Gary Harley – Herald – 28.01.23

The father and son training partnership of Richard and Will Freedman, enjoying a successful first half of the 2022-23 season with 31.5 winners in two states will send two well fancied gallopers to Saturdays Newcastle race meeting on the Course Proper.

The promising Merchant Navy three-year-old Piraeus, lightly raced with two wins and a second from four starts is expected to start favorite in the opening event, the Sharp Office Benchmark 68 Handicap (1600m). The gelding landed a plunge at Gosford three days before Christmas when, courtesy of a gun Jason Collett ride he snatched victory in the shadows of the post. Piraeus was backed in from double figure odds to start $5 equal favorite. Next start, the Freedman’s sent the gelding to Muswellbrook where he won a Class 1 carrying 60kg. On January 18, Piraeus was gallant in defeat when beaten half a length by the smart Journalism in a classy Benchmark 64 Handicap at Wyong. Mitchell Bell rode the horse when successful at Muswellbrook, and he has the mount on Saturday.

The Freedman’s other runner on Saturday is the Snitzel filly Eau De Vie, who will contest the New Zealand Bloodstock Maiden Plate (1500m). She has only had two starts and both runs were full of merit. Eau De Vie came from the tail of the field to finish fourth, two lengths from the winner on the Beaumont track on Boxing Day. Last start at Muswellbrook the three-year-old flashed home to be beaten a nose.

The Paul Perry trained gelding Harlem Groove will be hard to beat in the Sage Painting Provincial Benchmark 64 Handicap (1400m), after he turned in an eye-catching performance on this track on January 17. Both his runs this preparation have caught the eye. First up on the Beaumont track on Boxing Day the four-year-old finished fast to get within a length of the speedy Zenti. Last start he was again strong late when beaten ¾ length. Harlem Groove has the rails barrier and Keagan Latham has the mount.

Mitchell Bell who has a nice book of rides, combines with Gerald Ryan and Sterling Alexiou when he rides their blueblood Barmera in the Australian Bloodstock Maiden Handicap (1300m). The four-year-old son of I Am Invincible was gutsy when beaten a length first up for eight months at Warwick Farm on January 4. He was trapped three wide without cover outside the leader from the outset, and he was tough. Barmera has a soft draw, and he has the speed to race up close.

The James Cummings three-year-old Competition is ready to win the New Zealand Bloodstock Maiden Plate (1500m). Competition came from second last in a field of thirteen on the turn at Wyong last start when beaten a length. He will appreciate the long straight where he was runner up in August.