LQHBA Insider - By Martha Claussen June  19, 2024


It's hard to sum up the range of emotions that surround preparing for the LQHBA Louisiana Million, the richest Louisiana futurity. For a breeder to see the birth of a foal and the transformation to racehorse; for an owner who studied pedigrees of hundreds of yearlings before writing a check; for the trainer who oversees each step of the development and finally, the jockey who is entrusted in guiding his mount to the wire of the major championship.

The storylines are plentiful; the December "Insider" focuses on the team behind No Freight, who drew the far outside post under jockey Benito Baca in the Saturday, December 7th final. .

Trainer Justin Haug, 35, grew up in Zanesville, Ohio and was not part of a racing family. However, he worked with barrel horses and acknowledges that many fundamentals from those speedy athletes translated well to conditioning racehorses. .

He relocated to Moss Bluff, Louisiana and has been training Quarter Horses since 2005. Haug considers himself a "hands on" trainer. He had to make several adjustments with No Freight, a son of Freighttrain B out of the Dashin Bye mare Nobo. Bred by Kirt B. Chaisson, he is co-owned by Chaisson and his twin brothers, Randall and Kendall. .

No Freight, who was an April foal, was sent to Robicheaux Ranch in the summer of 2018 for sale prepping. He became ill and Chaisson took him out of the LQHBA Yearling Sale and brought him to his farm in Jennings, where he made a full recovery. .

"I got him in January and fortunately, Kirt was not in a hurry, so I had time to bring him along without pressure," said Haug. "He ran green in his first race (on June 21 at Delta Downs), but showed promise." .

From Delta Downs, Haug shipped No Freight to Fair Grounds, where he made two starts, breaking his maiden on September 7. He followed that with back-to-back wins at Evangeline Downs and posted improving speed figures in each victory. .

"We stuck to our plan and the horse has responded well," stated Haug. "He's always been a calm horse around the barn and businesslike on the racetrack." .

Jockey Benito Baca, 26, will ride in his first LQHBA Louisiana Million. The son of a jockey, Baca came to Louisiana this year after riding in Oklahoma and New Mexico for five years. .

"Justin was one of the first trainers to give me mounts in Louisiana," said Baca. "The first time I worked No Freight, I remember telling him 'this baby moves'! He's very professional and seems to be blossoming at the right time." .


Baca and his wife, Maria, just welcomed their second son on October 14. "Riding in Louisiana has been great," added Baca. "Winning this race would be a huge blessing for me and my family." .

Haug won the Mardi Gras Futurity (G2) in 2010 with Sante Mon Amie and ran fourth in the 2014 LQHBA Million with Mud Bug. He acknowledges winning a seven-figure championship would be a tremendous game changer and career breakthrough. .

"It's a big race and the horse has done very well so far," he said. "I like his draw and he should be able to stay out of trouble on the outside. Things will have to fall in line for him, but we are certainly looking forward to the final." .

It will also be the first LQHBA Louisiana Million victory for the Chaisson family. Kirt, his brothers and 25 family members will be in Opelousas to root on No Freight. .

"We wish them the best and salute each of the finalists in this year's LQHBA Louisiana Million," said Bruce Salard, LQHBA executive director. "It will be an accomplishment for the connections behind the champion and we thank them for their dedication to Louisiana breeding and racing."

Whether it be another milestone for an established Louisiana breeder, trainer, owner or jockey or a first time thrill for one of the finalists, one thing is certain. The memory will last a lifetime! .

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The LQHBA Insider is a monthly feature written by Martha Claussen for www.lqhba.com. She served as publicity director at Sam Houston Race Park for ten years. She continues to be active in writing, fan education and Quarter Horse racing publicity in Texas, Louisiana and other regions in North America.