Wednesday, 17 August 2016 17:01

87th Canadian Derby - A look back at Freedoms Traveller

Written by Julie Brewster
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Freedoms Traveller (by Peacenfreedom, out of Lunar Gem) was the last Alberta bred to win the Canadian Derby in 2011, and his journey to the big race was a dream come true for all of the connections. Bred and owned by Randy and Donna Feddema, Freedoms Traveller (who goes by his barn name Travis) was always special because they owned the stallion and loved the mare. Randy was an avid horseplayer, and was able to invest in his own horses after years of making bets on other horses at the track. Breeding a winner is exciting. Being a winning owner is exciting. But breeding and owning the horse who wins Alberta’s most prestigious race after just a few years in the industry was overwhelming for the Feddema’s! Donna literally almost fainted on her way to the winner’s circle – but she was surrounded by a group of well-wishers who propped her up and got her across the track for the photo!

Travis was trained as a 2 year old by Barry Brown, who knew that the big gelding would always need more distance and was looking forward to stretching him out as a 3 year old. That dream wasn’t to be for Barry, who fought a valiant battle with cancer and passed away in May just a week before Travis made his 3 year old debut. Barry had trained the gelding in the spring in Osoyoos, B.C., and his longtime partner Lianne Knechtel took over the training duties of the entire barn when Barry was too sick to move to Northlands.

Travis (Freedoms Traveller) in the stretch of the 2011 Canadian Derby

Lianne knew that Travis was special and she loved bringing him along through his Stakes races, but the memories are bittersweet. She won the biggest race of her training career, with an Alberta-bred longshot, and is proud of that achievement but she wishes that Barry had been with her in the winner’s circle. Lianne was suitably nervous before the race, and concentrated on keeping Travis calm before the large and loud crowd gathered at the paddock and getting him saddled safely. She was with the Feddema’s and some of her closest friends in the grandstand to watch the race unfold and she still can’t believe that he won!

Northlands announcer Shannon “Sugar” Doyle made an incredibly touching race call, and he summed up everything that Lianne was feeling when Travis went from second last to fourth, took the lead at the far turn and then won by over 5 lengths, “Freedoms Traveller is sent by the angels now in the far turn, the angels are carrying him to the 1/8 pole for Knechtel and Zenteno, Freedoms Traveller WINS THE DERBY…and Barry Brown is smiling down once again at Northlands!”

Travis retired after his 4 year old season and spent a year turned out to relax. As a young gelding who was born and bred to be a racehorse that didn’t suit him and Feddema’s allowed him to be sold to Jason Glass for a new career as a chuckwagon racehorse. Jason got him started and now Travis has settled into fellow driver Kris Molle’s string. Travis didn’t immediately take to the wagon coming behind him, nor to being part of a four horse team, and he’d swish his tail and nod his head and try to go race on his own, but after a lot of slow drives and patience from his handlers, he seems to have gotten into the groove and has helped Kris get to second place in the overall standings in the Canadian Professional Chuckwagon Association.

Kris says “When you have a Canadian Derby winner you know you have a good one, and he shows a lot of dominance in the herd so we were happy to take it slow with him until he learned his job. He’s part of my two best teams, and he’s on the left pole right now but I know that he’ll be one of my top leaders soon. He’s got the run, just needs a little more experience.” Travis has bonded with his right pole teammate, and the two of them perk their ears and strain at the harness when it’s race time and both are raring to go when the horn blows so Travis is definitely starting to take to his new career. Travis was back in front of a large and loud crowd at the 2016 Calgary Stampede, and we wonder if he was remembering when he won the 2011 Canadian Derby! That was the day that made a lot of dreams come true, and Randy, Donna and Lianne all wish Travis well in his new career and will continue to cheer him home with his angels!

Travis on the wheel at the 2016 Calgary Stampede

Read 2364 times Last modified on Thursday, 18 August 2016 10:22