As racing mourns Dean Holland, the Group One-winning rider killed in a race fall in Australia on Monday, Andrew Forsman has revealed his late friend’s altruistic act that helped the Kiwi trainer prepare Aegon for Sunday’s Group One FWD Champions Mile at Sha Tin.
“When I had Aegon at Flemington for a few weeks before he came to Hong Kong, I needed to give him a jump out with the blinkers on. Dean was the guy who put his hand up and did it. It was of no benefit to him. He just wanted to help. That’s the sort of guy he was,” said Forsman, whose star five-year-old miler races in head gear for the first time against the likes of Golden Sixty, California Spangle and his fellow Australasia-based raider, My Oberon.
Sunday marks one year to the day Murray Baker retired and Forsman, who worked with the legendary Kiwi horseman for more than 20 years – the final 10 of them in a formal training partnership – began flying solo. Not that Forsman set out to be a trainer.
“I had a little bit of family background with horse racing, but going through school never did I
think I’d work in racing or anything like that. It was very much a coincidence how it played out,” Forsman said.
“Working behind the camera for Trackside, the racing television channel in New Zealand, was my first job after graduating from some tertiary studies. It was only a few days a week, so I had to get something else to supplement my income. I randomly approached Murray Baker – of all people – to work for him in the mornings, help out and earn a bit of extra cash.”
Forsman could not have dreamed his part-time job at Baker’s stables in Cambridge would one day lead to him saddling a Group One runner in Hong Kong. Even last month, Aegon competing at Sha Tin on Champions Day seemed unlikely after his “disappointing” six-length ninth behind Mr Brightside – ridden by Luke Currie and trained by Ben and JD Hayes – in the All-Star Mile at Moonee Valley.
“We put in an entry a while ago,” Forsman said. “We thought we’d get Aegon’s inoculations done and see how his preparation unfolds. His first run [when a close-up sixth in the Group One CF Orr Stakes over 1,400m] was good. His second run [when fourth in the Group One Futurity Stakes, also over 1,400m] was OK, and we thought we had him peaking for the All-Star Mile, but that run was a little bit disappointing.
“After the All-Star Mile, we’d put the line through Hong Kong – we weren’t going to come here – but Greg Carpenter called and said, ‘look, it’s only going to be a small field’. Then we had to weigh up whether we went to Sydney and ran in a 20-horse Doncaster or came here and ran in a nine-horse field.
“We thought, with his racing pattern, a small field suits him better than a big field, so that’s pretty much what swayed us, and obviously, the brilliant experience of coming here for a race meeting.”
Forsman has booked James McDonald to steer Aegon from gate six in the Champions Mile, and the trainer is not at all concerned his compatriot has not been aboard the 2020 Group One New Zealand 2,000 Guineas (1,600m) champion for any of his previous 19 starts.
“Aegon is fairly one-dimensional in the way he races,” Forsman said. “He doesn’t often begin well, so he’ll naturally get back in the field. James is going to have a pretty straightforward ride. He’ll just have to help him to get out of the gates and hold his spot as best he can. The small field helps.
“Golden Sixty is a very, very good horse, and it’s hard to travel and beat a horse as good as him on their home turf. Him and California Spangle are the clear stand-outs, but outside them, I think it’s a quite an open field, so it gives us some confidence that while we may find it tough to give the good two a shake, if things go our way we know he’s really good on his day and he could get some of it.”
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