Jimmy Freight: The stallion, the stake, the comeback – Part 3

by Melissa Keith

This week, Woodbine Mohawk Park circulated a reminder of conditions for the upcoming Jimmy Freight Stakes, slated for Saturday (Oct. 7).

“Any 2-year-old colt, gelding or filly sired by Jimmy Freight is eligible to enter,” it stated. “No starting fee is required. The AGCO added money qualifying standards do apply for the Jimmy Freight Stakes.”

If fewer than five sons and/or daughters of Jimmy Freight are entered, it will be canceled. The $100,000 purse will instead be distributed among the stallion’s top five offspring by earnings. The entry box closes on Tuesday (Oct. 3) at 10:30 a.m.

Entrepreneurial owner Adriano Sorella said he originally got the concept for the Jimmy Freight Stakes back in 2019.

“I was talking to a friend of mine out in Florida — this is before the breeding season — and he mentioned that back in the day, somebody tried this,” Sorella said. “They tried it with another stallion and they had some sort of success with it… That’s basically where it all developed: From a conversation with a friend of mine, Bill [Bigler]… He used to train horses.”

Looking at the Ontario landscape for pacing stallions, he wanted to give Jimmy Freight a unique way to stand out. No other stallion had a race restricted to his own offspring. Enter the $100,000 Jimmy Freight Stakes, inaugural edition.

“Once you remove Bettor’s Delight, the whole entire range for pacing stallions is basically that $8,000 and down to $5,000, $6,000,” said Sorella, who sponsored the purse and advertising himself. “So, I thought it was a great idea. I don’t mind putting up the money. You know, I owned the horse; we’d get some breedings out of it. I knew it would be a good promotion, something different. I’m always looking to do something different.”

In 2020, the Sportswriter—Allamerican Summer stallion was well-received in his first season at Winbak Farms of Ontario.

“We actually had 138 mares booked to him,” said Sorella, who bought Jimmy Freight when the stallion was a colt racing in Iowa. “He had a full book… It was one of the first books that were closed in Ontario. That [popularity] obviously wasn’t just the race. It was me consistently on social media, and just putting out ad after ad, pushing, pushing, pushing. People tend to like the story of him, because it shows you can find a horse anywhere and small owners can always be successful.”

Last year, Jimmy Freight’s ownership expanded to include Eric Cherry’s Let It Ride Stable of Boca Raton, FL; Robert Cooper Stables LLC; Jesmeral Stable; and Howard Taylor, along with Sorella. The stallion injured himself after a deal was brokered for the group to race and breed him. (The story was reported here in HRU last August).

For various reasons, the first crop of Jimmy Freight consisted of just 24 live foals; to date, 15 have made one or more starts. They are led by the filly Resilience (p, 2, 1:52s; $74,936), winner of one Ontario Sires Stakes Gold and two Grassroots legs at Woodbine Mohawk Park, and the colt Cowboy Cargo ($34,828), who missed by a neck in his OSS Gold debut, July 10 at Mohawk. He has since been race timed in 1:52.2s there, finishing second to Chain Gang again in an Aug. 19 Gold leg.

“After getting the first group of mares coming to him, we started to notice there was an issue with his semen,” Sorella said. “Originally, he went down to Select Breeders Services down in Maryland, where Winbak is… He went down for a month and they did all this [routine] semen testing… We did some other testing afterwards… Texas A&M University came back with a report after doing all the tests on frozen semen, spun semen, fresh semen.”

Sorella said the latter facility recommended that Jimmy Freight’s semen be centrifuged for best results, “but at that point, the season was over.”

Sorella said cross-border commuting didn’t help the stallion’s career in the breeding shed or on the track. “After he started going to the breeding barn and racing, he was doing that back-and-forth, he started to get antsy on the trailer,” he said.

Feb. 18, Jimmy Freight won his 2023 comeback in 1:50 flat at The Meadowlands. The immediate objective was the MGM Borgata Series at Yonkers Raceway.

“He had three seconds and a win,” Sorella said. “He was pretty consistent there. He was going to be in that final.”

Unfortunately, in Borgata Leg #4, “he came up lame after that race,” ending up a vet scratch in the $50,000 fifth leg on April 17.

“He was trying to chase down Backstreet Shadow,” Sorella said. “He’s one of those horses that just doesn’t want to give up.

“They thought it was a pus pocket and we kept waiting for it to go away, and couldn’t figure it out. He had a little tear and we couldn’t find it on any x-ray… They had to do a little bit of a scan on it and that’s when they found it… He just needed the time, but it sucked. It came at the worst possible time.”

Jimmy Freight recovered and trained back at a smaller farm before returning to Brett Pelling.

“The partners have to try and make their money back somewhere, because he hasn’t raced a lot for these new guys because he got hurt,” Sorella said. “We thought he would be ready for the [ Canadian] Pacing Derby [Sept. 2 at WMP], but we didn’t really want to push him and jam him right in against those horses, going those speeds. That wouldn’t be fair to him. So, we said, ‘Let’s just take our time. He can come back, we get him winter-raced a bit, and just see what happens for 2024.’”

Jimmy Freight qualified last Friday (Sept. 22) at Mohawk, winning for Louis-Phillipe Roy in a comfortable 1:53.3. It was his first charted line since the Borgata scratch. He was expected to qualify again Sept. 29 at Mohawk.

“They know ‘the race’ is the following week,” Sorella told HRU Wednesday (Sept. 27). “If all systems are go, his first race will be on the night of the Jimmy Freight Stakes. We figured even if he doesn’t race that night, it would be nice to just bring him out to the racetrack for that night.”

Sorella said his partners agreed.

“We should just send him back to where he had all his success and take our time with him,” he said.

The Jimmy Freight Stakes could be renewed in the future, although likely at a different track.

“When his race career is over and he gets a few more years of breeding and we do it again, we already know what to do,” Sorella said. “We’re all kind of on the same page when it comes to that right now: He’s going to continue to race… I honestly think he’s going to end up in Ohio. He’s going to love all those little tracks down there. I mean, today [Sept. 27] was his anniversary of winning the [2019] Dayton Pacing Derby.”

In the meantime, Sorella said he’ll be at WMP Oct. 7 with his family, Jimmy Freight, and plenty of promotional giveaway items on the stallion’s big night.