Day At The Track

Freddy is part of Chelsea and Sam's life

11:33 AM 19 Aug 2020 NZST
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Freddy Funk,Harness racing
Stuart McCormick photo

A “risky” leap of faith and a first race funk are long forgotten for Chelsea Burns, whose first foray into trots ownership has brought extraordinary success and a “forever” horse.

Along with partner Sam Stewart, who works for and is a brother of trainer Emma Stewart, Burns snapped up Freddy Funk for $9000 in a claiming race a tick over a year ago.

Today at Ballarat the now seven-year-old steps out for his 33rd start for his new owners, a significant quantity that has also delivered quality, having produced 12 wins, four placings and almost $90,000 in winnings.

“Right after we claimed him he ran sixth and I thought we’ve completely done our money, but he turned a corner in training and his work rate,” Burns said. “It turned out he was a sensational horse and has done so much for us – we will keep him forever.”

That attachment to Freddy Funk formed quickly after Burns and Sam Stewart put in a claim for the gelding on August 10 last year, the last of his four starts for trainer Adam Kelly that followed many more in New South Wales for Nathan Turnbull.

“I’d never claimed a horse before,” Burns said. “Sam was probably more interested than me – I thought it was too risky, but Sam looked at his form and thought it was worthwhile.

“I’ve never put out money like that before and it was a real risk for me. It was a real gamble to see whether he was someone he could turn around, because he had had plenty of racing.”

After running eighth in the race from which they claimed him Freddy Funk followed up with a sixth in his debut for Emma Stewart, but any nerves would soon be allayed when he would win five of his next six starts, all in claiming races.

At that stage it was a case of mission accomplished.

“Our intent was to see how he went, whether he was capable of winning a race and then look at selling him on as a claimer,” Burns said.

But, despite the mounting wins, no claims would come for Freddy Funk and the pacer become embedded in his new camp and Burns was relishing the owning experience.

“He’s my first harness racehorse,” she said. “(Harness racing is) a lifestyle for (Sam), something I’m definitely a part of. I always used to go to the races to support him with Emma and Clayton too, and would go to the stable to help out.

“Freddy’s the first time I’ve ever experienced the feeling of success or celebrating your own horse. I have always gone to the races with Emma and Clayton and Sam and celebrated other people’s horses’ winning, but this is a really personal journey. It’s been a really good opportunity to enjoy that personal celebration.”

The success would continue into 2020, including three on the trot, but all were heart-in-mouth moments for Burns. The March 14 Hygain Claiming Pace, which he won by almost eight metres, would be the last time he’d be dangled in front of potential claimer buyers.

“The last couple (of claimers) he went in I was really apprehensive and worried about letting him go,” Burns said. “I was quite surprised he didn’t get claimed.

“I said to Sam I don’t want to muck around with that anymore because I didn’t want to see him go. I’d be devastated if I lost him.

“Freddy has become part of our life. He doesn’t owe us anything anymore and is such a quirky horse. He’s a real grumpy old man.

“He’ll just walk with Sam without a lead, put himself on the walker or on the float. He is just such a beautiful animal.

“He definitely helped getting us set up. It’s our first house and first property and he’s been a massive part of that. He’s worked so hard and is such a great doer. He tries every time.”

So, while he continues to race and regularly win for Burns and Stewart, its almost five months since he’s been entered in a claimer.

Today he contests the Flying Horse Takeaway Pace, which streams on Trots Vision at 2.29pm, and was rated a $2.80 chance by form analyst Craig Rail. Today’s challenge marks a significant drop in class from his most recent starts, which include a bout against famed stablemate Ride High.

“He’s had a couple of hard races. It’s good to get him back to his level of racing,” Burns said. “All we really want is for him to go around and do well. He’ll let us know when he’s had enough, but there is no indication of him slowing down.”


Join Jason Bonnington and Blake Redden from 11am to 1pm on SENTrack, which airs on 1593AM in Melbourne, 1539AM in Sydney, 657AM in Perth, 801AM in Gosford, 96.9FM in Ingham, 99.1FM in Atherton and 1575AM in Wollongong.

Click here to listen live and for links to download the SEN app.

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