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By Glory Ann Kurtz
July 29, 2008 

While the NCHA Summer Spectacular was being held in Fort Worth, Bill Freeman, 58, Rosston, Texas, should have been celebrating his 25th Anniversary win of the first NCHA Triple Crown aboard Smart Little Lena. Instead, he was in the hospital fighting for his life. Today at 1:36 p.m. CDT., he lost that fight.

Freeman was originally hospitalized in the Denton (Texas) Regional Hospital due to complications from chronic asthma. With the need for more specialized care, on July 17, he was moved to Baylor Hospital in Dallas. He had been on a respirator for over three weeks and was heavily sedated. His oldest daughters, Tina, Erica and Kim Freeman arrived last night to be by his side, along with other family members.

Bill Freeman having fun during the 2007 NCHA Futurity. Photo by Glory Ann Kurtz

Bill has fought the battle of chronic asthma for years, most currently aggravated by fungal pneumonia. Ironically his famous father, Shorty Freeman, died in 1990 from chronic asthma. In fact, during Shorty Freeman’s dispersal sale, he sat by the sale ring, breathing with the help of an oxygen tank and smoking a cigarette.. Shorty was made famous by the stallion Doc O’Lena, while Doc O’Lena’s son, Smart Little Lena, made Bill a household word in the cutting industry. He was not only a great individual; Smart Little Lena is currently the leading sire of cutting horses.

As the No. 1 Open Cutting Horse Rider of all time and the No. 2 overall rider, Bill has earned more than $5.4 million in the cutting arena, including three NCHA World Championship Futurity titles. He was the first rider to win the Triple Crown riding Smart Little Lena to the championship of the1982 Futurity and the 1983 Super Stakes and Derby. His Futurity titles are only surpassed by Buster Welch, who has won five. (The second Triple Crown winner took place the following years when Docs Okie Quixote and Joe Heim won the Futurity in 1983 and the Super Stakes and Derby in 1984. Chiquita Pistol ridden by Tag Rice took the title by winning the Futurity in 2002 and the Futurity and Derby in 2003).

According to the NCHA web site, services will be held at 10 a.m. Sunday in Will Rogers Coliseum. Memorial contributions may be made to NCHA Charities Foundation, 260 Bailey Ave., Fort Worth, TX 76107.

Private funeral arrangements for friends and family are pending; however, cards can be sent to Bill’s wife, Jill, and daughter Elayna, to PO Box 27, Rosston, TX 76263. You can mail cards to his sister, Sharon, and her husband, Terry Riddle, to RR 2, Box 112, Wynnewood, OK 73098. Cards to his three daughters with his previous wife, Karen, can be sent to Karen at 3432 Clearwater Dr., Clarksville, TN 37042.

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