Trainer Michael Freedman has already shaken off his post-holiday blues as he gets back in the thick of the action at Kranji saddling two of his high-profile wards, Mr Big and Better Be The One in the $200,000 Group 3 Woodlands Handicap (1200m) on Polytrack this Sunday.
The Australian returned from a two-week family holidays in South Africa last Sunday morning, but decided to not attend the Kranji 11-race meeting in the afternoon to recover from the jetlag at home instead.
Freedman still turned on the TV to watch one of his three runners, even-money favourite Cavallo open his account at his second start to bring up his 2012 score to 45 wins – and keep him in fourth spot in a bunched-up quartet at the top of the Singapore trainer’s premiership headed by Steven Burridge on 48 wins.
Trainer Michael Freedman will be on hand to see if Mr Big (inside) imrpoves on his first-up second in the Woodlands Handicap on Sunday, picture Singapore Turf Club
The same pair were supposed to resume their campaign in an 1100m race on August 5 following their last start in the Group 1 KrisFlyer International Sprint (1200m) last May, but Mr Big was the only acceptor in the end as Better Be The One was withdrawn at declaration time.
Ridden by Stephen Baster, Mr Big, the gallant runner-up to Ato in the KrisFlyer, had every chance when slotted in second spot behind leader Coup Align, but was outgunned in the home straight by a presumably fitter Yin Xin, with Freedman not on hand to see that race as he was already in Cape Town.
Mr Big will meet his nemesis again in Sunday’s feature on 2.5 kilo better terms and should, barring any mishap, be joined by his stablemate Better Be The One this time.
“Mr Big was a little stiff at his comeback race, but Joao (Moreira on Yin Xin) had a lovely run from behind,” said Freedman.
“He needed that hitout two weeks ago as the Woodlands Handicap was always his main target. The way the weight scales have panned out after that race have set him in at nice weights for Sunday’s race.
“As long as he takes the next step-up properly, I think he should run a good race.”
While Better Be The One, a six-time winner of more than $800,000 in prizemoney, has indisputably been one of Freedman’s stable flagships since he took up a trainer’s licence at Kranji in 2008, his fortunes have contrasted sharply with Mr Big's since the KrisFlyer.
A distant sixth to Ato in the glamour sprint race while Mr Big was even being hailed the winner 200m out, Better Be The One has seen his return postponed twice – a late scratching due to lameness on June 17 and a non-acceptor on August 5 because of “niggling” issues.
“Better Be The One looks well, and had a nice gallop with (assistant-trainer) James (Peters) this morning,” said Freedman.
“But he’s had niggling wear-and-tear issues of late. He’s always been jointy and he’s also getting on in age.
“That was why we did not give him a run last time and preferred to wait for another race. He’s become more of a management issue now, but the Woodlands Handicap should be a nice race for him.”
Freedman has not mapped out any ambitious plans for either horses, but said he has been toying with a Hong Kong trip for Mr Big in December.
“Nothing’s confirmed yet, but I did speak with the owners and the Hong Kong Sprint could be a race for Mr Big long-term,” said Freedman.
“It’s a long way off and a fair bit of water to go under the bridge. So, I’ll just see how he goes first.
“As for Better Be The One (two-time Dubai campaigner including a third in the Al Quoz Sprint in 2011), he’s now a race-to-race proposition, and I think I’ll just keep him around here.”
While Mr Big will again be ridden by Baster – who booted home Freedman’s two winners during his absence, Ronnie Brown and Cavallo – this Sunday, Better Be The One has been entrusted to South African jockey Greg Cheyne.
Freedman, who has also nominated Mr Timely in the Woodlands Handicap, will be just as busy this Friday with debut winner Super Junior running in the $65,000 Novice race over 1200m.
“There was a good option for him this Friday in that Novice race, but he will be running against some stronger horses like Super Kenny and Pitstop,” said Freedman of the Joy N Happiness Stable-owned colt by Darci Brahma.
“He’s a good young horse and seems to have improved further, but he’s such a lazy laid-back type. I think he will improve with more distance.
“Joao (Moreira) may be in Sweden but he’s already texted me and said he would ride him on Friday.”