For early May I planned a video about Old Friends’ satellite location at Ashton Grove Senior Community near our main farm in Georgetown, Kentucky. We have 16 retired Thoroughbreds and one professional meeter-greeter miniature horse at Ashton Grove. Since that location isn’t currently part of our tour offerings, I’ll soon post a video showing what horses live there and saying a little about each of them. “Soon” is when I’ve got all the video clips needed, and when hard-working Laura has time to come to Ashton Grove and make current photos of the horses.
Meanwhile, a few mornings ago a heavy rain was coming on a strong wind. The light was too dim for shooting video, really, but when a wild wind blows and the smell of rain fills each gust, the horses get rambunctious. Their play session was so full of mischievous fun I had to capture it and share it with you.
This video, Old Friends Blog Visit 34, features one herd, 6 of the 17 horses Old Friends at Ashton Grove.
Brilliant Decision and Wake Forest
Their play session didn’t need narration, but I did overlay some text to identify each horse the first time each took over center-screen. So come feel the wind blow in a May rainstorm and join “the Ashton Six” in some horseplay. Who ever said retirees have to act like grownups all the time?
Losing a younger retiree unexpectedly is always an especially hard blow. I say “always,” but you never get used to it because no loss is like another, just as no other horse will ever be Slim Shadey. In his prime he was a talented and determined athlete and he remained a valiant competitor until his retirement from racing at eleven.
One of Slim Shadey’s biggest fans in those days was Michael Blowen. As Slim approached the time of his retirement from racing, Michael worked in concert with Slim’s last two racing owners, Michael Dubb and Michael Hui, to make sure Slim would have the secure home he’d so emphatically earned.
When Slim Shadey retired to Old Friends in September 2019, he still had a lot of the no-nonsense professional about him, but being a smart horse, he paid attention to his surroundings and quickly figured out that Old Friends is about relaxation and having fun.
It took him a few tries to find just the right friends. Not Persie. Not Star Spangled Heat. But once he moved in with Saratoga Episode and Tuneintobow, Slim Shadey found his soul mates. Especially, Saratoga Episode.
Slim with friends Tuneintobow (L) and Saratoga Episode
Slim with Saratoga Episode
We hoped their friendship would last for many years. We wanted to keep spending good times with Slim through middle age and into old age. It’s hard to believe he’s gone from us. But, as explained by Dr. Bryan Waldridge, Old Friends’ veterinarian. “Slim Shadey showed signs of colic and was referred for further diagnostics and treatment. Exploratory surgery revealed a twisted large intestine that was corrected. Unfortunately, he fractured a hind leg recovering from anesthesia. Bone fractures during recovery from anesthesia are uncommon, but an inherent risk of equine anesthesia.”
Through Slim’s retirement, he remained one of Michael’s favorites on the farm. They were great friends. “Slim Shadey was on Old Friends radar for nearly two years,” he said. “Between Michael Dubb and Michael Hui, I knew he was in great hands. When Hui called to say he was ready I was overjoyed. Today I was equally devastated. You try to do what’s best and, even then, it doesn’t always work out.”
Yet, as far too brief as Slim’s retirement was, if his being a happy horse counts as things working out pretty well, then it did work out. From a competitor with a bit of an attitude, he softened into a free spirit, by turns playful, feisty, and affectionate. We at Old Friends are privileged to have been part of this contented time in his life. We will always remember Slim Shadey.
We’re saddened by the passing of old campaigner Winning Dubai. He was such a survivor we’d almost come to believe he was indestructible.
A grey/roan son of E Dubai, out of a daughter of Private Account, he was foaled in April 2009 in Kentucky and sold as a youngster to a Puerto Rican racing interest. He ran all of his 96 races at Puerto Rico’s Hipódromo Camarero. He won first time out, and true to his name, he made winning a habit. He finished first or second in almost half of his many starts. Working class tracks like the Hipódromo Camarero can be a hard environment for both humans and horses, but Winning Dubai proved more than tough enough. From ages two through seven he raced often as many as 16, and even 19, times a year—and that’s year after year. At four, he won 10 times, tying for the record for most wins in all North America in 2012. After his last race in December 2016, his fortitude and spirit had earned such affectionate respect that he continued to live at the Hipódromo Camarero since there was practically nowhere else for a horse on the small, heavily populated island.
So it was that when Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in September 2017, causing thousands of deaths and destroying the race track and its stables, Winning Dubai was caught up in the disaster. He survived the storm and the continuing emergency when the feed, water, vets and vet supplies were difficult to get. Thanks to Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare, the Thoroughbred Charities of America, the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the Jockey Club, Brook Ledge, Ocala Breeders’ Sales, Bonnie Heath Farm, and others, supplies were shipped in and as many horses as possible were evacuated to Florida. Winning Dubai was among them. He was cared for by Randy and Karen Hickman of Stone Ridge Farm in Ocala, then reached Old Friends in November.
