04/18/2013 3:12PM

Freeman, trainer of Shuvee, dies at age 84

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Willard C. “Mike” Freeman, trainer of Hall of Famer Shuvee, died Wednesday at a nursing home in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., after long illness, according to the manager of the South Carolina farm he owned with his wife. Freeman was 84.

“He was a great man, salt of the earth,” Bernadette Clayton said. “He was very, very dear to me.”

A steeplechase rider early in his life, Freeman began officially training in the mid-1960s at the request of Alfred Vanderbilt. Shortly into his career, he received Shuvee, owned by Mrs. Whitney Stone, and the filly immediately made an impact, winning the so-called “Triple Tiara” of New York stakes races for 3-year-old fillies in 1969.

Shuvee went on to win two consecutive runnings of the Jockey Club Gold Cup, in 1970 and 1971. The 1970 victory was the first for a filly in the race for older horses. She was named champion older female horse in both years.

After retiring, Freeman opened Chime Bell Farm, a lay-up, training, and boarding facility in Aiken, S.C., with his wife Iris. He split his time between Saratoga Springs and Aiken.