Day At The Track

Freyberg ready for Inters with dashing trial

03:59 PM 17 Nov 2016 NZDT
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Kevin Pizzuto Kevin Pizzuto and Freyberg Freyberg seen here beating Smoken Up
Kevin Pizzuto
Duane Ranger photo
Kevin Pizzuto and Freyberg
Freyberg seen here beating Smoken Up

Freyberg, a seasoned, battle-hardened harness racing campaigner, worked in dashing style at Byford on Tuesday morning and is poised to produce a powerful effort at his Western Australian debut when he contests the $23,000 Pat Cranley Memorial over 2130m at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Prominent New South Wales trainer Kevin Pizzuto described the nine-year-old’s track workout as “sensational” and is looking forward to the New Zealand-bred gelding warming up for the $1.8 million TABtouch interdominion championship series with a spirited display.

“He’s not a mule; he’s a very smart horse and definitely good enough to play a part in the Inters,” Pizzuto said. “I wouldn’t have come all this way just to play games, but I do know that barrier draws here will be vital.”

Freyberg, a veteran of 127 starts for 24 wins and 37 placings for stakes of $383,910, has thrived at Byford after an 11-hour trip by plane from Sydney to Melbourne and then on to Perth. After arriving in the early hours of Monday morning Freyberg was not affected by the searing 37deg. heat and Pizzuto had no qualms about driving him in a fast workout on Tuesday morning.

“He worked strongly over a mile and a half,” he said. “That’s how I train my horses --- working alone. The way I look at it is if a horse works well by himself, he’ll do a lot better against other horses.”

Pizzuto stressed that Freyberg was no slouch, having, at his most recent outing, finished an excellent third behind reigning interdominion champion Lennytheshark when he sped over 1609m at Menangle on October 15 in 1.49.9.

“In that race Freyberg did burn off the arm (from barrier nine) and was three wide to the first turn,” he said. “I reckon his run was as good as Lenny’s.”

Three starts before that Freyberg won the 1609m Les Chant Cup at Menangle in 1.51, beating Stormont Czar and Blazin N Cullen.

Pizzuto has engaged outstanding 22-year-old reinsman Stuart McDonald to drive Freyberg on Friday night. The gelding has drawn awkwardly at barrier six on the front line, with his chief rivals likely to be Greg and Skye Bond-trained Ima Connoisseur and Phoenix Warrior, the polemarker Cyamach (trained by Gary Hall sen.) and the Ross Olivieri-trained Red Salute (barrier two).     

The 43-year-old Pizzuto, who is in third place on the NSW trainers’ premiership table with 26 winners and 22 placegetters from 90 starters this season, has driven Freyberg 20 times, but has decided recently to concentrate on training.

“I’m too heavy at 95 kilos and I reckon that the lighter drivers have a major advantage,” he explained. “I’m not decrying heavy drivers, but you don’t see too many heavy drivers winning races.

“I’m fully in favour of the format for this interdominion series --- the traditional concept of three sets of a heats and a final. I reckon the system of one-off heats in the various States was a joke when bad draws ended the hopes of many horses. A bad draw ended Freyberg’s hopes when he ran in a heat at Menangle in February 2015 and finished eighth behind Ultimate Art. The heats were extremely boring.”

Freyberg is by American stallion Washington VC and is the first foal out of Sam’s Beach Babe, who won two minor races from 30 starts in New Zealand. Freyberg had 42 starts in New Zealand for three wins in modest company and when he was bought by Pizzuto in April 2013 he had managed one win (by a nose) from his previous 27 starts and was a C2-class performer.

However, the gelding has certainly proved a wonderful bargain for Pizzuto, who purchased him for $30,000 and owns him in partnership with his parents Albert and Carmen. His 85 starts for his new owners have produced 21 wins and 24 placings for earnings of $354,139.

Freyberg’s first seven starts in Australia produced six wins and a fourth for $31,459 in the space of just 43 days. He continued to improve and now has contested 39 group events. Nine of his Australian wins have been over 1609m and five have been over 2300m.

The Inters final at Gloucester Park will be run over 2936m on December 9, but Pizzuto is not concerned at the prospect of Freyberg running over such a long distance. “He’s a versatile pacer and can stay,” he said. “In his recent runs over 2300m at Menangle he’s been doing his best work at the end of those races.”

Cyamach has been unplaced at his past four starts from second row and wide draws, but is sure to be strongly supported from the prized No. 1 barrier this week. He has started from the No. 1 barrier four times at Gloucester Park and he set the pace in all four events for three wins and a nose second to Run Oneover.

Five-year-old Ima Connoisseur also will have many admirers. He has revealed sparkling early speed and has won at each of his past six starts, the three most recent wins coming after he had set the pace from wide barriers.

Ken Casellas

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