It’s not often that a trainer’s first runner in new state is in a Group 1 race but Chris Bieg will have the opportunity of a lifetime when his talented colt, Free of Debt steps out in Saturday’s Golden Slipper.
The Blue Diamond third-placegetter earned himself a start in the world’s richest two-year-old race after a huge run in February’s Blue Diamond. At the 100m mark it looked like the colt was going to claim the Group 1 but he just couldn’t hold out the fast finishing Lyre and Lankan Star.
“At the 100m mark we were all starting to get very excited. I could see the two fillies coming at him and it was really only the last 50m they were able to get over the top of him.”
The last South Australian trained horse to run in the Golden Slipper was Leon Macdonald’s Augusta Proud back in 2008 and while a Slipper run wasn’t initially on the cards for the colt, his big run in the Diamond showed Bieg that he was capable of another Group 1 start.
“The decision to head to the Slipper was made after an in-depth conversation between Bruce Clark, Shane McGrath and myself the Sunday after the Diamond. As long as he pulled up well, we were keen to give him the opportunity.”
“He pulled up really well post-race and enjoyed ten days at Fuller Park on the Water Walker before returning to Caulfield at Mick Price’s for a week before heading to Rosehill Gardens where he’s been staying with Gerald Ryan.”
There is always a huge team behind any trainer and Bieg’s stablehand Lexi Styles has been a massive help for both the colt and the stable.
“Lexi has been with the horse since he returned to the stables in Caulfield after his freshen up and she then travelled up to Sydney with him which has allowed me to continue to run the Adelaide stable.”
Bieg was in Sydney during the week to take part in the Golden Slipper barrier draw and he could not be happier with how it all panned out.
“Barrier 10 was the perfect barrier for him and if the emergencies don’t gain a start in the race, he comes into barrier 8 which is even better.”
It’s almost been a perfect couple of weeks since the colt settled into Sydney and after a nice trial last week, Bieg is confident his colt can replicate his feats from Caulfied.
“The way he trialled last Thursday at Randwick was very impressive. He showed us he will get through the heavy ground and got on his correct leg around the turn. I’m sure he will be very competitive and can run in the top three.”
The change in direction isn’t the only change for the colt heading into Saturday. He’ll also have a different jockey aboard, this time being ridden by 23 time Group 1 winner Dwayne Dunn
“Aquis Farm contacted me and said that Michael Walker has to ride another of their runners in Dubious. They asked me who would I like to replace him with and I presented them with a couple of options and in the end we came up with Dwayne Dunn. I’m very happy with the decision but I do feel for local jockey Jake Toeroek who was right in the mix. I know one day he will definitely get his opportunity at this elite level.”
While the Slipper is well and truly his major goal for the time being, there are plenty of options for the exciting colt, whether it be this autumn or in the spring.
“We have no real plans for him beyond Saturday. We are taking it one run at a time. The Group 1 Sires Produce over 1400m for two-year-olds is in a fortnight’s time, so there may be some temptation to head there if he runs a big race on Saturday but having said that I’m also keen to get him back home to Adelaide for a good spell. We have an exciting and busy Spring Racing Carnival in mind for him.”
Slipper preparations are not the only thing on Bieg’s mind however with the young trainer recently getting the green light to set up an additional training base at Strathalbyn.
“The new Strathalbyn base gives us the opportunity to train horses in a more relaxed and country style environment. We currently have ten in work there at the moment and are excited to hold our first Open Day there next week.”
Free of Debt will race in the Golden Slipper (Rosehill Gardens, Race 7) at 4pm South Australian time. The Chris Bieg Open Day will take place at Strathalbyn on the 31st of March. For details about the Open Day and his recent yearling purchases, email Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org