Above Average, who failed to make the grade as a Melbourne Cup horse, has emerged as the best jumps prospect for the Freedman stable in more than a decade.
The former English stayer was described as a natural jumper by Anthony Freedman and made an impressive debut over the obstacles in the Celebrate Easter Saturday at Caulfield Hurdle (3300m) at Sandown yesterday.
He scored by 2 lengths from Our Aristocrat and Desert Master, who won the 2009 Grand National Hurdle and was also placed in the feature the past two years.
Above Average was bought for around A$500,000 for the the Ball And Chain syndicate but it soon became evident he wasn't the Melbourne Cup horse it had hoped for.
His Australian debut was his only win at Caulfield in March 2010 and while he placed second in the 2010 Moonee Valley and Sandown Cups he was always a rung below what was required for a Melbourne Cup.
"When we bought him in England the mail was that the jumping boys wanted him and that was always in the back of my mind," Freedman said yesterday.
"Clearly, he was disappointing on the flat so when the money came back into jumps racing we thought 'Let's see what he can do'. He is a natural jumper who had it from day one."
Nearly all the Ball And Chain syndicate members sold out of the horse, who now races in the same colours as Lucas Cranach, who finished third in last year's Melbourne Cup.
Freedman said he could not recall the stable's last jumper but suspected it was Nautilism who won the 2001 Grand National Hurdle.
"I don't know much about the jumps game but I have been told by people who do know that he [Above Average] is very good," Freedman said.
"To my eye, he jumped well today and not having raced for six or seven weeks you would think he would find improvement in fitness and be better for the experience over jumps."
The merit of the win was underlined by Above Average's time of 3:45.14 which shaved 0.08 seconds off Black And Bent's record.