SHANE Fliedner has capped a remarkable 2020-21 racing season by claiming a swag of awards at the Bendigo Trainers Group horse of the year awards night.
Held at the Silks function centre, Fliedner claimed six of the nine awards presented on Saturday night, including the big two, the leading trainer award and the horse of the year title with his stable star Hi Stranger.
The astute trainer also claimed the three-year-old horse of the year award with Air Defence, sprinter of the year with Hi Stranger and stayer of the year with Queen Guinevere.
Hi Stranger's top rival for the horse of the year honours, the Brendon Hearps-trained Vungers won the middle distance horse of the year award for his effort in winning the Donald and Wodonga Cups and a pair of placings, including one at city level.
It was Fliedner's first horse of the year award win since 2015-16 when he won it with his dual Listed race-winner Setinum.
He also won the award in 2009-10 with Tollesprit.
Fliedner was well represented in all but the picnic categories and described his awards haul as a brilliant result for his loyal owners.
"It was a great night for them - and they do love it," he said.
"I've got a two-year-old sitting there in the stable that I bought at the yearling sales and a bunch them put their hand up to go in it straight away.
"He's looking pretty good so far.
"I've bought or have leased 10 two-year-olds, so they are all going to come through at some stage, so that's great for the future.
"With a small team, I still expect to get my share of winners (this season), although it's a little quiet at the moment.
"But I'm very happy with how last season worked out."
Hi Stranger, who won three of 12 starts and was placed four times at metropolitan level, is being set for a crack at the Listed Lord Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on Boxing Day.
The now five-year-old is on track to enjoy an equally good, if not better season in 2021-22 with two wins already from five starts, one at Caulfield and the other in the $160,000 Listed Kilmore Cup (1600m).
Fliedner is excited for what the future holds for the ultra-consistent son of Zoffany and Luxury Suite, a winner of eight of 34 career starts for earnings of $671,300.
"I do think that he is on his way to bettering last season," he said.
"I wouldn't say he is in a better mindframe, but he's a little older and more mature and we can realistically target races now, whereas last year the thinking was 'it might work for him'.
"As far as a handicapper goes, he's gone to another level.
"We'll go to Pakenham this Saturday over the mile, cop a lot of weight and carry it and then we will go into the race at Caulfield on Boxing Day."
The leading three-year-old, Air Defence had 12 starts for the season for three wins, a second and two thirds.
The undoubted highlight was the gelding's win in the $200,000 VOBIS Gold Reef (1600m) at Moonee Valley in March.
His two other wins were at Kilmore and Swan Hill and he also finished third behind Annavisto in the $150,000 Listed Bendigo Guineas in March this year.
His main rivals for the award were the Sean Mott-trained Our Lone Star, who won at Flemington on Anzac Day and two of six starts for the season, and the fellow Fliedner-trained galloper Surin Beach, who won three races.
In the stayers' category, Queen Guinevere edged out the 2019-20 winner Super Girl for the honours.
Aileen Vanderfeen won the leading picnic trainer award, while the Alan Goninon-trained Mutapa was the picnic horse of the year.
In one of the awards' closest races, Fliedner won the leading trainer award with 14 wins for the season, two ahead of Kym Hann and four ahead of Josh Julius.
Fliedner recorded a leading strike-rate of 16.67 per cent to win the award narrowly from Julius (16.32 per cent), with Shane Mott a praiseworthy third with his small team of horses on 13.64 per cent.
Fliedner felt he would be hard-pressed repeating his leading trainer award this season, up against the likes of recent Group 2-winning trainer Julius and Brent Stanley, who relocated to Bendigo two months ago after seven years at Sutton Grange with his big team of horses.
A solid year for the Bendigo training ranks included 86 race wins prepared by 21 individual trainers.
Fifty-nine Bendigo-trained horses won races, including 221 multiple winners.
Picnic horse of the year: Mutapa (Alan Goninon)
Picnic trainer of the year: Aileen Vanderfeen
Three-year-old horse of the year: Air Defence (Shane Fliedner)
Sprinter of the year: Hi Stranger (Shane Fliedner)
Middle distance horse of the year: Vungers (Brendon Hearps)
Stayer of the year: Queen Guinevere (Shane Fliedner)
Strike rate trainer of the year: Shane Fliedner
Trainer of the year: Shane Fliedner
Bendigo horse of the year: Hi Stranger (Shane Fliedner)
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