November 16, 2022

If ever there was a Hall of Fame race horse who needs no introduction, that horse arrived at Old Friends last week. That horse is Lava Man. Of living horses, he is one of the few who can genuinely lay claim to the title of superstar. No shooting star brilliant for a few brief months, Lava Man dominated the top of the game for three years. He won the 2005, 2006 and 2007 Hollywood Gold Cup, 2006 and 2007 Santa Anita Handicap, the 2006 Pacific Classic, Goodwood, Charles Whittingham Memorial…and those aren’t even all of his graded stakes wins.

Lava Man. Photo by Mary Greene.

He’s 21 years old now, but he’s remained a presence in national racing all this while. After retiring sound from competition he retooled as a stable pony in the barn of his trainer, Doug O’Neill. When he led the stable’s young athletes in the post parades to the starting gate, it was usually Lava Man who got the lion’s share of attention from the crowd, and often from the media. California fans loved continuing to see their old hero year after year. “Stable Pony” is a job title that gives little idea of the intelligence, steadiness and variety of skills the job entails. Lava Man kept younger race horses feeling secure, taught them the ropes, and when needed kept them in line. His value in that role is reflected in the nickname he acquired around the barn, “Coach.”

Watch Lava Man arrive at Old Friends and start settling in. He’s a big presence, a grandson of Seattle Slew, an earner of over $5 million, and one of the most remarkable retirees ever to live with us. His larger-than-life personality impresses us more and more as we get to know him. We’re more honored and delighted than I can express that Lava Man is making Old Friends his home.

Beth

Old Friends Blog Visit 39
Lava Man Settles In

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November 1, 2022

You probably know Laura Battles as the photographer whose knowledge of Old Friends’ horses as individuals, as much as her camera skills, make her photos so extraordinary. If you’ve taken tours of our main farm you may also know Laura as one of our most knowledgeable tour guides—and one of the most fun to travel the farm with. All the horses know Laura as an infinite source of kindness, patience and carrots. Some of the mares are especially fortunate to know her as their particular friend.

Bint Marscay and Laura shared one of the strongest bonds between a horse and human in Old Friends’ history. Through thick and thin Laura was there for Binty. After her passing, her former paddock mate, Miss Du Bois, claimed Laura’s attention and care.

Miss Du Bois

Laura has a career, then on weekends she works hard doing regular and private tours. She invented, and conducts, the famous “every horse on the farm” private tour, which really does enable people to visit every single one of the 148 horses on the main farm. Frankly, she’s the only tour guide who can tell you, off the cuff, about each and every one of them. All this doesn’t leave much time during the day for hanging out with her favorite mares, who live away from the stallions at the farther reaches of the farm.

Miss Du Bois
(this actually is one of the photos you see Laura taking in the video)

Smokey Glacken

Smokey Glacken

After tours are done, she goes out with her camera. The golden evenings and dramatic winter sunsets add to the magic of her photos. Here are some samples. For more, scroll back through this blog, or better yet, check out the photos Laura posts on her Facebook page.

But Sunday evenings belong, first and foremost, to Missy (Miss Du Bois) and to Laura’s growing friendship with Smokey Glacken (yes, Smokey is a half sister to Smoke Glacken, but she won multiple graded stakes in her own right).

For years I’ve been fortunate to witness some of Laura’s evenings with the mares who love her. I’m delighted that this time she’s invited us all along.

Old Friends Blog Visit 38
Laura’s Evenings with the Mares

Beth
photos by Laura

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October 10, 2022

Albertus Maximus
(February 24, 2004 – October 8, 2022)

Albertus Maximus won the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. In 2009 he prevailed in the prestigious Donn Handicap, and he also won the Windy Sands Handicap in 2008. He entered stud at Shadwell Farm in 2012. He was pensioned in 2020 and resided at Shadwell until joining Old Friends in March 2022.

Albertus, a son of Albert the Great (1997-2021), was a chip off the old block in his handsome looks, and like Albert, Albertus had a tough, independent spirit. He did things his own way. He did have a softer side. He liked useful people. Those who brought him meals. Those who gave him carrots. Those who understood that he was a champion to be reckoned with and gave him the respect he was fully aware he deserved.

His fatal paddock accident two days ago shocked us as much as saddened us. For an Old Friends resident, Albertus was young. He was only weeks away from spending his Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile anniversary with us, which we thought would be the first of many together. He was healthy and seemed to have almost endless years before him of enjoying grazing in the warm sun, greeting his fans and munching carrots. He’d earned it, that’s for sure. Sometimes fate just doesn’t seem fair.

In his honor, here is Remembering Albertus Maximus, a collection of Laura’s photos celebrating him in his all too brief time with us.

