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Freeman, trainer of Shuvee, dies at age 84
By Matt Hegarty
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.
Mike Freeman was a true gentleman who indulged this outsiders frequent visits to his Aiken racing stable. So many foolish questions answered with such grace and good humor. He was a credit to his profession. Mike was an open and caring man whose friendship greatly enriched my life. My condolences to his family. RIP old friend.
thanks mike I will miss you
I worked for Mike Freeman as a young kid during winter and spring vacations in Aiken, SC and during summer vacations at Aqueduct and Saratoga. He always had a job for me whether he needed the help or not. Mr. Freeman was the epitomy of class, and a little bit of his class rubbed off on everyone who worked for him. May he rest in peace.
Never met a finer gentleman in horse racing. His kind and modest nature belied his professional ability to select, train and manage a Thoroughbred athlete. He was the best.
My grandfather worked for this man over 30 years ago. He was a pure horseman, quiet and just went about his job everyday without incident. He will be missed. Now Mr. Freeman and my grandfather can chat about some horses together. God Bless
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