Blinkers on for Kiwi Aegon in G1 FWD Champions Mile
FWD Champions Day on Sunday (30 April) looms as an important milestone for talented New Zealand trainer Andrew Forsman who will saddle his first international runner outside Australasia when Aegon tackles the best Hong Kong has to offer in the HK$20 million G1 FWD Champions Mile (1600m) at Sha Tin.
Group 1-winning Aegon’s Sha Tin tilt will come exactly one year since 40-year-old Forsman became a solo trainer after his mentor and training partner of a decade, famed New Zealander Murray Baker, retired – on 30 April last year.
A part-time morning job in Baker’s stables for nearly a decade gave Forsman the burning ambition to quit his job as a cameraman with New Zealand racing outlet Trackside and work full-time in racing. He worked his way up to become Baker’s stable foreman, followed by the assistant training role and then as training partner for another decade.
A far as teachers go, Baker who trained nearly 60 G1 winners, was up there with the best which he showed with raids on Australia where he regularly won races at the highest level, highlighted by Dundeel who kicked off his career with a first-up maiden win in New Zealand and then raced exclusively in Australia as It’s A Dundeel, winning six Group 1 races.
Forsman was part of the training partnership who handled Dundeel, who is now on the eve of his tenth stallion season at Arrowfield Stud in New South Wales with a A$66,000 (approx. HK$347,500) service fee. Mongolian Khan was another headline horse for the pair, winning three Group 1s – the 2015 G1 Caulfield Cup (2400m), G1 ATC Derby (2400m) and G1 New Zealand Derby (2400m).
Mustang Valley gave Forsman his first Group 1 win as a solo trainer – he trained 24 with Baker – when the mare won the G1 Livamol Classic (2040m) in New Zealand last October.
Forsman part-owns G1 New Zealand Guineas (1600m) winner Aegon, which he selected at the Karaka Yearling Sales, with the Zame family and says while he has been to a couple of international meetings, he has never raced a horse in Hong Kong.
“It’s great to be part of it,” Forsman said.
“Aegon is certainly going into a different environment on a long ‘prep’ and does seem at a bit of a disadvantage but he is pretty well travelled and laidback and it looks like he has settled in quite well but it’s only early days.”
Of his sixth races this preparation which netted a Group 3 win in the G3 Moonga Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield in October and a narrow second in the G1 Captain Cook Stakes (1600m) back in New Zealand in December, the five-year-old’s last race was in the lucrative All-Star Mile (1600m) at what can be a tricky Moonee Valley track in March but the result was perplexing for Forsman.
“We really don’t know what to make of that and whether it was The Valley that tricked him up, we are not really sure,” Forsman said of Aegon’s ninth of 15th placing in the race.
“But he has come through it really well and had a good jump-out at Flemington and we put the blinkers on him which is something we’ve always wanted to do but just haven’t had the right opportunity.”
And while Forsman has engaged Australia’s premier jockey, New Zealand expatriate James McDonald, he said the only negative is that it will be the star’s first ride on the gelding.
“But he is pretty straight forward and it will be a small field and you just hope by putting the blinkers on it switches him on and he gets him to travel at that important part of the race,” he said.
“Unfortunately, he tends to get back a little bit and that’s probably why we opted to go to Hong Kong rather than a big field in the Doncaster.
“With a smaller field the logic is that if he can draw well, he won’t be too far off them even if he is a little bit slowly away.
“Hopefully he can be positive and take a position that he hasn’t probably been able to do in his last couple of starts.”
After winning his first five races – including a Group 2 at his second start and a Group 1 at his third outing – Forsman said Aegon had never had any where to hide with such high ratings which have been difficult as an older horse.