Beth
photos by Laura

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October 6, 2022

One of the questions I get asked the most these days, whether in person or on social media, is how Special Ring is doing after the passing of his best friend, Popcorn Deelites. Ringy did go through a hard time. His health remained ok, but he was obviously sad. But he’s one strong, smart, resourceful horse, even compared to most horses who seem an optimistic lot, especially when they know they’re loved. Ringy has been getting lots and lots of love.

And this summer, he got a new paddock mate. To our joy and wonderment, he’s formed an enthusiastic partnership with the most unlikely of partners.

Sun King!

For all of you who have asked how Special Ring is doing these days, here they are, Mr. Ring and Mr. King.

Many thanks to Old Friends tour guide Barb Peppin, who filmed the exclusive interview they granted us. Also featured are Milwaukee Brew, Ide and Gorgeous George, longtime buddies Game On Dude and Little Mike, and Little Silver Charm.

Beth

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July 28, 2022

Yesterday was a sad day at the farm. We had to say goodbye to two valiant elders. We were coming to love them both very much. Swain and Dumaani lived most of their lives at Shadwell Farm until they joined Old Friends last March. Though we were privileged to care for them for all too short a time, both lived long and illustrious lives. Swain was thirty years old and Dumaani thirty-one.

Swain (Feb. 12, 1992 – July 27, 2022)

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Dumaani (April 22, 1991 – July 27, 2022)

At their advanced ages, and both stallions had health conditions, but of course you always hope for a few more years. However, when our vet team determined that for differing reasons both were in pain with no prospect of improvement, it was all too clear that only one way remained to help them. Both spent several good months with us, received tours and other admirers with enjoyment, and were visited by friends who had cared for them at Shadwell. They were in sight and sound of other stallions who’d been at Shadwell with them. Both seemed to know they were loved.

Swain and Dumaani

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Swain was foaled in Ireland and raced for Godolphin. Among his many victories were the Group 1 Coronation Cup, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, and Irish Champion Stakes. He was Champion Older Male in England 1997-1998 and Champion Older Male in Ireland 1998. Among the foals he sired, maybe not the best but our favorite, is our own Falcon Scott, who is much like his dad in looks and sweetness.

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Kentucky-bred Dumaani was a son of the great Danzig. He raced with distinction for Shadwell all over the world, with wins in the King Charles II Stakes at Newmarket, in Dubai, in the Keio Hai Spring Cup (G2) in Tokyo, and in the Keeneland Breeders’ Cup Stakes (G3) in Kentucky. At Saratoga he once finished second in a race with Kiri’s Clown right on his heels for third. He was trained by fellow Lexingtonian Kiaran McLaughlin.

Though we wish we’d had years with these two distinguised stallions, we were lucky to have them in our lives and will fondly remember them.

Beth
photos by Laura

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July 2, 2022

Victor Cooley
March 31, 1993-June 27, 2022

Today is the 26th anniversary of Victor Cooley’s win in the Marine Stakes at Woodbine. That day he set a speed record of 1 1/16 mile in 1:41.80 that stands to this day. We are saddened that we can’t go up to Victor’s paddock on the back 40 and celebrate with him. We miss him more than words can say.

Victor Cooley was the 1996 Three-year-old Male Champion in Canada. He won the prestigious Queen’s Plate at Woodbine, and at four the Grade 1 Vosburgh Stakes at Belmont over such greats as Tale of the Cat and Northern Afleet. He also won that year’s Commonwealth Stakes (G2) at Keeneland. And those were only some of his triumphs.

He retired to where he was foaled, the Begg family’s Windways Farm in Ontario. For a farm of small acreage, Windways’ producing both Victor Cooley and multiple graded stakes winner El Brujo attests to consummate horsemanship. When the farm was sold in 2014 both Victor Cooley and El Brujo came to live at Old Friends.

“The Canadians,” Victor Cooley and El Brujo

Victor was a horse of unflappable common sense. He didn’t make fusses. He was almost always nice. But his willpower was hard as nails. He didn’t demand much, but when he decided, then you and whose army. You can see his self-confidence and strong will in these photos. Can you see his gracious side? It was big, too. If you were fortunate enough to visit with Victor, you experienced his quiet confidence, his friendliness, his gentleness with kids, and that special something in his eye that told you he was absolutely and always himself.

Victor Cooley, May 2022

El Brujo is Mr. Popular of the herd. Victor Cooley was respected and liked by them all, but “the Canadians” were also an exclusive club. As in, nobody else allowed. To say El Brujo misses his lifelong friend would be too much of an understatement. But the other side of that is, as Victor aged he was so very lucky to have a friend as loyal as El Brujo.

