Catching Up With Some Old Friends

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 ( 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!

Afternoon Deelites

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?


Leave a Comment:


I'm pretty sure Little Silver Charm isn't a Thoroughbred :)

11 Jul 2011 6:14 PM
calico cat


Thank you for this wonderful article and photos. Thank you also for the great news that enough money was collected to move Noor's remains to Old Friends. Charlotte Farmer must be walking on Cloud 9 right now... and she should!!!

11 Jul 2011 7:27 PM

Favorite? I have so many! All the horses at OF are wonderful. But since you asked, there are a few that I especially look forward to seeing whenever I visit. I have a soft spot for Marquetry. He is so very, very sweet even if he does slobber a bit. I love feeding Commentator mints. Sometimes he won't come for a carrot, but I think he'd do anything for a mint. Creator is just as bad if you offer him a piece of pear or even better, a gingersnap. Special Ring is a hoot with his lip-flipping trick. Clever Allemont is gentle, and oh so grateful to be where he is. He likes to have his withers massaged. Of course, everyone loves LSC. He is a star and he knows it.

11 Jul 2011 8:19 PM

Such a wonderful man and organization.  Yes, I visited Old Friends the year that Barbaro won the Kentucky Derby - Right after the Derby and before the ill-fated Preakness.  thanks for these wonderful photographs.  It was a wonderful day and we had a terrific dinner in Midway, Ky.

11 Jul 2011 8:52 PM
Sue MacGray

It's encouraging to read of a place like old friends where these horses can live out their days in comfort. They deserve it! I'd like to visit there someday myself. I haven't visited their website and I'm assuming they have one. Do they list all of their horses on the site? Thanks again for such a comforting column. After going through so much it's the least we can do for these old (and not so old) soldiers.

11 Jul 2011 9:12 PM
Paula Higgins


11 Jul 2011 11:52 PM
Rachel NH

Wonderful to see the pictures...especially mMrquetry and friend...

Did not know Afternoon Deelites was struggling with

That's what killed Secretariat, Sunday Silence and Foolish Pleasure...

12 Jul 2011 6:47 AM

What a wonderful article!  I always visit Old Friends when I am in Kentucky and Michael always manages to remember my husband and me.  It is very hard to choose a favorite horse, but I do have a soft spot for Ogygian as well as Little Silver Charm, Commentator, Sunshine Forever, Creator and Awad. Not to mention the "mint hounds" Special Ring and Popcorn Deelites.  I am so pleased to read that some of their horses are being trained for new careers (Smoky Stover being one, another favorite) and even non-Thoroughbreds are being looked after.  God Bless Michael Blowen and all his staff--long live Old Friends!

12 Jul 2011 8:06 AM
Fran Loszynski

Great pictures and a very touching one of Natalie and Marquetry. Racehorses and kids, you can't beat it! Having just traveled to Lexington and Bluegrass country myself, I too relished in racehorse heaven.  It is so quiet and peaceful for these great animals in retirement or at Old Friends. Far from the bell of the track but the rail still touches their hearts and our hearts too! God Bless all the farms and Old Friends for the love you give to these beautiful steeds

12 Jul 2011 8:26 AM
A Horsey Canuck

Hi Esther - another great blog, but of course, I'm biased. Such a thrill to meet and talk with you in person. You took a great photo of me with Michael and Little Silver Charm. Your photos are terrific. Hard to believe they were taken with a "point and shoot". Thanks again, Esther, keep the blogs coming. Loved the one about your turkey vulture friend.  Meeting you and Michael at Old Friends was definitely the highlight of my KY trip! Cheers from Pat from Canada, now in Maryland for a while. Only one down thing - it's too hot for this Canuck!

12 Jul 2011 9:25 AM

Really enjoyed the story and pictures. Thank You!

12 Jul 2011 10:18 AM

I love this farm.  I hope it is always there for the horses, all horses.

12 Jul 2011 10:21 AM

I've been to visit a couple of times. I'm hoping to make it an annual pilgrimage. I have many favorites there: The Seattle Slew boys - Williamstown and Leave Seattle, Judge's Case, Gulch, Clever Allemont, Klassy Briefcase & her buddy Buzzovertomyhouse, Cappucino Kid, Awad, Kiri's Clown, Cherono.....I'm sure I'm missing someone. They're all wonderful and completely deserving of the retirement they have.    

12 Jul 2011 10:59 AM

What a wonderful read. Thank you. Hope to visit there next spring...I was very pleased to read about the change to the tax laws that allow for contributions to be written off for non-prophet now. All of these animals deserve homes with dignity and love.

12 Jul 2011 11:02 AM
Shelby's Best Pal

I loved this article and the great pictures.  Thank you, Esther. Old Friends is on my bucket list of Places to Visit.

12 Jul 2011 1:13 PM

Thank you for the great update, also the news that the funding is secured for the Noor tribute. I sent Charlotte Farmer the dirt from the Golden Gate Fields winners circle thanks to Robin McHargue, Group Sales Manager at GGF who helped with logistics. I saw the request on your blogsite posted by Trina--so thank you for linking us all up for a great cause and tribute to a great champion. I hope to visit soon--I want to give Commentator a big hug--sounds like it would be a challenge--he has attitude!

a fan of and old friends.

a.d. scott

12 Jul 2011 2:37 PM

Michael is a special gentleman! One of my favorite's is Ogygian because I had a chance to see him race and win.  Marquetry is a charmer! All the champions at Old Friends are just wonderful. Michael will always have a special place in my heart for all the good he has done for our champions.

12 Jul 2011 3:03 PM

My favorite horse at Old Friends is Awad.  Several friends and I went there to visit in 2008 and had a fantastic time.  Awad is SOOOO demanding of his peppermints and carrots - he was given some, and when we walked away, he banged his front hooves on the fence and squealed.  I went back to talk to him, but he wasn't interested in chatter - he wanted his treats and wanted them NOW.  I turned around and stood with my back to him, he reached out and bit my shoulder!  Fortunately I had a jacket on and he only pinched me.  All in all, a great visit to s wonderful facility.

12 Jul 2011 5:10 PM

I will always have a soft spot for Sunshine Forever.  I saw what was probably his most impressive win as a 3 year in the DC International.

13 Jul 2011 7:42 AM
Karen in Texas

Thanks for the update on Old Friends! It's especially great to hear that the funds to transfer Noor have been raised! Kudos to BH for helping to accomplish that.

13 Jul 2011 2:09 PM
Barbara W

Thank you, Esther, for this great story and photos. I love all the horses, but Little Silver Charm is a hoot. He could warm the coldest heart.

Did not know that Bull in the heather was a son of Ferdinand.

Can't wait to go back for a visit.

And yes, it can get really hot and steamy. We were last there in May '09, and it was very hot then. I'd rather go in the fall or the spring.

20 Jul 2011 2:08 PM

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