Andrew Forsman is diverting credit for another record-breaking season for Cambridge's Baker Racing Stables to an unlikely source.
Forsman and training partner Murray Baker continued to re-write the record books in 2017-18, setting new standards for winners in a season, stakes won in a season and stakes races won in a season.
Following on from last season's premiership-winning tally of 107 wins, 19 at stakes level and earnings of $2.92 million, Baker and Forsman racked up 142 wins to break their own national record of 114 set in 2014-15, with 20 stakes wins and earnings of $4,478,405, eclipsing Mark Walker's previous record of $3,711,249, set in 2008-09.
They are numbers that are immensely satisfying for the training partners but Forsman believes Baker's son Bjorn deserves his share of credit for the stable's contemporary fortunes.
Bjorn Baker joined his father in partnership for three seasons from 2008-09 to 2010-11 when Forsman was still combining work as a Trackside camera operator and floor manager with his job as a stable hand.
"Bjorn came along and gave it a real jolt. He introduced new owners and really got things going," Forsman said.
"What he did when he was here has made my job now a lot easier. I've got a lot to thank him for."
These days a successful trainer in Sydney, Baker's departure opened the door for Forsman to join Murray Baker in partnership for the 2012-13 season and he has been careful to foster the special team culture among staff that his predecessor had created.
"Bjorn was great with the staff and the momentum he gave this place, I've been lucky enough to carry it on," Forsman said.
"We've got a good core group of senior staff that are passionate about what we do and love their job. In a perfect world and with racing in a healthier state, they would be earning a lot more than they are, but they love what they do and they are a big part of our success."
The stable enjoyed Group One success with Bonneval, Lizzie L'Amour, Saint Emilion and Vin De Dance, though injury thwarted the spring campaigns of Bonneval and Jon Snow and neither raced in the autumn, a period the Baker-Forsman stable had enjoyed much success in past years in Sydney.
"That was probably our biggest disappointment that we never got to see the best of those two this season but they are both coming up as well as ever for the new season," Forsman said.
"Bonneval is a lot stronger than she was this time last season and if she stays sound and takes that to the racetrack, she'll be competitive wherever she goes."
Asked his highlight of the season, numbers-driven Forsman responds with the premiership record and a 61-win margin over arch-rivals Jamie Richards and Stephen Autridge, achieved at a winning strike rate of one win to every 5.75 starters.
"To be 60 clear on the premiership is a massive effort," said Forsman, who has taken an ever-increasing role in the running of the stable.
"We've been consistent all the way through. Horses have run well, whether it's wet or dry and all ages and demographics of the stable. There hasn't been a weakness.
"I was quietly confident we'd break our existing record, just with the numbers we had heading into the season and the quality of the horses coming through. We never had a quiet patch. We were able to keep the momentum up the whole season which has been a highlight in itself."
New York Minute's win in July's Listed Opunake Cup (1400m) at New Plymouth brought up the stable's 20th stakes win to add to an already remarkable season of achievement.
Baker brought up 1500 New Zealand wins when Trudeau, part-owned by his wife Maryanne, scored at Avondale in February and the training great was inducted into the New Zealand Racing Hall of Fame.
Not to be outdone, Forsman became the quickest trainer to rack up 500 wins in New Zealand, narrowly beating his good pal Stephen Marsh to the mark and cheekily pointing out that his colleague had begun training 10 seasons earlier.
An important cog in the stable's success has been jockey Matthew Cameron, who triumphed on 56 horses for the stable for the season, while Jonathan Riddell notched up 24 wins for the team that he and his wife Trina joined midway through the season.
Moving up from Palmerston North, the respected racing couple supervise 20 horses of the team. "Trina and Jonathan have slotted seamlessly into our system," Forsman said.
Prospects for the new season look no dimmer with the likes of Bonneval, Jon Snow and Zacada likely to be entered for the spring Cups in Melbourne, with Botti and Rubira potentially joining them on Classic missions, while the likes of Francaletta and New York Minute are candidates for the first Group One of the domestic season, the Tarzino Trophy (1400m) at Hastings on September 1.
"We've got a strong team ready to go for spring so we've got our fingers crossed we can do it all again," Forsman said. – NZ Racing Desk