After two years of just breeding, millionaire pacer Jimmy Freight will return to the racetrack in advance of a return to the breeding shed in 2022.
Nearly two years ago today, Jimmy Freight (Sportwriter - Allamerican Summer) was announced as retired to stud at Winbak Farm of Canada with a career slate that reads 21 wins, 13 second-place finishes and nine third-place efforts from 52 races. He banked $1,457,405 in purses for owner Adriano Sorella, and took his mark of 1:48.1 in a front-end effort in the 2019 Mohawk Gold Cup at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
In those two seasons at stud, the connections behind Jimmy Freight have publicly noted issues with the horse's semen and called upon reproductive experts to chart a course for an improved conception rate.
"I honestly believe people should know what happened," Sorella told Trot Insider. "His semen was fine; the problem with the semen was that half of it was swimming in circles, and we couldn't figure out what the heck was going on. So we were doing all these tests on him because it was strong, but just swimming in circles. I'm learning along the way, everything that's going on, and I couldn't figure it out and they couldn't figure it out."
An attempt to send out bigger doses of semen didn't solve the problem for Winbak and Jimmy Freight, so the connections enlisted the help of noted reproductive expert Dr. Charles Love of Texas A&M University. Love is an internationally recognized authority on stallion reproduction whose research focuses on the relationship of sperm laboratory measures to fertility, improving techniques for collection, analysis, and storage of semen, and development of record-analysis systems for critically studying the fertility of stallions.
"We started sending [him] frozen semen, fresh semen, chilled semen there, and what they discovered is it didn't matter," continued Sorella. "The first thing he told us is it doesn't matter how much more you put into a mare. The mare will just push it out. And what happens is if she pushes it out, you're putting in double — she could be pushing out all the stuff that's going straight and not swimming in circles. So, it's not an advantage at all — it's kind of a disadvantage, because he was getting jumped five times a week."
The increased workload for Jimmy Freight was causing the stallion stress, with Sorella indicating the horse's attitude soured from his racing days.
"He was literally stall walking. He's not happy, and at this point, I'm thinking this guy retired, not hurt. He's as fresh as he could be. And now I'm putting them into this situation? He doesn't look happy to me; I could tell that he was stall walking because you can see all that hay in a big circle. He's running his own laps in his stall. I'm like, 'He's stressing himself out,' and it wasn't getting any better."
While stressing himself out over his stallion's situation, Sorella pondered if a return to the racetrack was possible for the O'Brien Award winner.
"There were a couple of questions," noted Sorella. "The one big question was, because Winbak has horses that go to the Southern Hemisphere, and they ship semen overseas, the stallions that go there — McWicked goes there, Bettors Delight goes there — the stallions that go there can't be in a facility where there's racehorses that are also breeding.
"He's actually been in training since July 9; he's back at Richard Moreau's. He trained the other day — they shipped him to Classy Lane because Richard's track is not big — and he went in 2:04 under a strangle hold. He's pretty much almost there, like, he's ready. I told Richard, 'Take your time.' Richard said, 'Three months, four months.' I said, 'Take your time because we're going to have to go right back into the Preferred, and when you're racing against horses like Warrawee Vital going 1:47 in the Preferred, you kind of don't want to thrown to the lions right off the get-go."
Based on Sorella's assessment, don't be surprised to Jimmy Freight's name on the list of qualifying horses before the end of the month.
"He's ready to go, and he looks fantastic. His whole attitude changed," said the owner of Jimmy Freight. "He's a totally different horse. You see him there and he wants to know everything that going on. It's like night and day. [Ken] Middleton messaged me too: 'He's like a totally different horse at Richard's.' I said, 'It's like night and day, dude.' He's like an extrovert; he's not an introvert.
"He gets the paddock [at Winbak] too, but it's not the same. He's running around with all these racehorses, these mares and all these paddocks around him that are not as big as the Winbak paddocks, where horses are so separated from each other because they're stallions. But he's in paddocks by himself at Richard's, but they're all close to each other and he gets the one that's right by the main barn. So he sees them coming in and out, in and out. You see him running out there jumping. You can see for yourself that he is really happy to be back there."
There hasn't been a shortage of marketing and promotions from the Jimmy Freight camp since the stallion went to stud duty. Sorella understands the importance of keeping his stable star at the top of mind, while also understanding that a number of individuals involved in the harness racing industry felt the pinch of COVID-19 over the past two years.
"At the end of the day, a lot of people got killed the last two years in breeding and in racing because of COVID.... So I said, 'I want to do something a little bit more. How about we do this? Breed one mare, you have a live foal, it's $3,500. Breed two mares — you have to be part owner of both those mares — and you have two live foals, you pay $2,500 each. If you breed three, and you have three live foals, you pay $2,000 each.' And I said, 'That's going to shake it up pretty good in Ontario if I go ahead and do that,' and, so, that's the plan.
"I thought that it'll help me out to get me mares, but at the same time, it's helping a hell of a lot of people because nobody's basically standing for those type of prices, you know? If it's gonna work, that's the way it's gonna work. And that's why I decided that it was a smart way to go and help people out."