Victor liked to gallop with the herd. He was often the first to the fence to say hello when people appeared. In old age, when he needed an extra meal a day and got lunch, he wasn’t always hungry for it, but sometimes he’d let himself be wheedled into eating more, just out of kindness to us. Should I tell on him? That one time summer evening he stole a cup of white wine and loved it? As far as I know, he never got another, but he was mighty pleased with himself for that trick. Victor could also be quite crafty!

Though the herd is sad without him, they have each other. They’re a very bonded bunch. And though we miss Victor Cooley, lived well and long, earned accolades, mostly got his way, and he had one of the best friendships on the farm. Victor Cooley lived a life to celebrate.

Beth
photos by Laura

Remembering Victor Cooley

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June 30, 2022

Mustanfar
(March 28, 2001-June 27, 2022)

Among the sons of the great Unbridled, Mustanfar made his mark as a racehorse with two graded stakes wins, seconds in prestious stakes at Saratoga, Arlington, and Woodbine, and participation in the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Turf. He stood at Shadwell Farm in Kentucky and was pensioned there. After the death of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Shadwell entrusted Old Friends with the care of Mustanfar and five other retired stallions. Shadwell’s commitment to its homebreds and the excellent care they received shows in the venerable ages of Dumaani (31), Swain (30) and Intidab (29). Mustanfar, 21, benefitted from the same wonderful care, but for some time Mustanfar’s health had not been good and it continued declining through this spring and summer. The autopsy report has not yet arrived, but kidney and bladder deterioration were the reasons why, by June 27, euthanasia was the kindest thing that Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital could do for him.

Mustanfar, May 2022

Making the acquaintance of next door neighbor Eye of the Tiger

We will always regret that he wasn’t with us long enough for us to really get to know him, and for more of his fans to get to visit him. I have a strong memory of Mustanfar. It comes from another time. On the clear, bright Sunday afternoon of October 9, 2004 my mother, my sister and I were enjoying at the races at Keeneland. Though not much of a bettor, I made a win bet in the Sycamore Stakes because the fiery, spirited attitude of a muscular chestnut named Mustanfar caught my eye.

The gate opened. Mustanfar broke well but settled into a run at the back of the pack. It was a distance race, a mile and a half on the turf. Most of the way around he continued to run nearly last. Then they came around the final turn, and Mustanfar and Jose Santos made their move. What a powerful move it was, that coppery flash of a horse passing them all with every flying, determined stride, red mane and tail flaming as if he were a comet. Space opened between him and all the rest as Mustanfar passed the finish post. He strutted into the winner’s circle all out but head high and proud, ears pricked, owning the place.

That was Mustanfar in his glory. These photos of Laura’s capture him well as he was at the end of his life, but I wish I had words to express anything like as clearly the beauty and spirit of Mustanfar on that youthful, victorious day.

Beth

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June 7, 2022

You and I
February 14, 1991 – June 6, 2022

You and I, a son of Kris S and the Peruvian mare La Chaposa (by Ups), was foaled thirty-one years ago in Florida. He  went into training with Stanley Hough for Triumviri Stable and won the Cowdin (G2), a leading juvenile stakes. At three, owned by Edward Gann and trained by the great Bobby Frankel, he went on the Derby trail, but as his maturing talents became more apparent he was aimed at shorter distances. He and Chris McCarron won the 1994 Riva Ridge Stakes (G3) at seven furlongs and at four he attained his crowning achievement, the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap (the “Met Mile”) with Jorge Chavez. At five, he showed he was also able to win against the best around two turns in the Brooklyn Handicap (G2). I wanted to include a link to watch one of his triumphs, but at the time of writing I can locate none of these races online. Some of you may have seen You and I run across his paddock. To my mind, that was the bigger thrill.

He retired to Old Friends in October 2011 after a stud career mostly of the “useful” variety, but among his children was a shining star whose name was simply, You. One of the excitements of racing in 2002 was the rivalry for three-year-old filly championship between Take Charge Lady, You, and Habibti (who went on to be the mom of Eldaafer). You and I stood at Airdre Stud in Kentucky, then Woodstead Farm in Washington before settling into a more laid-back nearly eleven years at Old Friends.

If you visited him in his early retirement days you may remember him as a member of the “Roberto corner.” You and I had the same paddock throughout his retirement, but for some years it was part of a cluster of paddocks where some of the best descendants of Roberto held court: You and I and Prized were both sons of Roberto’s son Kris S, and Sunshine Forever, the magnificent son of Roberto himself. Sunshine Forever was wise and gracious, Prized was good at taking a carrot from a visitor’s hand and, quicker than thought, biting the empty palm if it lingered. You and I was a little aloof, but he was kind. I never knew him to bite on tours unless a visitor tried to pet him. In that case he did find it necessary to remind the person that he was a stallion.

