05/30/2001 11:00PM

Smooth sailing so far for Freeman

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FORT ERIE, Ontario - Ed Freeman has five wins to his credit from 18 saddlings going into Saturday's races at Fort Erie. That's good for third place in the trainers' standing.

It's also not far off Freeman's total output last year, when he visited the winner's circle just seven times from 47 starts. "I'm hoping to have my best season ever," said Freeman, a 41-year-old native of Newmarket, England. "My best year, numerically, was 1992, when I won 23. I finished second in the standings.

"But I made no money. To the public it looks like it was my best year. But when you're buying and selling and losing horses, you can sometimes have a good year without it showing up in the stats."

Freeman, who has been stabled at Fort Erie for 11 years, stays busy in the winter by selling horses down south. He is involved with an old friend in England, who is a bloodstock agent. "We buy at sales in Europe and we've been selling in California," he said.

This winter Freeman was shipped three horses from Santa Anita to compete at Fort Erie. They were from Paul Matties, who lives in Saratoga.

"Last year Paul sent me a bunch of horses from Mountaineer Park and places like that. It was tough," said Freeman. "But it's a whole lot easier with these. They don't have conditional claiming races in California. So once they break their maiden the going gets tough for them there."

Freeman has 15 stalls filled at the track and has another six runners on a farm from where he shuttles then back and forth for workouts. He plans to claim more - particularly in the $14,000 range.

"The purses for them are terrific," he said. "But the claiming will be getting tougher. Everybody has money and they're claiming. If you find one you like you have to shake for it."

Freeman set up shop in Fort Erie in 1990 after he was fired from his first training job after just one year. He won 12 races for his employer, Woodbine-based Bo-Teek Farm, but it was a major clash of personalities that led to his pink slip. "I was a bull-headed youngster," said the trainer, admitting that the move was the best thing that ever happened to him.

After struggling a while, he was given some 15 Kinghaven Farm 2-year-olds a year to get ready for trainer Roger Attfield. "He was a great, great man to work for," said Freeman about Attfield, who has trained seven Queen's Plate winners and an amazing 36 Sovereign Award champions, including six Canadian Horses of the Year.

* There were 43 nominations for the second running of the Adena Springs $60,000 Matchmaker Stakes on June 12, Fort Erie's first stakes of the year. Last year's winner of the five-furlong race, Danzigs Silver, heads the list. Ten runners, based on highest earnings in the past two years, will make it to the gate.