September 6, 2018

When Laura came to the farm to give Bint Marscay a Tuesday evening bath, she almost didn’t bring her camera. It’s a good thing she did. As we trundled around in the golf cart looking for something interesting for Laura to photograph in the light of a beautiful sunset, we paused to visit with Sun King awhile. Always a horse with a sense of occasion, Sun King saw our attention as an opportunity to turn a quiet evening into PARTY TIME!

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Hm…do I feel the spirit move me?

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Oh yeah, I think I do.

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Come on in, the paddock’s cool!

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What else could it be, with all this wind I’m making?

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Hey Kentucky Horse Park, come measure the length of my stride!

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I am the King of Horses!

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My mane and tail are flame!!!

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Look here, all you young Breeders’ Cup hopefuls! See how it’s done!

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There. Did ya see that? Did ya?

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Whoop! One more time!

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Taa-daa!!! (As Ide, who can see perfectly well through his fly mask, looks on and applauds.)

Choreography by Sun King
Photos by Laura



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September 3, 2018

A few weeks ago we lost a longtime family member, Genuine Reward. He’d lived with us for three years, established friendships of different kinds with OF’s paid and volunteer staff, and with visitors who often came to see him. A loss like that is like losing an arm or leg. We’ll never be the same without him. Now, just as that wound begins to heal, we’ve lost a horse with whom we were only beginning to form bonds we hoped would develop and deepen. We looked forward to many happy years with A P Valentine.

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A P Valentine (1998-2018). Photo by Laura.

When he first arrived at the Georgetown farm, he wanted us to know he was special. Very special. In fact, maybe far above the likes of us and of the other horses in the barn. Like all new arrivals, he spent a brief quarantine in a stall connected to a paddock the horse can use at will to stretch his legs and enjoy the early spring sunshine. A P Valentine was an eye-full, his beauty only partly the classy good looks he inherited from his sire, A. P. Indy and dam, Alydar’s daughter Twenty Eight Carat. Even more of his beauty came from within. He was a vibrant, intelligent stallion. At first he had us thinking he was tough. Many stallions do that, come on strong when they find themselves in a new environment, especially when there are other stallions around. They’re making sure these new horses and humans give them proper respect. We got it. A P Valentine was formidable.

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A P Valentine soon after arrival at Old Friends, March 2018. Photo by Beth.

When he knew we’d got it, and when he’d settled in and got his bearings, he started opening up to us. The real A P Valentine turned out to be spirited, friendly, and ready to form bonds of kindness and playfulness. It was clear that his racing days in Nick Zito’s barn and his 14 years with Dr. Day had given him a positive, confident outlook on life. During the summer he settled into one of the most beautiful paddocks on the farm, one of the new paddocks with good grass, plenty of trees upwind for a wind block, and two gelding herds as neighbors in nearby pastures. We hoped it was a territory he would enjoy ruling as king.

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In his paddock, decorated by a glorious roll in the mud.  Photo by Laura.

We enjoyed watching him getting to know his new human family. I know that one of his very favorite new family members was Dagmar Galleithner-Steiner. They had so much love to give each other, if only they’d had the chance.

It’s different from losing a longtime friend, but just as cruel, to have seeming beginnings suddenly end. Like with Charismatic. Like with Stage Colony (d. 2008, and no, we will never forget the ones we love). Like with A P Valentine. Colic is especially devastating because it’s no respecter of age, or apparent health. On his last morning, none of us imagined that A P Valentine would no longer be with us that night.

“What comfort have we now?” Only to care for the living. To give them a happy retirement, not only a secure home and good physical care but the companionship and enjoyment that make an active-minded, affectionate or potentially-affectionate Thoroughbred’s life enjoyable. Most mares and geldings welcome human friendship, but despite stallions’ sometimes forbidding surface impressions I think human companionship is especially welcome to many of them, as each rules his paddock alone. And at Old Friends, for them especially, the people who come to admire and love them (and from their perspective, to entertain them) are a significant part of their happiness.

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A P Valentine. Photo by Beth.

So to all those people who gave Valentine a carrot and admiration, and all those who hoped to do so, to all those who provide all our retirees with that very real part of their happiness, we extend our heartfelt appreciation and gratitude. Actually, you, our supporters, are the ones who make everything possible for our retirees. Since I quoted Shakespeare, I’ll add some old Roman wisdom: Carpe diem.


