On an extremely sultry Kentucky afternoon last week, I made the 25-minute trip from my office to Old Friends’ Dream Chase Farm near Georgetown, Ky.
There’s a stillness during the summers here that I can’t quite explain, but it’s so peaceful and calm. And also breathtakingly beautiful—driving down the country roads of Fayette, Woodford, and Scott counties, verdant pastures greet me on both sides, the sloping hills are populated with mares and their young, and I immediately feel at ease.
My purpose during this particular trip to Old Friends was to chat with owner/founder Michael Blowen about some farm news, and also to meet Thoroughbred racing enthusiast and Blood-Horse reader Pat Alvestad, who had traveled all the way from Canada to visit the farm. It was a pleasure to meet you, Pat!
I learned several things during this trip to Old Friends, and also took several photos that I would like to share.
First of all, Old Friends is starting to retrain some of its ex-racers for second careers. One of its first candidates is a 6-year-old gelding named W.C. Jones (by Volponi), who making some progress in dressage lessons.
I was glad to hear this news…my understanding is that any Old Friends horse that is retrained will still be owned by the farm, but can be leased out for free to a worthy rider. Once the horse is retired from the show horse circuit, it will be sent back to Old Friends to live out the rest of its days. Sounds like a good deal to me!
In other news, Old Friends has acquired its first non-Thoroughbred, Carlsson vom Dach, a holsteiner and 2008 Olympic show jumping gold medalist. He is currently stabled at nearby Summer Wind Farm until a spot at Old Friends opens up.
Finally, Michael informed me that plans call for the remains of Hall of Famer Noor to be transferred to Old Friends (see Steve Haskin’s previous article about this horse), but only if sufficent funds are raised. Noor is being exhumed from his previous burial ground at the Loma Rica training track in California due to the land being developed and is expected to arrive at Old Friends at the end of August.
As of July 13, $3,300 still needs to be raised in order to bring Noor to Old Friends. Anyone wishing to contribute to Noor’s disinterment and move to Old Friends can send their donations via check, money order, or PayPal to Old Friends, 1841 Paynes Depot Rd., Georgetown, Ky., 40324 or contact their website (http://www.oldfriendsequine.org/). Please write the name Noor to specify for what your donation is intended.
Blowen plans to start a new cemetery for deceased Hall of Fame inductees near the entrance of Old Friends. He said he had also recently made arrangements for the body of Skip Away, a four-time Eclipse Award winner who was elected into racing's Hall of Fame in 2004, to be relocated to Old Friends. The horse is currently buried at Hopewell Farm near Midway, Ky.
One of the horses I visited during a brief tour of the farm was Afternoon Deelites. A two-time grade I winner during his racing career, Afternoon Deelites stood at Clear Creek Stud near Folsom, La. until he was pensioned from stallion duties earlier this year and sent to Old Friends. The 19-year-old son of Private Terms seemed happy in spite of a struggle with founder. He was wearing a leather muzzle to prevent him from overeating grass and gaining too much weight, and he had also been fitted with special shoes to prevent laminitis. What a trooper!
A special event was taking place during my tour that day. Natalie Medina, a 7-year-old girl from St. Louis had traveled to Old Friends with her family to pay a visit to Marquetry.
As a birthday gift, Medina had received a share in Marquetry from her family, so it only fitting to come to Old Friends and feed him carrots.
Marquetry, sire of Breeders’ Cup winners and sprint champions Artax and Squirtle Squirt, was sent to Old Friends last summer after being pensioned from stallion duty. The grade I-winning son of Conquistador Cielo quickly became a farm favorite. Can you guess why?
Here are some of the other old friends I visited:
Ogygian, three-time grade I winner, son of Damascus, has one eye
Bull inthe Heather, 1993 Florida Derby (gr. I) winner, son of the ill-fated Ferdinand
Two-time Whitney Handicap (gr. I) winner Commentator
And finally…the infamous Little Silver Charm, the smallest stallion at Old Friends
Have you been out to Old Friends? Who were some of your favorite friends at the farm?