Beneath his normally calm demeanour, Andrew Forsman admits there were quite a few nerves as he set out to launch his solo training career in May this year.
Forsman had been part of an enormously successful partnership with New Zealand Hall Of Fame mentor Murray Baker for 10 years prior to Baker retiring at the end of April, leaving Forsman to forge his own path after the pair had combined for more than 930 victories and recording his name on 25 Group One wins.
Now approaching the six-month anniversary of stepping out under his own banner, Forsman’s Cambridge-based operation is airborne, with success both in New Zealand and in the crux of a highly competitive Melbourne spring.
Since May, Forsman has produced 20 wins in New Zealand with five of those at stakes level including his first solo Group One victory when Mustang Valley took out the Livamol Classic (2040m) at Hastings earlier in the month.
Campaigning a small team in Melbourne, Forsman has picked up seven wins including the Gr.2 Edward Manifold Stakes (1600m) with She’s Licketysplit, the Gr.3 Moonga Stakes (1400m) with Aegon while Mr Maestro is likely to start amongst the favourites in Saturday’s Gr.1 Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington after winning his last three starts including the Gr.3 Caulfield Classic (2000m) and Listed Super Impose Stakes (1800m).
Progressive gallopers Saint Bathans (two wins) and White Noise (third in Sunday’s Listed Sale Cup, 1600m) further highlight the astute placement of the Forsman-trained runners in Victoria.
“I would be lying if I said I didn’t have plenty of nerves when I knew I would be stepping out on my own,” Forsman said.
“Murray and I enjoyed plenty of success and while I knew I had great staff, good systems and some lovely young horses in the stable, there are always doubts that creep in.
“I put myself under plenty of pressure to try and get results on the board as quickly as we could and thankfully it has worked out better than I could have hoped for.
“The partnership with Murray taught me plenty and one of the main lessons was the work ethos he operated to.
“Murray was an incredibly hard worker, who kept us all up to the mark as we strived to get results for the stable and our clients and I think that has made me even hungrier to succeed.
“I’m a pretty reserved and low-key kind of bloke that likes to let the horses do the talking for me and thankfully we’ve got off to a flying start.”
While keen to establish himself as a force on the domestic scene, Forsman has always been cognisant of the opportunities that present in Australia and he hasn’t been afraid to target races across the Tasman if he believes he has the horse to suit.
“I did want to get over to Melbourne for the spring this year as I felt we had a number of horses in the team that were up to winning at that level,” he said.
“I want to strive towards winning good races, giving owners the chance to target good races and to reap the rewards from that where we can.
“A good example is Mr Maestro, who has pretty much had the Victoria Derby earmarked for him from the day we bought him.
“The starts we gave him as a two-year-old were primarily to get a good grounding into him and then everything in his three-year-old prep has been with the Derby in mind.
“We also felt She’s Licketysplit could be competitive in the three-year-old filly ranks and she has done us proud.
“To get that Group Two success on her record made the trip all worthwhile and although I may be a little biased, I felt she should have gone a lot closer to winning the Caulfield Thousand Guineas if the track hadn’t come up so wet on the day.”
One of the many talking points about Forsman’s success in Melbourne has been that he has achieved his results from a New Zealand base as opposed from training locally in Victoria.
He is adamant that the recipe works well with the right ingredients in the mix.
“It is easier said than done in taking horses over to Australia, but you can see from the results that Murray achieved both before I joined him and when I was in partnership that it can be done,” he said.
“The key is to have a great team of staff around you, which I do and to target the right type of horse and the races for them.
“The way that international travel is for horses these days, the flight over there is similar to putting them on a float to take them to somewhere like Trentham and we do that without another thought.
“It’s definitely cheaper to prepare them here and while we are getting the results, I don’t see a need to change things too much.”
Forsman, who turns 40 this week, travelled to Melbourne on Monday to put the finishing touches on his runners destined to start on the first day of the 2022 Melbourne Cup Carnival on Saturday.
“We look like having at least two runners on Derby Day at Flemington and that is very exciting for everyone,” he said.
“Mr Maestro will take his place in the Derby as planned and I would like to think he will be very competitive, especially if he strikes good footing.
“She’s Licketysplit is another who needs firm ground as she will take on La Crique in the Empire Rose Stakes (Gr.1, 1600m). She will carry just 49kgs, but it is a big ask against La Crique as she looks very special, but we wouldn’t line up if we thought she couldn’t do a good job for us.
“We have also sent Mustang Valley over and she is likely to run on the last day where there are three nice options including the Matriarch Stakes (Gr.2, 2000m).
“She has thrived on her recent racing and she pulled up so well after winning the Livamol that taking the punt with her in Melbourne was the obvious choice.”
With the busy domestic schedule ramping up for the late spring/summer period there will be no rest for Forsman, but he won’t have it any other way as he looks to continue the momentum he has established.
“It can be a very fickle game and you have to ride the highs while you can as you know there is most likely a lean patch just around the corner,” he said.
“We’re enjoying the ride at present and long may it continue.”