The sheer number of people who attended the funeral of champion Corowa thoroughbred trainer Richard Freyer on Saturday could attest to the popularity of the 69-year-old.
Corowa’s St John’s Anglican Church was overflowing with family, friends and racing industry peers keen to say their farewells after Freyer died on August 7 after a long illness.
A licensed trainer for 47 years and the winner of 16 successive NSW Southern Districts premierships, Freyer was more widely known for the deeds of Leica Falcon, the one-time favourite for the 2006 Melbourne Cup.
“Freyer was a prolific cup winner and won eight Albury Cups, 12 Corowa Cups, ten Berrigan Cups and a National Sprint in Canberra with Prince Tone,” SDRA chairman of stewards John Davidson said.
A Group Two winner of the Winning Edge Presentation Stakes, Leica Falcon finished an unlucky fifth in the 2005 Caulfield Cup and went on to run fourth in the Melbourne Cup won by Makybe Diva.
The whole community was right behind the Freyer stable when they raced Leica Falcon in the cup.
Leica Falcon suffered a tendon injury before the 2006 Cup and the following year was stranded in his Corowa stable when equine influenza stopped NSW horses travelling to Victoria.
Freyer's last winner was Autocrat at Narrandera on July 23.
He is survived by his daughter Kylie and son Rick who is also a trainer.
Freyer was a ‘local training king’, according to Gary Poidevin who has served more than 30 years on the Corowa Racing Club committee, including a number of years as president.
“Richard was Corowa’s Bart Cummings, having won country cups including Berrigan, Corowa and Albury on a number of occasions,” he said.
“He took over from his father Jack and had a wonderful knack of choosing yearling horses and training them into great country horses.
“When it was Cup time in the district all the stables were frightened of what horses Richard would enter into the Cup.
“It’s been unfortunate for the Freyer family with Richard’s illness, which has forced their stables to downsize.
“Richard will be sadly missed by everyone in the racing industry and the wider community.”
Freyer’s niece Fiona Atkins delivered a moving eulogy, explaining how her uncle became hooked on the sport when he witnessed greyhound racing as a five-year-old before inevitably following his late father and champion trainer, Jack, into the training ranks.
“From a young age uncle Richard was immersed in racing,” she said.
“As a five-year-old he would travel to Wahgunyah racecourse with Pa to work the horses on a sand track and on the way, they would pass the greyhound racecourse at John Foord Oval.
“He was fascinated by the greyhounds jumping out of the starting boxes and chasing the lure, so much so that one day he came home and decided to train Tiny and Bo, the two sheep dogs.
“He got inside the chicken coup and propped it up with sticks, Tiny jumped out, making a flying start, knocking sticks over and trapping uncle Richard and Bo in the coup.
“Nana came out to see what the commotion was and was met by uncle Richard saying – ‘If Bo had have gotten out he would have beaten him by far’.”
Fiona said Pa taught Richard and his sisters Helen (dec) and Joy to ride on their old pony Nigger, Helen and Joy didn’t continue but uncle Richard did and was riding the quiet horses in track work at Allendale by the time he was ten.
“Pa trained a top mare by the name of Tori, she suffered from tendon injuries and in those days you couldn’t just put them in the float and head down to Shepparton to Jim Vasey, so uncle Richard would come home from school and sit on a bucket for hours and hose her legs down with water from the well,” she said.
“Freyer obtained his amateur jockeys licence in 1964, at the age of sixteen, and started riding in Corinthian races and picnics.
“With his first ride, he won on Tyson King breaking the track record at Corowa.
“The following year produced the biggest win of his riding career aboard Swift Chief at Randwick.
It was a huge boilover as he beat the favourite, Gaysong, who was owned by Brian Crowley, chairman of the AJC.
“In typical Pa fashion, he was quoted as saying – ‘I only took the gelding to Sydney to give my son a city ride’.
“The papers also reported that at 6 foot 2 he was the tallest jockey ever to win at Randwick.
“To keep his weight down uncle Richard would run laps around the track at Allendale, sit in the portable sauna bath and live on a diet of poached eggs.
“Paul will talk more on uncle Richards’s training feats but I would like to mention two horses that provided him with an extra thrill.
“The first being Major Quarry, winning the 1985 Albury Gold Cup.
“This was extra memorable because Major Quarry was bred and owned by Nana who was the backstop behind his and Pa’s success.
“In 2005, he co-trained Mirror Tech with Rick to win three major jumping races, culminating with winning the Australian Steeple Chase.
“It’s every trainer’s dream to have a runner in the Melbourne Cup, however with the stress of Leica “Falcon’s campaign being derailed by equine influenza and being on the wrong side of the river, uncle Richard suffered a brain aneurysm in 2008.
“Not long after this he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he refused treatment and continued to train and work as usual.
“He spent more time out at the farm finding solace watching over the spelling horses, mares and foals.
“He trained his last winner two weeks ago, this would not have been possible without the mighty effort Rick put in to helping him with the horses and caring for him.”
Racecaller Paul Francis thanked Fiona for her kind words.
“Your uncle was a fabulous person and a wonderful human being, a good friend and above all he was a fantastic horse trainer,” he told the large gathering at the church.
“Fiona mentioned what a great family dynasty it was - the Freyers, they just loved the racing.
“Richard, of course, was going to follow in the footsteps of his dad, Jack Freyer, who was an absolute racing legend.
“Jack laid a foundation for Richard to be a wonderful trainer and he certainly more than took that advantage.”