Michael Freedman doesn’t have to worry about fulfilling the Jockey Club's performance criteria, but every winner helps as he tries to build some momentum for next season.
The Australian trainer registered his 14th winner of the season with Fiama at Sha Tin on Sunday and while those around him on the premiership table throw everything into the final handful of meetings to get to the 16-win mark and avoid a dreaded strike – three strikes means a loss of licence – instead, Freedman can focus on the future.
“Being my first year [the performance criteria] doesn’t actually apply to me, so it’s never been factored in but it’s nice be starting to get some of these newer horses to the races and we’ve got some nice PPGs on the way up,” he said.
“This year has been a bit of a learning experience and I’m really looking forward to next year.”
Fiama is one horse who has done a good job for him this season and he capped off his campaign with a tough victory in the Class Three Uncompromising Integrity Handicap (2,000m).
Italian jockey Umberto Rispoli settled him just behind the early leaders Cloud Nine and New Elegance, before putting out in the straight and grinding away to salute.
Fiama edged New Elegance by three-quarters of a length, with Namjong Plus in third.
“Because he jumped so well Umberto took the initiative to ride him a little bit closer, which we probably wanted to do last start as well, but he didn’t begin well enough,” Freedman said.
“He’s a real out-and-out stayer, I know they don’t run too many of them but he’d probably run 2,400m pretty comfortably as well.”
Freedman thinks Fiama, a four-year-old gelding, still has room for improvement.
“He’s had a good season, it’s only his first season, he’s won a couple and been unlucky on two or three occasions, so he’s done a good job and can have a bit of a spell now and come back next season,” he said.
“I think given it’s only his first prep here, he’s probably done a pretty good job. I think anywhere around these 2,000m and a bit further, he can probably go to Class Two. Once he’s had a nice spell we’ll see how he comes back.”