He lived at our Georgetown, Kentucky farm for three and a half years. After all that time in the Caribbean, did he know he’d come home? He seemed to, but he’d surmounted so much in his life that he probably would have handled any surroundings with the same unflappable assurance. Winning Dubai had been around the block a few times, and he wanted you to know it.
He was a bit assertive with his first paddock mates, so we tried him with Kalamos, a gelding as tough as he was. The two coexisted but didn’t really make friends, so last year Winning Dubai moved in with Cost Affective, Bunker’s Edge and Rathor. In Cost Affective, Winning Dubai found the friend he’d been looking for. The two became inseparable and shared good times together.
After surviving a grueling race career and a terrible storm, Winning Dubai seemed more than equal to anything fate might throw at him, but even he wasn’t immortal. This spring he developed an incurable neurological condition. Due to compromised motor functions, a peaceful and dignified end was the last kindness we could provide the brave warrior.
Here he is with his friend Cost Affective in an Old Friends Blog Video from last September. His part is from 2:08 through about 3:00. Cost Affective misses him, and so do we.
Who’s on Two? What? Is that anything like Hussonfirst? Well, not exactly.
“Farm Two” is what we call the paddocks on the south side, adjacent to the original land on the main farm. Though it’s way off the main tour route, it’s not really a different farm, as you who have visited it on private tours know. It’s peaceful and has lots of big trees, and in summer is the most beautiful part of our Georgetown farm.
Gold Round (L) and Mystery Trip
As it happens, most of the 16 retired Thoroughbreds who’ve moved to our new Ashton Grove location came there from Farm Two. So, who lives in the paddocks the Ashton Grovers moved out of? This video answers that question by visiting every single horse now living on Farm Two.
These are the mares Mystery Trip, Hi Dubai and Gold Round, and geldings The Pizza Man, Work All Week, Chocolate Ride, Offering Plan, King Kreesa, Kharafa, Star Plus, He Loves Me Not, Windy Land, Disturbingthepeace, Riva Way, Slamming, Fergus Mac Roich, Summer Attraction, Discreet Hero, Cappucino Kid, Soldat, Diversify, Kalamos, Better, Tom’s Ready, Awesome Gem, Ivan Fallunovalot and Big Blue Nation.
If you see anybody in this video you’d like to visit in person, consider scheduling a private tour when we reopen for tours in a limited way. In the famous words of Lennon and McCartney, It Won’t Be Long Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah! Find out about coming scheduling, updated safety procedures, and a new kind of tour we’re adding here.
Meanwhile, sit back, put up your feet, and see Who’s on Two these days.
The next Old Friends Blog Visit video will show how the horses who have moved to our Ashton Grove location are enjoying their new home. They are Secret Getaway, Daytona, Porfido, Ireland’s Eye, Massone, Padua’s Pride, Riversrunrylee, Wake Forest, Brilliant Decision, Litigate, Falcon Scott, Palmer’s Approach, Talk Logistics, and three retirees who were never at the main farm, Magic Weisner, Bo’s a Ten, Millie’s Thunder, and of course, miniature horse Winston II who was featured in Old Friends Blog Visit 31.
Last week’s severe weather swept over Kentucky, leaving several inches of snow, thick ice, and serious cold. As Laura’s photos show, some horses like to play in the snow as much as kids. A horse’s thermoregulatory system, the internal heaters their bodies have, keeps them comfortable in cold weather. It’s pretty miraculous how hardy horses are.
Popcorn Deelites and Special Ring
You and I
Saratoga Episode (L) and Slim Shadey
Thermoregulation seems like a super-power. I wish we humans had it! But it does burn a lot of energy, so when the weather turned mild a few days ago, and the snow began thawing, and the footing became easier in the paddocks, the horses all relaxed. The older ones rested contentedly and the younger ones played more happily than ever.
The snow was well on its way to disappearing when I caught the clips of them in the video below, Old Friends Blog Visit 32, The Snow’s Gone. It features Silver Charm, Sun King, Touch Gold, Little Mike, Game On Dude, Afternoon Deelites, Arson Squad, Fighting City Hall, Soi Phet, Persie, Hogy, Eye of the Tiger, Special Ring, Popcorn Deelites, Patch, Stormy Liberal, Silver Max, You and I, Ide, and Pollard’s Vision.
And it makes special visits to our two new stars, Bellamy Road and Sharp Samurai.
Bellamy Road during the snow, taken by Laura
Bellamy Road, a 19 year old stallion, is a Florida-bred by Concerto out of Hurry Home Hillary by Deputed Testamony. Owned by Kinsman Stable and trained by Nick Zito, he earned $811,400 on the track. In 2005 he won the most impressive running of the Wood Memorial (G1) of all time. Taking charge of the race at the start, he controlled the pace with a mighty stride throughout and powered away to a 15 length lead under a hand ride from Javier Castellano. The record of 1 1/8 mile in 1:47.16 he set on the Aqueduct track that day still stands.
