Freeland, a hero of long ago

Freeland lithograph (LOC LC-USZC2-2367)

Lithograph of Freeland (1879 b. g. by Longfellow – Belle Knight by Knighthood) and jockey Isaac Murphy, produced by Currier & Ives, ca. 1885. Preserved by the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZC2-2367.

“It may be that Henry of Navarre and Salvator are the two greatest race horses that America has produced, as their respective admirers claim, but certain it is that, compared by the records, neither of them eclipse old Freeland, who, like John Lawrence Sullivan, has become “an actor,” and is now touring with “The Derby Winner.”

Old Freeland made a fortune for Ed Corrigan, and his wonderful string of victories are part of turf history. He holds a warm spot in the hearts of Western race-goers of ten and twelve years ago, as was shown by the cry of indignation which went up several years ago when it was rumored that Corrigan was going to send the old gelding over the jumps.

According to the Cincinnati Times-Star, Dick Carey [sic] penned a beautiful poetic tribute to the old horse in protest, one verse of which will suffice to show the state of feeling into which turf followers had been worked. It is as follows:

They are schooling old Freeland over the timber,
Over the fences and walls of stone;
My heart gleams up like a dying ember,
That burns in the darkness all alone.
And I fancy again, as I sit here, dreaming,
I hear the cheers from the crowded stand,
As they hailed him there in the sunlight gleaming,
The grandest race horse in all the land.

It is sufficient to say that the greatest horse of his day was not degraded. He was sent to the farm and driven as a buggy horse, although the interest which he always aroused when he appeared in public did not permit him to be often used for that purpose.

Freeland, Parole and Barnum live in turf history as the greatest geldings the American turf has ever had. Freeland was foaled at Frank Harper’s famous Nantura stud, near Lexington, Ky., and is by Longfellow, out of Belle Knight, the famous stud matron, who gave the turf such flyers as Bell Boy, Long Knight, Lavinia Bell and Cicero. His successes firmly established Ed Corrigan’s fortunes and caused him to thereafter secure the pick of the get of Longfellow, which have rendered the green jacket with white sash famous.

Old Frank Harper raced the colt in his 2 and 3-year-old form. Like all the Longfellows, he did not race well as a 2-year-old. He started but three times at that age, and was not placed. He showed his quality and class as a 3-year-old. The famous Phoenix Hotel Stakes at Lexington was his first triumph in 1882. The Malden Stakes, at mile heats, long since dropped, was his next victory. At Louisville that spring he won the Fall City Stakes and the Louisville Stakes, the latter at mile heats, in which he defeated such crackerjacks as Fellowplay, Belle of the Highlands and Fatinitza. In his eight starts that year he won four races, all stakes.

After several victories, in 1884 the great gelding was purchased from his breeder by Ed Corrigan, and during his racing career belonged to him. That year he won the Cincinnati Hotel Stakes at Latonia. He started twenty-four times and won nine races. It was in 1884, as a 5-year-old, that he proved his title to champion of the West. He started ten times and won all but one race, in that being hard held to let his stable companion, the great mare, Modesty, win. He won the Distillers’ Stakes at Lexington, the Dixiana Stakes and Merchants’ Stakes at Louisville, the Merchants’ Stakes at Latonia, the Cash Turf Handicap and Citizens’ Handicap at St. Louis, the Boulevard and Columbia Stakes at Washington Park and the Excelsior Stakes at Saratoga. In all of these stakes, over greater distances than are now usually run, he carried crushing imposts against the best horses of his day, defeating such as Gen. Monroe, Audrian, Blazes, Lucky B, Billy Gilmore, Nellie Peyton, Vanguard and John Davis.

It was in 1885, as a 6-year-old, that his memorable match with Miss Woodford took place, when, as champion of the West, for $10,000 a side, he defeated the Dwyer’s Miss Woodford, the champion of the East. That season he started thirteen times, winning seven races. These include the Boulevard Stakes at Washington Park, the Excelsior Stakes and Morrissey Handicaps at Monmouth and the Merchants’ Stakes at Latonia. The latter race was his last victory. He faced the flag on several occasions in his later career, but never finished in the front again.

Big weights carried at high speed over great distances of ground had proven too much for him; he had pulled up lame several times during 1885, and it was to be seen that his turf career was nearly over. He started but once in 1886, in the Merchants’ Stakes at Latonia, when he ran second to Tyrant. He started twice in 1887, but was so lame that after these defeats Corrigan made no further efforts to train him.

The old campaigner looks well and hearty despite his seventeen years. Even the uninitiated can pick him out of the five race horses that Al Spink uses in The Derby Winner when he appears in the stable scene. He looks the great horse he was. The winner of twenty-nine races, nearly all of them stakes, and when pitted against the best in the country, usually at weight disadvantage, it is not remarkable he should be an impressive looking horse. His front legs are badly stove up, he being sprung-kneed now. He is quiet and docile, and never gives any trouble. He seems to enjoy the acting as much as any one.” (The Nashville American, 03/29/1896)

On December 12, 1896, the 17-year-old Freeland passed away of what was reported to be old age at the farm of George Wright in St. Louis County, MO.

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