Freedman-Phua join forces in Oscar race with Muraahib

Lee Freedman will leave the Kranji training ranks in the New Year.
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Via Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club

An Oscar newcomer with a name that sounds more Arabian than what the former Singapore champion owner usually names his Hollywood-themed gallopers?

Highly unlikely unless owner Phua Chian Kin (CK) bought over a horse from the Al-Arabiya Stable, known for its penchant for names in Arabic – or there is a new star in Tinseltown called Muraahib.

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Upon checking, Muraahib is a horse the Oscar Racing Stable owns in partnership with trainer Lee Freedman, after having changed hands from the powerful Shadwell Stud of Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum.

Still, not many times have we heard of a tried horse running in the famous yellow and blue spots silks, as Mr Phua usually buys his horses from scratch.

The Australian handler explained he was the real instigator behind the purchase of the four-time Melbourne winner formerly trained by leading trainers David Hayes & Tom Dabernig, and after a bit of arm-twisting, Mr Phua was on board.

“CK is a part-owner, but I own the majority of the shares,” said Freedman who was away in Australia last week and just returned on Monday.

“As you know, CK prefers to bring in unraced horses or horses he breeds himself. I told him about this horse I just bought and he eventually agreed to buy a share.

“I asked him if he wanted to change his name, he said no, he’ll stick to Muraahib. He will run in his colours at his debut this Friday.

“I actually bought the horse online from David. Online auction is a new concept that is building in popularity back home.

“David was selling a few and Muraahib was the best-performed horse of the lot. The form around him was good and I also checked with David if he was sound.

“He told me he was. I trust David’s judgement, I wouldn’t have bought him if it was from any other trainer.”

Muraahib was a precocious two-year-old who made it two-from-two at his debut (Adelaide and Sale in Victoria). At his first upgrade to city class, he ran a creditable sixth to Catchy in the 2017 Group 1 Blue Diamond Stakes (1200m), Melbourne’s answer to Sydney’s Golden Slipper. He was ridden by top jockey (but now semi-retired) Steven Arnold at all three runs.

The son of Reset then lost his way before bouncing back to the winner’s enclosure 1 ½ years later in much lower grade – at Pakenham and Geelong, both times in sprint races on synthetic tracks, a fact not lost on Freedman as he launches the now five-year-old in Friday’s last race of the skinny seven-race programme, the $70,000 Class 3 race over 1000m on the Polytrack.

“He’s a good synthetic track horse. He won two-from-two back home,” said Freedman.

“We also saw it in his barrier trial (won by just under eight lengths with race-rider Vlad Duric up). He’s obviously talented and has good gate speed, but trials are trials.

“He also won when ridden back, so, he’s quite versatile in that respect. He’s drawn well (two), but I’ll leave it to Vlad to decide how to ride him.

“He’s very well and hopefully, he can open his account tomorrow.”

Freedman has been in red-hot form since he hit the century with Foresto on July 12. The next week, he won his highest acclaim at Kranji since moving here in September 2017, the Group 1 Singapore Derby (1800m) with Sun Marshal.

The reigning Singapore champion trainer then took his one-week holiday, but that did not stop the yard from still firing on all cylinders – two winners, Excelling on Friday and Yulong Express on Sunday.

“I had to go home for some family business, and also to see my grandson,” said Freedman who remains in sixth place, but has steadily been inching up to the Top Five.

“But it’s great to see the stable still doing well while I was away. Let’s hope we can keep up the momentum.”