Archive for July, 2008

Bill Freeman, 1950-2008

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

There were few dry eyes when Bill Freeman led Smart Little Lena into the spotlight of a darkened Watt Arena during the 2002 NCHA Futurity, 20 years after the two had won cutting’s premier event.

When Freeman turned Smart Little Lena loose, the great stallion gazed up, as if to acknowledge the standing room-only crowd. Then he began to slowly trot and finally, as people began to cheer, broke into a graceful lope around the arena. Several minutes later – it might have been 2 1/2 – Smart Little Lena slowed his pace and came to a stop next to Freeman.

Bill Freeman and Smart Little Lena. It is hard to think of one without thinking of the other. Freeman passed away on Tuesday, July 29, at the age of 58. But he lives on to horsemen worldwide through the influence of Smart Little Lena.

Freeman, son of another legendary horseman, Shorty Freeman, started showing at the age of four. While Bill learned about horses by example from his father, it was Tom Lyons who inspired him to become a trainer.

“I was basically still a kid,” said Freeman of his tenure with Lyons, in Phoenix during the 1970s. “I knew I loved riding cutting horses, but I didn’t know if I could be successful. Tom gave me the opportunity and the confidence to be able to do it, and I developed my own style during that period. It is some of Tommy Lyons and some of my father, and I think I got some of the showmanship from watching all the greats of that time. Probably the best showman I’ve ever seen is Buster Welch.”

While working for Lyons, Freeman got to show a horse named Jay Freckles, owned by Hal Yerxa of Canada. It was the beginning of a brilliant career. Freeman ranks second only to Buster Welch in number of NCHA Futurity wins (Docs Diablo in 1979; Smart Little Lena in 1982; Smart Little Senor in 1988) and was the first rider to capture the NCHA Triple Crown (Smart Little Lena in 1983). Currently, Freeman ranks as the all-time leading open cutting horse rider, with over $5.4 million in earnings.

Smart Little Lena, owned by a syndicate that Freeman had a major role in initiating, is the all-time leading cutting horse sire with offspring earnings of more than $34 million.

Freeman is survived by his wife, Jill, and daughters, Tina, Erica, Kim and Elayna.

Weekend notes

Monday, July 28th, 2008

Races Cancelled at Ruidoso Downs
Sunday’s Zia Festival racing program at Ruidoso Downs was cancelled, after the remnants of Hurricane Dolly dropped more than six inches of rain in Ruidoso. The card of 10 stakes races for New Mexico-breds was to be highlighted by Peppers Pride’s attempt to set a North American record of 17 consecutive wins. She currently shares the 16-win record with Citation, Cigar, Mister Frisky and Hallowed Dreams.

Ruidoso Downs has rescheduled the Zia Festival program for next Saturday, August 2. “All the horses that entered for Sunday’s Zia Festival races are now entered for the Zia Festival card on Saturday,” said director of racing Robbie Junk.

High Brow CD thwarted in NCHA Triple Crown bid
On Sunday, NCHA Futurity winner and Super Stakes co-champion High Brow CD was taken out of contention for the NCHA Triple Crown by his second cow, during first go-round competition for the NCHA Derby.

The disappointment was palpable, as trainer Austin Shepard rode the sorrel son of High Brow Cat out of the arena before his allotted 2 1/2-minute working time-limit had expired. In spite of the loss, spectators still glimpsed the brilliance that brought High Brow CD to the event as the undefeated champion of four major events.

The 4-year-old stallion, who has earned $450,000 and is currently the leading contender for NCHA Horse of the Year, will continue to be shown, according to a spokesman for owners Chris and Staci Thibodeaux, Jennings, LA.

Bill Freeman
Cutters at the NCHA Summer Spectacular and Derby in Fort Worth this week were saddened to learn that Bill Freeman, who won the 1983 NCHA Triple Crown on Smart Little Lena, is gravely ill with viral pneumonia at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas. Freeman, 58, is cutting’s all-time open money earner, and helped engineer Smart Little Lena’s syndication and brilliant stud career.

Vangilder wins sixth NCHA championship

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

Jim Vangilder and Pet Squirrel packed a wallop with a 223-point winning performance in the NCHA Classic Challenge Non-Pro on July 24, at Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth. It was the sixth NCHA championship win for the Jackson, MO non-pro rider, who has earnings of $1.1 million.

Roger Wagner trained the Playdox daughter for Vangilder and has ridden her to collect much of her nearly $400,000 in career earnings. Wagner rode 6-year-old Pet Squirrel to place third with 219 points in the NCHA Classic Challenge Open Finals.

Click here for the results of the NCHA Non-Pro Classic Challenge, including sire, dam and dam’s sire for each finalist.

Royal Red Pepto carries Shannon Hall past $3 million mark

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

Shannon Hall passed a major milestone on July 21, when his $50,000 win aboard Royal Red Pepto in the NCHA Classic Challenge boosted his earnings over $3 million. He ranks among cutting’s all-time top 15 money earners.

“I always felt if we could get it all together, she’d be one to beat,” said Hall, who scored 222 points for the win.”

Royal Red Pepto, by Peptoboonsmal, has earned nearly $170,000 as a finalist in 18 major events. She is owned by Clay McCullar, Baird, TX, who showed her half-sister, Duals Play Kit in amateur and non-pro competition to earn $251,664.

Click here for the results for the NCHA Open Classic Challenge, including sire, dam and dam’s sire for each finalist.

Peppers Pride goes for win 17

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

Joe Allen’s homebred Peppers Pride will carry highweight of 127 pounds in her attempt to become the first thoroughbred to win 17 consecutive races in the $55,000 New Mexico-bred Lincoln Handicap on Sunday, July 27 at Ruidoso Downs.

The Joel Marr-trained Peppers Pride will give at least 11 pounds to each of her filly and mare rivals in the Lincolns Handicap. Four distaffers share second-highweight of 116 pounds.

The undefeated Peppers Pride has 16 wins and shares that all-time record for consecutive wins with Citation, Cigar, Mister Frisky and Hallowed Dreams. She is the defending winner of the Lincoln Handicap and has three career wins at Ruidoso Downs, including her first two career starts.

2008 NCHA Classic Challenge Amateur

Friday, July 25th, 2008
Earned: $6,777


2008 NCHA Classic Challenge Non-Pro

Thursday, July 24th, 2008
Earned: $19,615