Unsurprisingly, he went off as the favorite in the 2005 Kentucky Derby. Though Giacomo won that race, Bellamy Road ran a valiant second in the 2005 Travers (G1), setting the pace and nearly holding on to win. At stud, his foals included muliple Grade 1 winner, now Old Friends retiree, Diversify and Old Friends retiree Brilliant Decision.
Sharp Samurai, taken a few days later by Beth (look how much less snow!)
Sharp Samurai arrived at Old Friends a few weeks ago, having retired from the track. He’s a 7 year old gelding by First Samurai out of Secret Wish, a daughter of Street Cry. Through his dam, Sharp Samurai is a great-grandson of Awesome Again. Turf was his surface, and his graded stakes wins at Del Mar and Santa Anita netted his owning partnership more than $1 million. Co-owner Mark Glatt trained him, and Gary Stevens rode him to his most notable victories. Sharp Samurai could race in any style. He won on the lead, and he won running from far back. He didn’t mind, he just liked to win.
Old Friends at Ashton Grove (last September when the weather was nice)
Last Tuesday, February 9, 2021, Old Friends welcomed a new resident to our Ashton Grove location. Ashton Grove Senior Community in Georgetown, Kentucky is home to sixteen of Old Friends’ Thoroughbred retirees. Three herds occupy three pastures. The first herd, who have long lived together at the main farm, may be familiar to many main farm visitors as “the red guys” because four out of the five of them are chestnuts. Now known as Ashton Grove’s “Founding Five,” they are Secret Getaway, Porfido (the only bay in the bunch), Ireland’s Eye, Massone, and one of the farm’s three stars, multiple graded stakes winner Daytona.
A smaller herd of three live in the middle pasture. All came straight to Ashton Grove on retirement but one is well known to racing fans: Magic Weisner who finished second to War Emblem in the 2002 Preakness Stakes. Magic Weisner is accompanied by his longtime friend, Bo’s a Ten, who is a daughter of our much-loved and much-missed Patton (1991-2014). She resembles her dad. The third member of that herd is another mare, Millie’s Thunder, a daughter of 1995 Derby winner Thunder Gulch and granddaughter of the great Gulch (one of Old Friends’ most revered retirees from 2009 until his passing in 2016). Millie’s Thunder raced only once. The thirteen year old mare has lived a life of ups and downs that eventually led to a slaughter auction. Thanks to the loving and practical help of Shirley Ford, Millie’s Thunder’s life turned around last fall. Under the care of John Bradley, manager of Old Friends at Ashton Grove, Millie has regained her health and high spirits. She’s the sweetest horse on the farm and has become the darling of the residents and staff of the Ashton Grove Senior Community.
And then there’s the third herd. They’re a motley crew of eight who came from four different herds on the main farm. At first four twosomes, they’ve now formed a herd with a clear pecking order and social life. They are Brilliant Decision (no star, but the herd boss), Wake Forest (he’s the star, having won the 2016 Man o’ War Stakes (G1)), Litigate, Talk Logistics, Padua’s Pride, Falcon Scott, Palmer’s Approach, and Riversrunrylee.
Those are the sixteen Thoroughbreds. But, as I mentioned, a new resident has now moved in at Ashton Grove.
Christy Cassidy, who donated Winston to OF, bought him to live at Ashton Grove last Tuesday.
Miniature horse Winston had a famous namesake. Er, well, not Sir Winston Churchill. The pinto mini was named by his former owner, Christy Cassidy, for the longtime miniature resident of the Kentucky Derby Museum, who retired to Old Friends and passed in 2018. This Winston, unofficially Winston II, is a 13 year old gelding with the perfect resume for Ashton Grove since he’s an experienced senior community and nursing home visitor.
His love for people—not to mention his cuteness—may give Millie’s Thunder a run for her money as Ashton Grove’s darling with the community’s residents and staff, and his experience and indoors manners should also make him a favorite visitor in Ashton Grove’s memory unit. This little guy is really something special.
But don’t take my word for it. See for yourself. Here are Ashton Grove’s Thoroughbred residents and the arrival of new resident Winston.
Awesome Again (March 29, 1994 – December 15, 2020)
A few days ago our delighted anticipation of many good times with Awesome Again changed abruptly to inconsolable sadness when the great athlete and sire suddenly died. The reason was not apparent and necropsy results are pending. Though he spent such a sadly short time with at Old Friends, for many years Awesome Again was such a towering presence in the Kentucky Bluegrass that the many people who saw him at Adena Springs knew, respected, and loved him.
Awesome Again at age 16, photographed by Kate Dunn at Adena Stallions in 2007.