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August 27, 2018

I wish Nicanor could read. He’d really get into this post. A post all about Nicanor! Not that he’s the least bit like Little Silver Charm. Nicanor doesn’t claim to be debonair or have savoir faire. He doesn’t claim to be more expert at anything. After all, he’s only 12 years old. Nicanor’s world is wide, wonderful, and full of the amazing and unexpected. In fact, the amazingness of the world seems to be Nicanor’s favorite thing about it.

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Granted, his world has been enviably benign. From the moment he was foaled, on March 15, 2006 while his full brother Barbaro was on the Kentucky Derby trail, Nicanor has been loved. By his breeders-racing owners, Roy and Gretchen Jackson. By the Mill Ridge Farm staff who cared for his Mom, La Ville Rouge (now retired to the Jacksons’ Pennsylvania farm) and him. By his trainers Michael Matz, then Leigh Delacour, and their staffs. By Shamrock Farm in Maryland where he briefly stood at stud. And now, by everybody at Old Friends in Georgetown. Some show up each day just to take care of him. Others (horses in the neighboring paddocks) do many fun and interesting things just to entertain him. Best of all, so many nice visitors flock to the farm just to admire him.

Nicanor returns their attention with abounding exuberance. Or should I say, with bounding exuberance? When he spots a tour coming, he doesn’t just mosey over to say hi. Unless he’s daydreaming about something else, he comes cantering over, breeze in his mane, happy expression on his face. Never mind the dignity of those retirees with championship reputations to maintain, Nicanor is so secure in himself that he’ll gladly go the extra mile to entertain. I never thought I’d say this, but he’s even upstaging those consummate comedians, Popcorn Deelites and Special Ring.

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For one thing, Pops and Ringy have developed a fine script and they like to stick to it. They’re like a long-running Broadway musical. Nicanor is all about ad lib. You never know what any given tour will feature. Will he want petting and carrots? Will he stand aloof as a statue, posing for photos? Or will he forget even the treats and demand a group back scratch? The more hands scratching his back the merrier! When that’s over, maybe he’ll follow his new friends along the fence line. Or will he suddenly whirl around his paddock? Standing still he shows such class, but in motion, enthusiasm takes over. The noble statue becomes a frolicking goofyball.

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There’s no question he loves his new job. As soon as he sees cars park, he’s on the case, ready and waiting for a new day and new friends who’ve come to the farm just to fall in love with him. And do they ever. From Nicanor’s point of view, there’s only one thing wrong with this job. The tours don’t spend the full hour and a half with him! Whyever not? Those other horses aren’t nearly as fun, they don’t put themselves to nearly as much trouble to be inventive, amusing, and engaging. The tour guides just don’t get it, leading people away like that before the hour and a half of the tour is done!

But hey, look on a bright side. What goes up the hill must come back down. Whichever route the tours take, they have to pass his paddock again at the end. And—unless he’s gotten interested in something else—he’ll be waiting for a double-dip of love: “Hey, hello, remember me? My name’s Nicanor, I’m the one you came to see.”

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Nicanor gets a back scratch from friends Barbara Fossum and Pat Sormani.

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When that lip begins to twitch he’s saying you’ve found a sweet spot!

Watching people, I think that for many of his new friends, he’s absolutely right. He’s the one they’ll remember. He’s the one who met them the most open-heartedly and gave of himself the most personally. I notice this happening again and again, people who loved his famous brother, and people who scarcely recognize his brother’s name, falling in love with Nicanor, entirely for himself.

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I think that for the first time in his life, Nicanor is carving his own trail. He’s making his own reputation, who he is. Impressive, and kind, and fun, and silly at times, with even more than usual of a horse’s instinctive gift to be in the present, to experience each experience, and to live with bursting abundance. Nicanor may not have earned a million dollars or competed for pecking order with the horses in the surrounding paddocks, but I’d say this horse knows a thing or two.

photos by Laura


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August 16, 2018

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Genuine Reward (1993-2018)

As painful as it is to write a goodbye to a horse I love, it’s far more wrenching when the horse is important to many people, and whose passing is, in a way, the end of an era. Throughout his 25 years, Genuine Reward carried a double dose of love on his elegant, golden-red back, his fans’ love for himself and for his extraordinary dam. He was the first of the two foals of 1980 Kentucky Derby winner, Genuine Risk. She was the second filly to win the Derby after Regret’s 1915 win, and remains one of only three fillies to do so (the third was Winning Colors in 1988).

