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Willard Freeman

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FREEMAN, WILLARD CLARK "MIKE", a Providence native and well-known thoroughbred trainer, died Wednesday at Wesley Healthcare Center in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. He was 84 and had suffered from dementia for several years, according to his brother, Peter B. Freeman, of Providence. Mike Freeman and his wife, Iris Winthrop Freeman, owned Chime Bell Farm, in Aiken, S.C., where Freeman spent winters while summering in Saratoga. Born in Providence on Feb. 23, 1929, he was the son of the late Harry B. Freeman, the president of R.I. Hospital Trust Bank, and the late Theodora (Hollander) Freeman. He attended Moses Brown School, graduated from St. Mark's School in Southborough, Mass., and also attended Rhode Island State College, now known as the University of Rhode Island. Freeman grew up riding horses in South County and was a steeplechase rider before becoming a thoroughbred trainer in the 1950s. According to the Aiken (S.C.) Standard, he saddled his first winner at the now-closed Narragansett Park in 1952, sending out a bay filly named Little Whim. Two years after that, another of the horses he trained, Parnassus, a son of the 1937 Triple Crown winner War Admiral, won the Bougainvillea Handicap. In 1964, Freeman began training for Sagamore Farm, the American thoroughbred breeding farm in Baltimore County, Maryland, owned by Alfred G. Vanderbilt II, who was the owner and president of Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course. While conditioning horses for Vanderbilt, the Aiken newspaper reported, Freeman sent out Cold Comfort, who won multiple stakes, "and the mare Freeman referred to as the greatest horse he ever trained, Shuvee." Shuvee, owned by Mrs. Whitney Stone, raced from ages 2 through 5 and won 15 stakes races, and was named Champion older female in both 1970 and 1971. In Aiken, Freeman was president of the Aiken Training Track. Todd Turner, a thoroughbred trainer and long-time employee and friend of Freeman, told the Aiken Standard that Freeman spent his life doing what he loved, "during racing's golden eraHe trained horses and was successful at it." "He was a good horse trainer and an even better person," an altruistic person with a good sense of humor who liked to help others, retired trainer Doug Tribert told the Aiken paper. "He always wore the same nasty, green sweater, with a hole at the navel, and if he came with the sweater on, you knew you'd have to put blankets on the horses," Tribert reminisced. Freeman was also an avid golfer and liked to play with his fellow trainers. In addition to his wife, he leaves a son, Michael Freeman, of Aiken, S.C., and his brother, Peter. Another brother, Harry B. Freeman, Jr., predeceased him. Memorial services will be held at later dates in Aiken and Saratoga Springs.
Published in The Providence Journal on Apr. 23, 2013
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