Strength in numbers can be a positive in many facets of life, but it is not necessarily always an advantage when it comes to horse racing, as Shane Fliedner is happy to attest.
For a long time, Fliedner fought to keep the numbers at his Bendigo stable at the 25-30 mark that they had been in previous years, but recently he had a change in mindset.
His stable has shrunk to around 12 or 14 horses in work at any one time and while it was not something he set out to achieve, he is not upset.
That is in no small part due to it coinciding with Fliedner now having in his care the horse who shapes as the most talented he has prepared in a number of years.
St Edward's Crown has raced three times for two second placings and a last-start win at Flemington - Fliedner's first winner at that track since January 2010.
The two-year-old daughter of Epaulette has helped reinvigorate him at a time that, with his daughter Kelly months away from delivering a grandchild, he is happy to ease up.
"That's been happening by itself," Fliedner said of his downsizing. "But while it's happened without trying, I have encouraged it.
"I love training and I still get up early in the morning, because that's just a way of life for me. But it's nice to have less staff, less bills, and probably try to ease my way into a better quality of horse."
Fliedner appears to have already done that with St Edward's Crown, who chases back-to-back Flemington wins in this Saturday's $125,000 Gippsland Region 2YO Handicap (1400m).
After an encouraging debut second at Seymour he tested her at Flemington, where she finished second to Sebrakate, before a fighting victory over 1200m at the same venue on June 8.
WATCH: St Edward's Crown's last-start win
"She's always indicated that she was probably above average, as far as a country stable goes, but she's a good, well-developed filly and she's well-bred to go with it," he said of the half-sister to Viridine.
"She's holding her own at home and the sooner we probably go to the paddock the better.
"But you find it hard to tell them (owners) not to run when the horse is still eating and working well and there's also the old story too in that sometimes they don't come up their second prep.
"You can find yourself between a rock and a hard spot, but she hasn't done anything that I should raise the white flag (this preparation)."
Fliedner is enjoying being back in a position where he has to at least discuss races such as the Thousand Guineas with owners and will give St Edward's Crown every chance of being directed towards that 1600-metre Group 1 event in October.
He had Katherine Gold be competitive in feature fillies races during her three-year-old season in 2007/08, including a third placing in the Group 2 Wakeful Stakes, and considers St Edward's Crown a 'better filly with more scope'.
"They've got to improve, naturally, and I know it's the off-season, but I don't think the big gap's there anymore between the off-season and spring," he said.
St Edward's Crown, who has top jockey Mark Zahra to negotiate barrier 10, is not the only runner Fliedner has in Saturday's race with Hi Stranger, who finished fourth behind Sebrakate and St Edward's Crown on May 25, backing up after a fourth placing at Sandown last Saturday.
"This race wasn't on the radar, but he pulled up well," Fliedner said. "So he's nice and bright and I felt that he's still a little bit green, moving forward, and one more run wouldn't hurt him, especially on a nice track like Flemington."
Hi Stranger, a gelded son of Zoffany, will be ridden by Harry Coffey on what is a big day for the Coffeys and, by extension, Fliedner.
Harry is the son of Austy Coffey, who is being recognised at the Victoria Racing Club's Provincial and Country Race Day with the Country Achiever Austy Coffey Handicap, with Fliedner's wife Briga a sister to Austy.
“It's a big day. Austy doesn't train a 1000 winners, but he does a lot with the kids, the media love him and he's a real bushy,” Fliedner said.
“It's a good story I suppose and that's what it's all about, these country racing things.
“If the filly can't win, hopefully Hi Stranger can with Harry riding her. That'd be a great story.”
St Edward's Crown shares the $6 second line with Skiddaw in BetEasy's Gippsland Region Handicap market, which is headed by the Patrick Payne-trained Rubisaki ($5) with Hi Stranger at $23.