Watch Genuine Risk win the 1980 Kentucky Derby

Genuine Risk was inducted as a Racing Hall of Fame champion in 1986. Here are her National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame pages.

On retirement from the track Genuine Risk was bred to Secretariat, which would have produced the first foal of two Kentucky Derby winners in history. But that was not to be. That foal was stillborn, and subsequent breedings to different stallions failed to produce a live foal until May 15, 1993 when the aptly named Genuine Reward was born at Three Chimneys Farm. Health issues made his earliest days anxious, but as soon as he was in the clear, racing and local Lexington news media were invited to celebrate him. Stories about him featured frequently, and racing fans couldn’t get enough of photos of him galloping and nuzzling with his famous mom.

Here’s a vintage video clip of them as aired on ESPN2.

As he was by formidable turf sire Rahy, it was anticipated the colt might become a stakes winner on either dirt or grass, and when he was mature enough, owner-breeders Mr. & Mrs. Bertram Firestone put him in training with Bill Mott. But the colt repeatedly bucked his shins (tore the connective tissue between the leg muscle and canon bone). Racing was just not in his future. (Gossip says he wasn’t that enthusiastic about training, anyway. Wasn’t he already a star? Didn’t the world already adore him just for being him? And truth to tell, the world did adore him.) So Genuine Reward entered stud in Virginia. However, it’s a rare breeder who’ll take a chance on a stallion who’s both unraced and untried. Eventually Genuine Reward found a career siring polo ponies in Wyoming. Here’s the story of his retirement to Old Friends.

“Genuine Reward, son of Genuine Risk, to Old Friends” by Joe Nevills and Nicole Russo, Daily Racing Form, June 30, 2015

To make a long tale short, thanks to Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand and others who helped facilitate, Genuine Reward arrived at Old Friends in July 2015.

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At once we fell in love with him. Not only was he one of the most beautiful horses ever to grace our Georgetown farm, G. R. (as we called him) was also one of the smartest, and though a stallion, one of the nicest. Having grown up as a child star, he took to the tours like the experienced pro he was. Basking in affection was second nature to him, and for three glorious years he relished starring on tours daily, often three or more times a day, with his jaunty mixture of aplomb and kindness. Unlike some, G. R. never strove for attention. He didn’t need to. It never occurred to him to wonder why so many people loved him. That was just who he was, and he gave kindness as generously as he received it.

We were not prepared for what at first seemed a minor infection to became the fast decline it did, but his time had come, and he made that clear. Yesterday afternoon our resident vet, Dr. Bryan Waldridge, and staff members he knew well, were with him at the end.

Genuine Reward’s obituary by Matt Hegarty, Daily Racing Form, August 16, 2018.

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I’ll always remember G. R.’s kindness to all, those who were part of his everyday routine and all those who met him. I’ll always remember his pleasure in his admirers’ love. And his shining eyes and caramel colored mane, and his fine, elegant conformation. His intelligence. His gallop to his feed tub and his particular nicker when his daily supplement snack was brought. And how in his final days he watched out the window each evening for the carrot shreds Michael or Diane or I stirred into his dinner. Those always coaxed him to eat a little more.

Genuine Reward, you lived a life of abundant good fortune and love. From foal to elderly retiree, you handled whatever life presented you with kindness and grace. Is there any achievement more praiseworthy than that?

photos by Laura


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July 25, 2018

Certain questions are often asked during tours. “How long does a Thoroughbred live?” “Do only male horses race?” and “What do your horses eat?” are frequent. One of my favorites is, “At age do Thoroughbreds start racing, and how long do they race?” That’s a great question because its answer depends on a horse’s sex and skill level, and on individual owners’ philosophies, and the differing answers reflect the complex and quirky mixture of sport and business that is racing.