His resume is beyond impressive. By Deputy Minister out of Primal Force (by Blushing Groom) who also foaled Macho Uno, Awesome Again was bred and raced by Stronach Stables, trained by David Hofmans, then Patrick Byrne, and ridden to his greatest victories by Mike Smith in 1997 and Pat Day in 1998. His most prestigious wins include the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), 1998 Whitney H (G1), 1998 Stephen Foster H (G2), 1998 Saratoga Breeders’ Cup H (G2), 1998 Hawthorne Gold Cup (G3), 1997 Jim Dandy S (G2), and 1997 Queen’s Plate. He vanquished such greats as Silver Charm, Touch Gold (also by Deputy Minister), and Skip Away. He was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2001.
After his four year old campaign, he entered stud at Adena Springs and achieved even more lasting status as a sire of champions whose influence will be seen in pedigrees for generations to come. His best progeny include Horse of the Year and influential sire Ghostzapper, Game On Dude, Breeders’ Cup winners Round Pond, Ginger Punch and Wilko, Preakness winner Oxbow, Belmont winner Sir Winston, and top flight graded stakes winners Paynter, Awesome Gem, Spun Sugar, Toccet, Bravazo, and other formidable achievers.
Awesome Again at Adena Springs in the latter part of his stud career. Photo by Laura Battles.
His arrival at Old Friends, October 30, 2020
Losing such a great horse is hard. But Awesome Again was more than that. He was such a personality, so calm, so in command, so professional and smart and gracious, that we’d already come to love him deeply. I know many of you reading this also loved him and hoped to visit him soon. Whether you knew him much longer and better than we did, or through visits to Adena Springs, or through his exceptional sons and daughters, his effect on all who came in contact with him was unforgettable.
This photo and video, “Remembering Awesome Again,” doesn’t begin to do him justice. With tours suspended for the winter and our staff and volunteers taking care to observe pandemic precautions, not so many people were fortunate enough to photograph him at Old Friends, and those photos that are available are mostly of his head looking out of his stall window, or at dusk, or in the fly mask he wore for the first few days to protect his eyes from irritation. I’ve done my best to pay him tribute, but his dignity, graciousness and charisma deserve more. We’re heartbroken. We were deeply honored to have been his home for awhile.
Photos of Awesome Again at Old Friends by Laura Battles
It’s hard not to be able to welcome visitors to the farm when we’re bursting with excitement over our several wonderful new residents! How we wish we could proudly show them off and give their fans and other horse lovers the opportunity to spend some quality, in-person time with them! Until then, here’s an Old Friends Blog Visit video with our three biggest new celebrities.
1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and leading sire for decades, Awesome Again
2002 and 2003 Santa Anita Handicap winner, Milwaukee Brew
Multiple graded stakes winner, Silver Max (after a roll in the mud)
Also featured in the video are Birdstone, who’s settled nicely into his new life, and Carole Oates, to whose skilled and vigilant care the horses at the main farm have thrived. Carole, her husband and her retired sport horse have moved to warmer weather and new adventures. We—humans and horses—will miss her.
You’ll find the video below, but first I want to share a few glimpses of other residents shared by Laura. They’re not in the video but some are old favorites and one is a new girl on the farm.
Our new mare, Hi Dubai, was foaled and did most of her racing in Great Britain. She’s by Rahy out of Jood, a daughter of Nijinsky II. She raced for Godolphin, trained by Saeed bin Suroor, and won the 2003 R. L. Davison Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket. The following fall she came to North America where she raced third in a stakes at Woodbine with Frankie Dettori up. Afterward she was a broodmare in both Great Britain and America until her retirement to Old Friends by LNJ Foxwoods, whose support has meant much to Old Friends through these difficult times. We’re also grateful to LNJ Foxwoods for donating Mystery Trip and Gold Round to us—two distinguished and very sweet girls we’ve quickly fallen in love with. Hi Dubai is 20 years old and a full sister to Fantastic Light. She’ll appear in a video soon.
He could provide themes for many films. Inevitably, he’d star in an Old Friends Blog Visit. So why did Little Silver Charm wait so long? Maybe it was generosity, letting the larger and less cute horses have their day in the limelight. Or maybe, thinking back, Little Silver Charm actually did star in one of the earliest Old Friends Blog Videos, in the genre’s more modest days. Be that as it may, yesterday the photogenic mini graciously stepped forward to share a few grooming tips, assisted by a supporting cast of Jane and Michael.
The Premiere Miniature Horse at Old Friends (see video) has, of course, starred in Old Friends Virtual Tours, not to mention countless live tours, sports videos, and two books. Now, to please his many friends and fans whose presence and admiration he misses, he has graciously obliged with this offering.
So here it is. Old Friends Blog Visit 28, Little Silver Charm’s Grooming Tips.