California Star Free House Dies

Free House, one of the best Cal-breds of all time and a two-time Horse of the Year in the Golden State for Trudy McCaffery and John Toffan, died Monday. The homebred 10-year-old son of Smokester fell and hit his head. He recently completed his fifth season at stud at Frank "Scoop" Vessels' Vessels Stallion Farm near Bonsall, Calif.

Free House, along with Silver Charm, Captain Bodgit, and Touch Gold, helped define the 1997 classics, placing in all three events. He missed winning the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) by a head to Silver Charm and finished third in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Belmont Stakes (gr. I).

Free House had tested Silver Charm leading up to the classics and beat him in winning the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) and San Felipe Stakes (gr. II). The same was true after the Triple Crown. In the 1999 Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I), Free House won the 1 1/4-mile race with Silver Charm in the beaten field. Free House's other grade I win came in the 1998 Pacific Classic when his beaten foes included Touch Gold, the Belmont winner, and Gentlemen.

A four-time champion, Free House was 1997-98 California Horse of the Year and a champion 3-year-old male and older male. He retired with nine wins, eight in stakes, from 22 starts and earnings of $3,178,971.

As a stallion, Free House got off to a quick start. He led California's first-crop list last year by progeny earnings. His chief earner, House of Fortune, has won three stakes this year, including the Fantasy Stakes (gr. II) and Hollywood Breeders' Cup Oaks (gr. II). Free House is the sole winner out of stakes winner Fountain Gold (by Vigors).