Another of my favorite often-asked’s is, “Doesn’t Old Friends have a descendant of Secretariat?” Now comes the part I love. Anywhere on the farm, you can turn a slow circle and point out several horses whose ancestors include the great 1973 Triple Crown winner. People tend to be surprised at how many, and it’s wonderful watching how awareness of this connection brings Secretariat’s many fans closer to these horses as a new sense of history and continuity is gained.

So, I thought it might be fun to share here the identities of some of our most frequently visited Secretariat descendants, those on or near the main tour routes. If you’re into the nitty-gritty, below each horse are his or her lines (blue = stallion, pink = mare) tracing back to the great Secretariat.

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Afternoon Deelites

Afternoon Deelites – great-grandson
Intimate Girl < Medaille d’Or < Secretariat

Danthebluegrassman – great-grandson
Pioneering < Terlingua < Secretariat

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Eldaafer – great-grandson and great-great-great-grandson
A. P. Indy < Weekend Surprise < Secretariat
Habibti < Tabasco Cat < Storm Cat < Terlingua < Secretariat

Nobiz Like Shobiz – great-great-grandson
Nightstorm < Storm Cat < Terlingua < Secretariat

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Popcorn Deelites

Popcorn Deelites – great-great-grandson
Afternoon Deelites < Intimate Girl < Medaille d’Or < Secretariat

Rapid Redux – great-great-grandson
Thiscatsforcaryl < Storm Cat < Terlingua < Secretariat

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Rapid Redux

River Squall – great-grandson
Summer Squall < Weekend Surprise < Secretariat

Sun King – great-great-grandson –
Charismatic < Summer Squall < Weekend Surprise < Secretariat

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Sun King

On any regular tour you’re likely to see four or five of the above, though please note that horses may be moved to a different paddock at any time, and that any horse’s availability for visits on any given day depends many factors contributing to the horse’s care and welbeing. But if you request to see one of these horses, your tour guide will do her or his best.

We have more Secretariat descendants and they like to meet and greet their fans, too. Though it’s not logistically possible to take regular tours to the far parts of the farm, you Secretariat fans are still in luck. Call and ask us about booking a private tour to meet horses like:

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Elusive Honey

Elusive Honey – great-great-granddaughter
Elusive Quality < Gone West < Secrettame < Secretariat

Johannesburg Smile – great-great-great-grandson
Johannesburg < Hennessy < Storm Cat < Terlingua < Secretariat

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Johannesburg Smile

Lubash – great-great-grandson
Freud < Storm Cat < Terlingua < Secretariat

Smooth Air – great-great-great-grandson
Smooth Jazz < Storm Boot < Storm Cat < Terlingua < Secretariat

Sokitumi Samurai – great-great-great-grandson
First Samurai < Giant’s Causeway < Storm Cat < Terlingua < Secretariat

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Sokitumi Samurai

These horses aren’t all that far from the front of the farm, and still others live a bit farther off the usual visitors’ path, including Riva Way, son of Secretariat’s son Tinners Way, and A. P. Valentine, who has the same sire and relationship to Secretariat as Eldaafer. Your private tour guide will be delighted oblige if possible. And there are other wonderful horses – with and without fancy pedigrees – to meet along the way.

Photos by Laura


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July 19, 2018

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Highland Ack, or Landy, as he was known to his friends, was a 29 year old grandson of Hall of Fame champion Ack Ack. Landy never won a race, but he won the heart of his exercise rider, Melinda Schreck, with whom he became a successful hunter jumper and dressage competitor. In later life he was admired by Old Friends staff and volunteers for his pluck and decided mind of his own, and he was very fortunate in the love he received from supporters Val Nicholson and Brent Haskell. Val kindly shared these memories of him:


Brent and I started to support and help care for Landy when he came to be with Flip after Francis death in  Oct. 2015.  After Flip moved to the Christmas Mary stall due to concerns with his heat intolerance, Northern Stone  became Landy’s paddock mate in the summer of 2016.

