Melbourne Cup winner Rekindling is pictured with L-R Lloyd Williams , Lloyd's grandson Frank Williams , strapper MJ Doran and trainer Joseph O'Brien , at Werribee Racecourse on November 08, 2017 in Werribee, Australia. (Pat Scala/Racing Photos)
“Our children are our greatest treasure. They are our future”. The wise words of the great Nelson Mandela. And how right he was. Without eager eyed, kind, inspired, determined and loving children, where are we left? Obviously, Mr Mandela’s sentiments from many years ago relate to the broader world and humanity, but they mean a lot in racing too.
For any sport to thrive in the future, there needs to be a passionate community of young people who are inspired enough to continue traditions, but to also revolutionise it to capture a new generation. Not to downplay the commitment of 50 year plus members of the Sport of Kings – the sport’s life blood for many years – but racing cannot survive forever on the back of their support.
I’m glad to see so many clubs across the country putting initiatives in place to grab the attention of young people. Not just the teeny tiny children with pony rides, but those in their formative years who are about to embark on the adult chapter of their lives. Events, syndicates, accessible ticketing and the thrill of high quality of racing are keeping young people interested. It feels like the interest in Australian racing in the younger ranks is doing well. Of course, it is different to many years ago, the bygone days that people reminisce about, but innovation and a new take on the sport will always be required to keep it fresh, interesting and marketable.
Family also plays a major part in it. Racing is fundamentally a family business for so many participants. From the Paynes and their ‘football team’ of jockeys and trainers, to the Cummings dynasty that has been created with the success and passion of each generation. Goodness knows how these families stick together so well – working so closely together in a high pressure, public environment can prove to be the making of some all-time ‘blues’. They’re clearly held together by a special type of glue; an ultra-strong bond.
If I may be self-indulgent, I’d like to single out a few family members of my own who are taking racing into the future. My cousin Will (Richard’s son) is in the midst of completing his study with Darley’s Flying Start program, as well as assisting his father at their new training operation out of Rosehill. Will, who lives at the end of my street and often finds himself lurking around for a home cooked meal on a Sunday, didn’t always show a huge passion for racing. An interest, of course, but it wasn’t until his early 20s when he realised that he had caught the racing bug and it was better to live with it, than to flick it. Will has a thirst for knowledge, and a confident air about him. The early starts don’t bother him and he’ll continue to work hard.
Another cousin, Sam (Anthony’s son) is also a future trainer in the making. Sam is a tall, athletically gifted 21-year-old who could have played sport professionally, but chose the racing game instead. He has just returned from 18 months of learning the ropes with UK trainer Roger Varian, to work with his father and study at university (funnily enough, the same course I did). He has an even temperament, a great eye for horses and a special brand of patience. He’s also willing to put up with his father’s grumpiness, which is no small feat!
I’m very proud of my family. Racing isn’t always made up of big Saturday meetings and decent prizemoney cheques. It’s a tough slog and relentless, but it can bring so much joy and satisfaction. The future of the Freedman name in racing looks like it will live on for many years to come. And that’s a good thing. I’m sure both Will and Sam, in due course and with a lot of hard work, will help shape racing’s future in Australia in some small way, and that’s a wonderful thing.