Roy Steele was driving through western Ontario when he stopped at an estate sale of Standardbred horses. He wasn’t planning on purchasing a horse, but he couldn’t resist.
The eventual result? A 3-year-old pacer who contributes financially to support retired Thoroughbreds that make their home at Michael Blowen’s Old Friends in Kentucky.
“We happened to be driving buy and saw the horses on the property,” said Steele, who lives in Windsor, Ontario, on the United States border across from Detroit, Mich. “I’m a big fan of the stallion Whosurboy—I have three horses by him now—and the colt was out of an Apache’s Fame mare. I though it looked like a good mix.”
He came at a surprisingly low price, too. “I put $800 on a credit card and we took him home,” Steele said.
Steele, who once worked for “Racing Today” but currently runs the Horsewhispererusa.com handicapping website, said he knew of Blowen and his work and contacted him to ask if he could name the pacer after Old Friends. As a bonus Old Friends would receive a share of the colt’s winnings.
The colt was named Oldfriendskentucky, and he recently raised more than $1,000 for Old Friends in three weeks through races at Windsor Raceway and the Raceway at Western Fair District in London, Ontario.
“We both thought it would be good publicity,” Steele said. “I like what Michael is doing there. And in return he gets to retire at Old Friends. I’m into guerrilla marketing. We got Standardbred Canada behind us, as well as the United States Trotting Association. It’s snowballing.”
Oldfriendskentucky most recently finished sixth in a $7,000 condition pace at Western Fair Jan. 31 but under less-than-ideal conditions: the track was sloppy and the temperature 7 degrees Celsius. Another time the colt, on his way to the races, was stuck on a van for an hour and a half because of traffic, then jumped a shadow in the first quarter-mile of the race and went off stride.
Steele, who was a member of the award-winning Horse Racing Radio Network team that covered the 2010 Breeders’ Cup World Championships, acknowledged the ups and downs of racehorse ownership. Oldsfriendskentucky offers something different, he said.
“We’re having a lot of fun with it,” Steele said. “People are following the horse, and it’s a classic example of Standardbreds helping Thoroughbreds. I’m for anything we can do to bring new people to the sport.”
Steele said he’d like to bring Oldfriendskentucky to Kentucky this year to perhaps race at The Red Mile in Lexington and then visit Old Friends.