Willard C. "Mike" Freeman, best known as trainer of the great Shuvee, died April 17 at the Wesley Nursing Home in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
The 84-year-old Freeman had been ill for some time and was transferred to the nursing home last month, according to Bernadette Clayton, administrator at Chime Bell Farm in Aiken, S.C., which Freeman owned with his wife Iris.
"Mike was an absolute gentleman to the end," Clayton said. "It's a huge loss."
Born in Providence, R.I., Freeman began training in the 1950s and had a number of top horses, such as Bukhar, Gala Performance, Hodges Bay, Cold Comfort, Show Off, and Understudy.
But his best horse by far was Mrs. Whitney Stone's Hall of Fame filly Shuvee, who swept the NYRA Filly Triple Crown (Acorn, Mother Goose, and Coaching Club American Oaks) in 1969 and added the Alabama Stakes and several other important stakes. The daughter of Nashua—Levee, by Hill Prince, proved to be one the great stayers of all time, defeating males in the two-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup in 1970 and '71.
Shuvee was named champion older mare in 1970 and again in '71, the first year of the Eclipse Awards.
Freeman also maintained a racing stable in Aiken for many years that currently is occupied by Darley Stable.
Early in his career, Freeman was a steeplechase rider and began working with Thoroughbreds in 1964 when Alfred Vanderbilt asked him to train several of his horses. In 1969, he won the Matron Stakes with Vanderbilt's Cold Comfort.
No funeral arrangements have been made at this time.