It's a little before 6 a.m. Although the sun is beginning to rise back home, Lexington, Ky. is still dark.
Outside my window at Old Friends, there is a sprawling network of paddocks, housing a number of top-class stakes winners and champions and some not not-so-well-known horses.
My host, Michael Blowen, still bubbling with the unbridled enthusiasm of a school boy over the imminent arrival next week of Lava Man, will be up and about shortly, ready to take care of business at Old Friends at Dream Chase Farm, located between Lexington and Georgetown.
Did I say business? Forget that. Although, there obviously is business involved taking care of an extensive operation such as Old Friends, to Blowen, he has chased his own dream and is now living it. Every moment with his horses is pure joy, whether it is giving a tour armed with a bag of carrots and his wife Diane with a box of ginger snap cookies, racing Will's Way and Awad along their paddock fence (the only time he wins is when they let him), playing soccer with his Shetland/miniature horse named Silver Charm (a slaughter house survivor), having Sunshine Forever nod in the affirmative at his questions, or getting the 25-year-old Ogygian to rare up like a frisky youngster. He talks to each horse like he would one of his many cats, and they all seem to respond to him. You may get the point by now that this Dr. Dolittle of the equine set has a unqiue way with horses, and all animals for that matter.
Blowen has nursed many horses back to health after an injury or mistreatment, and he has as much affection for the old beat-up claimers as he does his graded stakes winners and champions.
For all you Lava Man fans out there, this is the environment to where your hero is headed. If any of you have any concerns or apprehension about the horse leaving California for the Bluegrass state, I can alleviate them by stating emphatically that Lava Man is headed to a wonderful life and a great number of new friends, both human and equine. He will be cared for, not only as a horse, but as a family member. Many of the horses residing at Old Friends have bonded with each other, and all 30 of them have bonded with Blowen, who gets particular joy in watching old rivals Kiri's Clown and Awad (one-two in the Sword Dancer Stakes) racing each other.
Each "stallion" has his own spacious paddock, as large as any paddock at the major breeding farms. The geldings frolic about in their own sprawling field, as do the few mares, including Bonnie's Poker, dam of the "real" Silver Charm. Just hearing the sound of Blowen's voice calling them (usually by nickname or shortened version), the horses will raise their head and amble over to the fence to see their friend.
Blowen's charm and boyish enthusiasm have endeared him to many celebrities. On his specially made "Old Friends" wine bottles are drawings sketched for him by Jack Nicholson, Angelica Huston, and Albert Brooks. Next to them is a bust of the Maltese Falcon, given to him by the film's director John Huston, made from a mold of the original falcon that was used in the film. Also in the guest house is a vast collection of racing books and memorabilia, including a newly acquired Forego halter, which will go in the new museum Blowen is planning.
I am about to head down to breakfast now and then partake in more magical moments at Old Friends, but I thought I'd take a minute out to assure all you Lava Man fans that this horse haven that Blowen has built is a home worthy of a star of his stature. Judging from the number of e-mails and phone calls Blowen has received already there will be a steady stream of visitors to see Lava Man. And judging from what I've seen, those visitors are in for a quite a show. And so is Lava Man.
For more on Old Friends, view HRTV's Inside Information Episode about the facility.