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Rheinheimers enjoying their "freaky" ride

October 21, 2015
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Mary Jo Rheinheimer is not nervous. Not yet. But she will be. She always gets nervous when Freaky Feet Pete races.
 
There is no word from Freaky Feet Pete how he feels heading into Saturday's $531,250 Breeders Crown for 3-year-old male pacers. But if the colt does get nervous, it doesn't affect his ability to win races. Twenty-four times in his career he's gone to the starting gate, and 21 times he's been first to the finish line.
 
Finding a horse that makes winning a habit is not unusual, but finding one in your backyard that becomes a local celebrity and brings you to the sport's biggest stage is, well, a little freaky.
 
Freaky Feet Pete is the 9-5 morning line favorite in his Breeders Crown final, getting the nod over North America Cup champion Wakizashi Hanover (5-2) and last year's divisional Dan Patch Award winner Artspeak (3-1). Freaky Feet Pete won his Breeders Crown elimination last Saturday by 1 1/4 lengths over Artistic Major in 1:49.4 and Artspeak won the second of the two elims by a neck over Wakizashi Hanover in 1:51.3.
 
"I keep pinching myself to see if it's real,” said Rheinheimer, who shares ownership of Freaky Feet Pete with her son Marty. "How we got him, I don't know, but he's just been great.”
 
Freaky Feet Pete was bred by Rheinheimer's husband Larry, who also trains the colt. His sire is Rockin Image, a multiple stakes winner who appeared in two Breeders Crown finals, and his dam is the Rheinheimers' mare Skyway Lori, who was a multiple winner on the Indiana Sire Stakes circuit. Freaky Feet Pete was Skyway Lori's eighth foal. The previous seven all won no fewer than five races and six of them earned more than $125,000.
 
Last year, Freaky Feet Pete romped to nine wins in 10 starts--average margin of victory nearly 4 3/4 lengths--and set the track record for 2-year-old pacers at Hoosier Park with a 1:50.3 clocking. This year, he has won 12 of 14 races and set the Hoosier Park track record for a 3-year-old pacer with a 1:48.2 win in August. For his career, he has earned $629,349 in purses, with Trace Tetrick doing the driving in all his races.
 
On Oct. 10, Freaky Feet Pete avenged an early loss to Wiggle It Jiggleit, harness racing's No. 1-ranked horse, by winning the Indiana Sire Stakes championship for 3-year-old male pacers at Hoosier Park. Two days later, the Rheinheimers paid $62,500 to supplement Freaky Feet Pete to the Breeders Crown, a fee made necessary because the colt wasn't staked previously to the event.
 
Last weekend, Freaky Feet Pete competed away from Hoosier Park for the first time in his life and won his Breeders Crown elimination at Woodbine.
 
"I thought they got to the half a little slower than I'd like, but I knew it was going to be a sprint for home and we'd see who could out-sprint each other,” said 71-year-old Larry Rheinheimer, who in the past trained horses on a part-time basis while also working at a factory building mobile homes but now trains fulltime.
 
"Now we're on to round two. It's been a great ride. I could never have imagined being here.”
 
In the Breeders Crown final, Freaky Feet Pete will face a field that includes the only horse other than Wiggle It Jiggleit to beat him this year, Wakizashi Hanover. The two met in the Jenna's Beach Boy on Sept. 26 at Hoosier, where Wakizashi Hanover posted a 2 1/4-length victory in 1:48.4.
 
Freaky Feet Pete's performance in his Breeders Crown elimination impressed Wakizashi Hanover's trainer Joann Looney-King.
 
"That was a heck of a mile,” Looney-King said. "I give him all the credit. He's a nice horse.”
 
Artspeak's trainer Tony Alagna said, "Freaky Feet Pete was phenomenal. It was different fractions, but he came first-up and did it the hard way. He was very impressive.”
 
Mary Jo Rheinheimer said all the excitement surrounding Freaky Feet Pete is almost overwhelming. Locals from around the Rheinheimers' hometown near LaGrange, Ind., in the northeast corner of the Hoosier State, ask constantly about the horse. When he won last weekend at Woodbine, fans watching the simulcast at Hoosier Park erupted in cheers.
 
"I never thought about (winning a Breeders Crown),” she said. "I'd just watch it on TV and be amazed by those great horses and never thought we'd have one.
 
"This is wonderful. We've had a great time here and everyone has been so kind. I'm always nervous, no matter when he races, but it's been a lot of fun with him. It's just been awesome. We've been blessed.” (HRC)
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