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Highland Ack, aka Landy (L) with his friend Northern Stone, aka Rocky

Landy has been with us for almost three years and during that time it has been baby steps of trust.  However, Brent and I would like to think that after three years of tiny daily steps of quiet patience, Landy’s trust and love for us is now pretty solid.  He certainly has had his health issues this last five years with most over the last two year period.  It has been a blessing to see how time and love with quiet patience can grow a loving relationship.    I would often see Brent talking quietly to Landy and Landy’s ear cocked toward Brent’s lips as Brent spoke.  Although I was only a few feet away from them both I could not really hear what Brent was saying to Landy. When I asked Brent what he and Landy were talking about, Brent would say “that is between Landy and me”.

It took time and patience to work with Landy to put on fly spray……”oh no I don’t think so”, to pick up his feet to pick and have his hooves trimmed “you want me to do what with my feet?” and to take his medicine in a syringe “not likely”….initially he bolted….but every day I was out we worked a little at a time with praise and lots of kindness.   He loved being brushed and he would close his eyes in the sunshine and easily breathe with contentment.  He was very loving to Brent and I in his very own way.

It has been a privilege to support him….and I want to thank Carol and Antonio  so very much who worked tirelessly to care for him and James, Zack and Tammy who delivered hay, mended fences and did all the heavy lifting work in his paddocks.

We love you so Landy.

photos by Laura

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June 9, 2018


Bob Baffert & His Team,
Mike Smith,
China Horse Club International, Ltd.,
WinStar Farm,
Starlight Racing,
Head of Plains Partners LLC,
John D. Gunther,
Ogygian’s great-great-grandson,


on winning the Triple Crown!

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Justify (shown after his Preakness win). Photo: Maryland Govpics (Wikimedia Commons).


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June 6, 2018

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Here are some of the remembrances shared on Memorial Day.


We will always remember and love our Buckeye Buddy, Catlaunch. Such a big beautiful, gentle, loveable horse. I believe he always remembered me our 2 visits a year.
– Barb & Ron Atherton

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Come on Flip
His face … I loved his face!
And so much more!
– Terry Stahler,
who with Paul Stahler formerly owned Come on Flip and Do One Dance

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Come On Flip


Tinners Way
I will miss coming to visit Tinners Way. It brought me great joy to meet one of Secretariat’s own. Tinners was always quiet, but enjoyed the carrots we brought. When I visited him last year in May, his eyes told me it wouldn’t be much longer. His time served was almost done. To Tinners … may you rest in peace!
– Cindy & Darrel Duke

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Tinners Way


Private Zone
You were such a thrill to watch on the track – a super star! I wanted so much to see you at Old Friends, but it was not to be. You are loved & always remembered.
– Mary Jo Hoffman

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Private Zone preparing for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint

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Private Zone at Old Friends


As a volunteer of the Kentucky Derby museum, I will never forget getting to see him every time I volunteered. Thanks so much for this service & taking care of him.
– Brenda Lea

20180504 Winston



Photos of Catlaunch, Tinners Way, Come On Flip, & Private Zone
by Laura Battles

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May 30, 2018

Most of what goes on at Old Friends is about happiness. Keeping the horses healthy, secure and happy. Facilitating fun visits for the many guests who come to admire them. Witnessing joyful reunions between our residents and their former connections and longtime fans. We wish we could do all these things for each resident for the next 30 years. Sometimes the joy is so complete it feels like it’ll go on forever. But youngish horse or old, long retirement or all too brief, we provide for the final stage of horses’ lives, and now that we’re responsible for more than 200 horses, the number who pass each year has grown, too. Every Memorial Day we join our supporters and friends who can gather at the Georgetown farm. Together we remember the horses who have passed during the year. This year we shared fond memories of sixteen horses and a goat.

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Hard Luck Duck, Versailles Road, Our Revival, Tour of the Cat

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Early Pioneer, Ukiah, Private Zone, Come on Flip, Tinners Way

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Bonapaw, Burrwood, Diamond Stripes, Hidden Dark, Catlaunch

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Winston. Google the goat has a memorial plaque and Midnight Secret’s grave is at Old Friends at Cabin Creek, New York, where he lived.

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Michael delivered the eulogies. And yes, as always they brought tears at times and smiles at others. Such a wide range of characters leave behind tales and memories as varied, and as improbable and humorous at times as the individual horses themselves.

Steadfast friend of Come on Flip and others, Dr. Val Nicholson, concluded with her remeniscences and insights, and this year saw the beginning of what I hope will become a Memorial Day tradition. Those who wished to share their memories of those who had passed were invited to write them down.

