs and lows of training. Picture: Nicole GarmstonSource: Herald Sun

Peter Moody

Trainer Peter Moody is now discovering how difficult it is to stay top dog in the trainers’ ranks. Picture: Darren McNamaraSource: Herald Sun

IN the delicate art of horse training, it’s the nature of the beast that empires will crumble and eras end.

Anthony Freedman has experienced the full spectrum, from the thrill of starting out, and building, to peering down from the top of the mountain, to cutting losses and starting from scratch.

He made an interesting observation last week about the perils of life with racehorses.

“You’ve never really made it in this game,” he said. “No matter how well you are going, you are always close to a fall. You can never really relax or rest on your laurels.”

Anthony’s older brother Lee shared the top of the mountain with David Hayes for more than a decade.

Before them, it was the era of Colin Hayes and Geoff Murphy. Before them, Angus Armanasco.

Bart Cummings was on top, then insolvent. If Cummings had not been bailed out by his billionaire Malaysian mate Dato Tan Chin Nam in the late 1980s, the great man’s story might have ended then.

The Freedmans were the self-made, ultra-motivated brothers who emerged from a farm at Yass and various private schools to climb from nowhere to the top in a handful of years.

David Hayes inherited the kingdom from his legendary father, Colin, and ran it with the energy of a young man who was not content to rest on family laurels.

Hayes and Lee Freedman, young and charismatic, were so dominant that there was no room for others.

They trained teams of 90-plus horses – at that time the next biggest, at least in Melbourne and South Australia, had squads of 30 and 40, and often trained from brick and corrugated iron stables out the back of houses at tracks such as Flemington and Epsom.

Hayes and Freedman cornered the market; one had half the big owners, the millionaire businessmen and successful breeders, the other pretty much had the rest.

Hayes won four straight Melbourne premierships from the 1991-92 season to 1994-95, then again in 2006-07 and 2008-09 – and Freedman won seven in the same period. Their fortunes dipped and peaked a little but when Freedman won, Hayes, or at least Lindsay Park, would be second, and vice versa.

There was tragedy and change at Lindsay Park. Hayes spent a decade in Hong Kong from 1994 and his brother Peter, who won four premierships in David’s absence, died in 2001.

But even through such disruption, there was no stopping the Lindsay Park machine. Tony McEvoy stepped up after Peter Hayes’ death and won the 2002-03 premiership.

There was no stopping the super stables, just as there had been no stopping the T.J. Smith juggernaut in Sydney. The Little General, with his relentless production line, won 33 straight Sydney titles from 1952-53.

But the Hayes and Freedman empires did end.

Hayes took a gamble that may yet pay off, but his fortunes plummeted as a result.

The racing scene in South Australia had become stale and irrelevant so Hayes decided to uproot Lindsay Park from the Barossa Valley and relocate to Euroa.

He became architect and builder, and horse trainer.

Owners, like schoolgirls, are influenced by fashion. Hayes’ strike rate crashed as he tried to build and train off a half-built property. Major clients drifted off.

Scott Perrin, a millionaire surf shop owner and close mate, cut his numbers to a trickle and started investing in mines in the Northern Territory. Another big client, Les Gordon, died.



David Hayes

Trainer David Hayes is hoping a move to Echua and a talented crop of two-year-olds can help him in his climb back to the top. Picture: Colleen Petch Source: Herald Sun


Hayes and Freedman owners drifted towards a young Queenslander called Peter Moody, and a handful of others.

A few years after his spectacular return from Hong Kong, where he again established himself as a top trainer, Hayes faced the enormous challenge of turning a $25 million gamble into a going concern.

It was a tough time. A freak storm washed the foundation of his $5 million track down a hill and turned it into a pile of slush.

Hayes has begun clawing his way back. But even he admits the glory days are long gone.

Freedman’s slide started when he moved from Flemington to Caulfield in 1996. The Flemington days were unbelievable; champions in every second box, Caulfield and Melbourne Cups, four straight Golden Slippers.

Yet Caulfield flopped for reasons Freedman can’t explain. “Just didn’t like it,” he said.

Markdel, carved out of the Rye sand dunes, was a mixed bag. Makybe Diva, Miss Andretti, Alinghi, Mummify and others were its success stories but the property’s running costs weighed heavily.

Freedman now finds himself a Hall Of Fame trainer – as is Hayes – with a towering CV but no horses and nowhere to train.

It’s as though the racing juggernaut, where only the next winner and the next trainer with a purple patch matters, has left Freedman in its wake. Anthony Freedman observed last week that you appreciate the golden eras only when they are gone.

“You look back and the good horses did seem to come in waves. I guess you appreciate them more looking back because those horses are bloody hard to find,” he said.

The landscape has changed dramatically since the dominant days of Hayes and Freedman. Moody is the dominant trainer and yet to experience a serious lull.

But Moody has a half-dozen trainers biting at his heels – and they have 20 others breathing down their necks. All have had their runs.

Mark Kavanagh was the next big thing three or four years ago but has had a lean spell of more than a year.

Ditto Danny O’Brien, who took a similar gamble to Hayes, spending millions on a training farm near Barwon Heads.


Tommy Smith

Trainer Tommy Smith, with his relentless production line, won 33 straight Sydney titles from 1952-53. Source:The Daily Telegraph

In Sydney, there were empty boxes at Tulloch Lodge for the first time in 50 years about 18 months ago. Briefly, Gai Waterhouse considered giving the game away. 

The top dogs are always looking over their shoulder.

Moody remains on top because of a relentless work ethic. A lapse in that drive, a gamble, as others have discovered, can result in free-fall.

“I’ve only been on top for five minutes; Lee and David Hayes were on top for 20 years,” Moody said. “I will say it’s a lot easier being the hunter than the hunted and I was the hunter for a fair while.

“Life becomes harder, ten-fold, when you get on top. The pressures go up, not down.

“We’ve got a great team; a young, energetic team. If you sense something might be about to unravel, I guess you just bloody well address it.

“But there are no guarantees when you’re on top that you will stay there.”

Moody said the relentless cycle of seven-day-a-week racing meant empires, such as Hayes and Freedman’s, even his, would become a thing of the past.

“It’s just too hard to sustain. In the old days, you raced two days a week and look forward to Saturday. It’s too relentless these days,” he said.

“Burnout is the big factor now. You’d lose the passion before you ever got near to building a record like T.J. Smith, Hayes or Freedy.”


Posted December 14, 2012 by belesprit09 in Uncategorized

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