MILTON, September 29 – Merriam Webster dictionary defines homebred as “produced at home”. In racing, when a breeder produces and races a homebred, success with that horse means just a little bit more.
Trainer Ashleigh Hensley, and her husband Ed, decided to breed their retired racemare Escuela to Archangel in 2019 and produce their first homebred. That foal, Floyd the Freak, is in the $75,000 Ontario Sires Stakes Grassroots Championship for two-year-old trotting colts and geldings on Saturday night at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
“It’s a totally different aspect of racing,” said Hensley. “We were just so excited when he qualified and when he won his first race it was really exciting. He has had such a great year so far, so no matter what happens on Saturday it’s just been an exciting year for us with him, and we are really proud of him.”
In eight starts this year Floyd The Freak visited the winner’s circle four times. He made five regular season Grassroots starts with an OSS record of 2-2-1 earning victories at Clinton Raceway, and Hanover Raceway. His other two wins came in a sweep of the Balanced Image elimination and finals at Hanover.
So, all four of his wins have come over a half-mile track.
“He trots really nice,” said Hensley. “He’s done a lot of his racing on the half because he’s a nice sized colt, so it’s benefitted him a lot because he can get around a half so good. “
In the Grassroots Semi-Finals on September 22 at Woodbine Mohawk Park, Floyd the Freak was the 7-1 third choice in his heat.
He didn’t put in his best performance of the season, getting away at the back of the pack, and unable find his top gear the rest of the way. But thanks to the disqualification of a horse that went off gait, the third-place finisher in the Grassroots regular season qualified for the Championship.
“You have to have luck in racing, and we got kind of lucky,” said Hensley. “He wasn’t trotting like he can, and we have been trying hard to get him back to himself.”
In addition to coming on the half-mile, Floyd the Freak’s four wins have something else in common, he has been on the lead for all of them.
“He definitely has gate speed,” said Hensley. “His last start Ed didn’t want to gun him out of there, he wanted to race from the back, but this week I’m sure he will be giving him a shot.”
Ed will be in the race bike Saturday night, just as he for all of Floyd The Freak’s career starts.
The Hensley’s own, train, and drive another horse in the Grassroots Championships, Radio Lab, a three-year-old trotting gelding by Crazed.
He’s yet to find the winner’s circle at the OSS level, but he has a seat at the table on Saturday night, and anything can happen once you’re in the race.
“It’s really exciting that he’s made it to the Final,” said Hensley. “He’s kind of had an up and down year. It will be a tough race for him, but we are hoping he can get a piece of it.”
Win or lose on Saturday night, it’s been a successful, and fun season OSS for Ashleigh and Ed.
“It’s a really good program that they have here,” said Hensley. “That’s why we decided to start breeding a few of our good old racing mares because it’s a good program and you can make good money racing right here in your backyard. You don’t have to ship all over the place, and next year they increased the purses, so that was nice too.”
Image: Floyd the Freak wins a Grassroots division on September 10 at Hanover Raceway (Tiffany Chantel Photography)
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