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In former years, memories were shared aloud, which meant time constraints, hoping not to get up in front of people and cry, and that words spoken are words soon lost. Now these memories of the horses we all loved can be shared with a wider circle of people, many of whom couldn’t attend the gathering, and now we can keep them.

My own and other staff and volunteers’ remembrances can be found in blog posts of the past year, so rather than giving them short shrift here, I urge you to look back over those photos and words. But not all are represented there. Some, most of us at the main farm didn’t know, or didn’t know well. So this post remembers them all, not with words invented about them by humans, but in their own images.

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BONAPAW (1996-2017)
Sabona – Pawlova (Nijinsky II)
photo by Laura Battles


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BURRWOOD (1994-2018)
Bayou Hebert – All Zip (Royal Trio)


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CATLAUNCH (2001-2018)
Noble Cat – Skilaunch (Relaunch)
photo by Laura Battles


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COME ON FLIP (1991-2017)
Commemorate – Phillippe Dancer (Sovereign Dancer)
photo by Laura Battles


20180529 Diamond Stripes

Notebook – Romantic Summer (On to Glory)
photo by Laura Battles


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EARLY PIONEER (1995-2018)
Rahy – Golden Darling (Slew O Gold)
photo by Laura Battles


Hay Duck

HARD LUCK DUCK (1990-2018)
Duck Dance – Me Bright Two (Rebel Cause)
photo by Laura Battles


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HIDDEN DARK (1990-2018)
Ferdinand – Hidden Light (Majestic Light)
photo by Laura Battles


20180529 Midnight Secret

Key Contender – Flannel Sheets (Triocala)
photo by Connie Bush


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OUR REVIVAL (2000-2018)
Ide – Flashy Revival (Grand Revival)
photo by Laura Battles


20180529 Private Zone

PRIVATE ZONE (2009-2018)
Macho Uno – Auburn Beauty (Siphon)
photo by Laura Battles


20180529 Tinners Way

TINNERS WAY (1990-2018)
Secretariat – Devon Diva (The Minstrel)
photo by Laura Battles


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TOUR OF THE CAT (1998-2018)
Tour d’Or – Tune into the Cat (Tunerup)
photo by Rick Capone


20180529 Ukiah

UKIAH (2002-2018)
Unbridled’s Song – Dixie Pearl (Dixieland Band)
photo by Laura Battles


20180529 Versailles Road - Cindy Grisolia

Street Cry – Not Offensive (Deputy Commander)
photo by Cindy Grisolia


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WINSTON (1994-2018), who resided at the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs and whose retirement with us was heartbreakingly brief


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GOOGLE, companion of Eldaafer on the track and in retirement




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May 15, 2018

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Catlaunch 2001-2018


Everybody on the farm loved Catlaunch, and “the Cat” loved everybody. Here are some thoughts about him by three of his daily companions, some of his many friends, some of the people with whom he shared special bonds.


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“Catlaunch was one of the most gentle horses I’ve ever had the privilege to know. Cat and I had a connection. Both being buckeyes how couldn’t we? As soon as he would hear my voice his ears would perk up and he would look for me. I’ll sure miss the big guy. He was one of my best friends.”  – Marisa Miller.


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“Catlaunch was grace and kindness. He was quiet power and steady strength. Catlaunch was patient with us and loyal to those who loved him. He knew. Our gentle giant is gone but I honor the warmth and love he brought to my heart.” – Lisa Wood.


Another of the Cat’s close friends, Joey Steiner, didn’t put his words in writing. Even now, it’s not easy to say goodbye to him. But Joey told me of his admiration for Catlaunch’s courage as a racehorse and in retirement. He spoke lovingly of the tall, handsome bay’s spirit as he fought the neurological issues that eventually ended his life, and of his gentle, intelligent way of relating to people, and of his infinite kindness.


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Catlaunch (L) with Game On Dude

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He loved visiting with his former exercise rider, Michael Gonzalez.

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Catlaunch taking a carrot from Michael’s mouth.

You made us more than we’d been before, Catlaunch. In losing you, we lose a piece of ourselves.

Photos by Laura

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