Andrew Forsman has made a whirlwind start to his solo training career, highlighted by a red-letter day at Flemington on Saturday where he saddled She’s Licketysplit to win the Gr.2 Edward Manifold Stakes (1600m) and Mr Maestro to win the Listed Super Impose Stakes (1800m).
The Cambridge horseman experienced the highs of Australian racing when training in partnership with New Zealand racing doyen Murray Baker.
Like his former training partner, Forsman is keen to make his solo mark at the lucrative Australian carnivals and after weekend success the 39-year-old holds a pair of aces when looking ahead to Classic success.
Following their respective victories, She’s Licketysplit was installed a $5 favourite for the Gr.1 Thousand Guineas (1600m), while Mr Maestro shortened into $4.50 favouritism for the Gr.1 Victoria Derby (2500m).
The campaigns have already vindicated the decision to travel the pair to Melbourne early in their three-year-old years and Forsman knows all the ducks need to align to get the ultimate success.
“That has been always the aim (Classic races), you target those better races, work your way through and hope they are somewhere near the mark,” Forsman told RSN.
“The bonus with She’s Licketysplit was that she was a Group One winner already in New Zealand, so that didn’t make the decision to take her over too hard.
“With Mr Maestro, if you think you’ve got a Derby horse and you want to target the Derby in Melbourne in the spring, there just aren’t the suitable options in New Zealand to get a horse like that going and find out where you stand.
“You are running over short trips against your own age group on rain affected ground. There are so many options for a progressive staying type of three-year-old over there (Australia).”
She’s Licketysplit has been a great flagbearer for Forsman, winning her first two starts as a juvenile, including the Gr.1 Sistema Stakes (1200m) at Ellerslie in March before returning in winning form when taking out the Gr.3 Northland Breeders’ Stakes (1200m) at Ruakaka in August.
She showed she was up to the mark in Australia when third in the Gr.2 Thousand Guineas Prelude (1400m) off a wide trip at Caulfield last month, and the daughter of Turn Me Loose has bounced through Saturday’s victory well as she builds towards the Guineas.
“She has come through it very well. She needed to because there is only a 10-day back-up into the Guineas. Everything has gone to plan at this stage,” he said.
“I liked the way she travelled a lot better (on Saturday). Damian (Lane, jockey) gave her a bit of a dig to hold her spot early and she did get quite keen. They were going pretty steady and then she came back to him nicely. She still wandered a touch when she hit the front in the straight but she kept up a strong gallop.”
While she is now a favourite for the Thousand Guineas, Forsman said the Gr.1 Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) at Flemington on October 29 could be another option, while there is always the possibility of stepping up in distance and putting her on a VRC Oaks (Gr.1, 2500m) path.
“The target has always been the Thousand Guineas, so we will get through that first,” Forsman said.
“She can run in the mares’ race on Derby Day and she would only carry 49 kilos in that. After winning the Edward Manifold she is eligible for the A$1 million bonus should she win the Empire Rose. It is just great to have those options available.”
Stablemate Mr Maestro will head to the Gr.3 Caulfield Classic (2000m) on October 15 as his final lead-up to the Derby. Harry Coffey is booked for the one-off ride with Damian Lane in Sydney that day.
The son of Savabeel has yet to be tested over further than 1800m but is out of a stakes-performed half-sister to VRC Derby winner Lion Tamer, whom Forsman travelled to Melbourne.
“It is hard to know whether a horse will get the Derby distance until you try them. I have seen very good horses tripped up in the Derby,” Forsman said.
“I know we brought Dundeel to Melbourne and he was a super horse, probably the best horse I have ever had anything to do with, and he couldn’t get the job done in the VRC Derby as a short-priced favourite in the race.
“It is a tricky race and can bring them undone a bit. You don’t go into it taking anything for granted.”
Saturday proved to be another fruitful day in Australia for New Zealand-breds, having also won the Gr.1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) with Smokin’ Romans, and at Randwick the Gr.1 Metropolitan (2400m) with No Compromise and Gr.2 Premiere Stakes (1200m) with Lost And Running, in addition to the Forsman duo.
“Looking at the results with the New Zealand-breds right across Australia on Saturday it was great,” Forsman said.
“The one thing that has kept our industry so relevant for so long is our ability to raise good, quality, young stock just on the grass over here. It is a good place to produce horses.”
Forsman said New Zealand-breds record in Classic races in Australia is also holding it in good stead against rival markets in the northern hemisphere, while there are a host of proven and emerging stallions in New Zealand.
“The European market has priced itself out a little bit now perhaps. With age group horses it is hard to bring out a northern hemisphere-bred age group horse to compete in Derbys and the like. That certainly gives us a big advantage,” he said.
Meanwhile, Forsman was also pleased with Saint Bathans fourth placing in the Listed Seymour Cup (1600m) at Bendigo on Sunday.
“Saint Bathans was very good in the Seymour Cup. He came from last and was only beaten a length. I am very happy with him,” he said.
“That is his sort of level for now. He is a very talented horse but is still lightly raced and is learning his craft. Hopefully he has got another good run or two in him soon. I am considering running him at Caulfield on Saturday-week.”
He could be joined at Caulfield next week by his Group One-winning stablemate Aegon, who caught the eye when resuming under top-weight in an open handicap at Te Rapa last Friday.
“Aegon will potentially head over next Wednesday and perhaps run in the Moonga Stakes (Gr.3, 1400m).