Chris Bieg goes from Group 1 babysitter to Goodwood contender

Plenty of Group 1 winners have been stabled under Chris Bieg, but this time the South Australian manager has a chance to win one in his own right.

There has been no shortage of high-profile horses rolling around Chris Bieg’s Morphettville stable in recent years, but instead of playing babysitter, this Saturday he has a chance to win a Group 1 in his own name.

When top trainers like Mick Price and Danny O’Brien send horses to South Australia for featured races, they stick with Bieg, including Russia’s Camelot and last week’s SA Derby hero Jungle Magnate.

This weekend he will handle Seradess for Mark and Levi Kavanagh, Prarie Flower for Henry Dwyer, as well as Goodwood favorite Extreme Warrior and Lombardo for Price and Michael Kent Jr.

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And while they will continue to receive the necessary care and attention, Bieg is chasing his first Group 1 win and has his own Goodwood contender to worry about in Free Of Debt.

“A lot of Group 1 winners walked through the door, I told Mick ‘it’s time for me to prove myself,'” Bieg laughed.

The rejuvenated five-year-old was excellent in winning the Group 3 McKay Stakes in first place, eventually reaching the heights he promised as a junior, which saw him finish third in the Group 1 Blue Diamond in 2019.

It has been a remarkable training effort to get Free Of Debt back to this level after a combination of loss or form and health issues.

He went two and a half years between wins before finding his groove again in the last prep and has apparently gone to another level this time.

“He was racing in Group 1 when he was two years old, he really struggled when he was three years old and he traveled a lot,” Bieg said.

“Then he got castrated and he had time off, then he had to have throat surgery and he had more time off, so most of his four-year career was learning to breathe again and going about his business.

“It was probably a little help that the penny took a little while to drop after the throat operation because it lowered its rating back to a suitable level.

“He was able to race again and gained some confidence, I think it was a big turning point for him.”

Free Of Debt’s task on Saturday has been made easier by the sprinter in the form of Lindsay Smith, In The Boat, scratching after sustaining a bruised heel.

He looked like the obvious leader, but Bieg is still confident that Dom Tourneur will be able to find a good spot from gate four.

“(In The Boat) is a very good horse, so I guess he is one less to beat, but there will still be a lot of speed in the race,” he said.
“It just maps out really well so he gets a good run behind them and doesn’t have to do too much work to be there.

“He has become quite versatile since he was a horse that once had to lead, he sat down in the last race and was able to get over them.

Free Of Debt has a shot at $34 with the TAB and Bieg is delighted with the way he has come through the McKay Stakes.

“It’s nice and bright and really cool. I just think he’s in a really good zone right now,” she said.

“His canter on Tuesday was exceptional and he has improved since that first step. It looks great for him.”

Originally posted as Chris Bieg goes from Group 1 babysitter to Goodwood hopeful

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