Sam Freedman has said it would give him a huge “sense of national pride” if Artorius can become the first Australian-trained horse to win the Darley July Cup at the Moët & Chandon July Festival at Newmarket after impressing in a gallop on the July Course today.
After finishing third on his first start in Britain in last month’s Group One Platinum Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot, the three year old son of Flying Artie will now bid to go two places better by giving his country a breakthrough success in the six-furlong Group One, which this year is worth a record £600,000.
With the sporting rivalry between Britain and Australia stretching far beyond the boundaries of horseracing, Freedman believes victory for the globetrotting colt, who he trains in partnership with his father Anthony, would be well received by those back home.
Artorious, who runs in the colours of China Horse Club, Newgate Stud Farm and Partners, is a winner at the top level back in Australia having claimed the Group One Neds Blue Diamond Stakes at Caulfield in February of last year.
The closest an Australian-trained horse has come to winning the Darley July Cup was in 2003, when Choisir finished as runner-up to Oasis Dream.
Freedman said: “There is that rivalry between Australia and England but it’s healthy and good for racing in general to have competition like this.
“There would definitely be a sense of national pride if he won, particularly as there will be a huge Australian contingency coming over for the week of the sales and races.
“This horse really sums up Australian racing as he was purchased for not a lot of money (120,000 Australian dollars, around £67,500). We syndicated him among stable clients and he then won a big race and a stud got involved. He sums up how a horse can change people’s lives.
“There are people that have come over and it is the first horse they have owned so that gives you an added sense of national pride as you feel like you want him to perform well for the whole stable and the country.
“If he could win a Group One in both hemispheres it would look good on his CV.”
In order to acquaint himself with his next assignment Artorius was put through his paces by his big-race rider Jamie Spencer in a four-furlong spin at the July Course today (Friday 1st July) ahead of his return to the track on Saturday week.
Working alongside the Harry Eustace-trained Ancient Times, Artorius finished upsides his gallops companion, much to the delight of Freedman.
The trainer said: “The work went really well. They just went four furlongs and quickened up the last 400 yards. He really started to hit top gear the last 100 yards.
“A really good part of his attitude is that he never overdoes it and he conserves his energy. That was as good as I’ve seen him work for a while. He seemed to handle the track well enough.”
Reflecting on his performance at the Royal meeting, Freedman was delighted with the effort which he believes not only justifies the horse staying on for the Darley July Cup but one that offers encouragement of even better to come.
Freedman, who spent two years working in Newmarket with trainer Roger Varian, said: “He put a lot into the race at Ascot and lost a little bit of weight but he put it back on a couple of days later. He bounced out of it well and he seems to be thriving at the moment.
“Ascot was one of those things. He got that little check at the 75-metre mark and it just halted his momentum. He did a very good job to pick up again.
“We couldn’t have been happier how he performed and like we said – he just needs things to go right in a field of that size. It was a brilliant ride and the horse performed very well. He just didn’t get the break at the right time.
“If anything he has probably improved a tad for the run as he hadn’t run since March. He is now in an established routine and we hope he can improve again on his next start.
“The stiffer the finish at Newmarket will be better for him as that is when he is doing his best work and horses up on the speed are tiring.
“A slightly smaller field is probably not as ideal as I do think he does enjoying being amongst them but if they go a good tempo, which they usually do over here, then he can settle and finish off well.”
Throughout his career Artorius, who is based in Newmarket at the yard of Charlie Fellowes for his UK stay, has made a habit of starting slowly. However, Freedman feels that if anyone can get the best of him it is twice champion jockey Jamie Spencer.
He added: “What has cost him more wins is his lack of early speed and when you are slow out of the gates in Australia it becomes increasingly difficult to bridge the gap as they are largely tight, turning tracks with short straights.
“Fortunately (breaking from the gates) it is not as significant here as it is in Australia and you do get time to get into a rhythm and work into the race. He takes a bit of time to get into gear but once he hits top speed he can sustain it.
“We’ve been trying to change it (sharpness out the gates) for 12 months but unfortunately his biggest attribute and to his detriment is how laidback he is, however it is not something we are going to able to change now as he is an established horse.
“Jamie is the best drop out rider in the country and this horse is a drop out horse. Mark Zahra has done a lot of the prep work on him at home but we were keen to change it up and change it up a little bit.
“Jamie has now had a sit on him and done a couple of little pieces of work on him so he has a good handle on the horse now so it all bodes well.
“Jamie was very complimentary last time and the first thing he said when he got off him was that he would definitely improve for this and that it might switch him on, which is something we’ve noticed in his training since.
“To his credit he has never run a bad race but hopefully he will get his time in the sun again in the July Cup.”
For now the focus might be on ensuring Artorius gets to the July Cup in the best shape possible but having seemingly enjoyed the experience this time Freedman admits a return trip to Britain is likely to be on the agenda in 2023.
He added: “The whole experience has been awesome and hopefully he can win the July Cup but going forward we will be looking to identify more horses to bring over here.
“He will probably come back next year for the Platinum Jubilee as a four year old as having handled all this before we know it is not going to bother him, although he would still need to be racing at a high level back in Australia to justify coming back.
“Hopefully bringing him over will result in a lot more Australians bringing horses over in the future.”