Though You and I developed minor health issues as he aged, he was robust, didn’t go in for fretting or drama, and took care of himself with solid good sense. Until very advanced old age he thrived without needing supplements, never ate one bite more than he really wanted, and maintained perfect weight. If you had to do stuff in his paddock, like tend his waterer, he never pestered you. When given the respect he expected, he was polite to both his friends and strangers, but he was very much his own horse. You and I was a quiet stallion, but his spirit was entirely independent.

You and I in old age

He did love a good back scratch. He got into those so much that giving him one was one of the greatest joys of being on his part of the farm. Oh, the faces he made! He never, ever wanted you to stop. Bringing him pleasure in that way is what I’ll miss most.

In his more than a decade at Old Friends he gave pleasure to many. I know there are many stories out there, and that those to whom You and I was special will always remember vividly what his presence was like. For you, and for those of you who weren’t fortunate enough to meet him in person, I’ve put together a slide show of photos Laura took of him over the years.

REMEMBERING YOU AND I

June 8. Wendy Wooley posted on Facebook a reminder of the video of the EquiSport Photos shoot some seven years ago for Maggie Mae Design’s chapeau honoring You and I. Shea and Julien Leparoux with You and I. It’s sweet. Enjoy.

Beth
photos by Laura

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May 21, 2022

Slamming
March 21, 1993 – May 19, 2022

Slamming was a good old horse. The kind who could carry the world on his back and just might do that for you. All his life he generously gave all that was asked of him. He never asked for a lot, but he inspired a whole lot of love.

His pedigree wasn’t much. He mostly raced at the gritty New England tracks. His first start was at age 2 and his last start at age 9, and he worked hard every year in between. And successfully. From his very first race he knew what to do, and he did it well. Of his 80 starts he won 20 of them and finished first, second or third more than half the time. That’s an unsually capable record.

In June 2000, at seven, he was claimed by trainer Lorita Lindemann. They made quite a team. They won twice at Rockingham, four times at Suffolk Downs, and hit the board many more times. Even when he didn’t win, Slamming almost always brought home a paycheck.

Lorita retired him from racing in 2002, gave him a second career, and they spent another decade together. After she enabled his retirement to Old Friends they were never really apart. She often came to see him and they remained important in each other’s lives.

At Old Friends, Slamming quickly gained our love, too. He was the steadiest, the kindest, the best of horses. Though unfailingly sweet. He was no pushover. In his quiet way he was rock-solid independent. Yet, he was always there for his friends, horse and human. His paddock mates during pretty much his entire retirement were Riva Way, Disturbingthepeace, Fergus Mac Roich, and Summer Attraction, who once finished second to him in a race at Rockingham Park.

Slamming was always a steadying influence on his paddock mates. He had wisdom and common sense. He got along with everyone and he only took so much razz—and no more—from Disturbingthepeace.

Here in the Bluegrass there are champions all up and down the road, but they don’t make horses with a stronger core or a bigger heart than Slamming.

Remembering Slamming

Beth
The photos here & in the slideshow are by Laura

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April 18, 2022

We are saddened by the passing of two of Old Friends’ most senior residents, Zippy Chippy at OF at Cabin Creek in New York, and River Squall at the main Kentucky farm. Zippy Chippy was 31. River Squall died on his 28th birthday.

Zippy Chippy (April 20, 1991 – April 15, 2022)
(photo by Connie Bush of Tiger Eye Photography)

Zippy Chippy was one of Old Friends’ biggest stars. Not because he was a great racehorse but because during his decade-long career he became the most notoriously bad racehorse of his time. In 100 starts he never won one single race. At first he was just another try-hard on the New York tracks. As a youngster he finished third twice at Belmont and seemed set to become an ordinary inexpensive claiming horse, those hard-working athletes who make up most of the game but seldom get much notice as individuals. But as he continued to try without ever, ever winning, people began to pay attention. People like an underdog who keeps trying, and Zippy Chippy was the ultimate hard worker as well as the ultimate underdog. Few horses stay on the track for ten years, and fewer still run a grueling 100 races. Zippy Chippy was a tough customer, made of sterner stuff than just about any horse in the game.

If Seabiscuit, the gritty underdog who succeeded, was the perfect hero for the 1930s, Zippy Chippy, the survivor who got taken down time after time but always got up and kept trying, was a fitting hero for our times. As his motto says, “Winners don’t always finish first.”

Zippy Chippy with his friend, Red Down South

Because finally, Zippy was a winner. In retirement he became Old Friends at Cabin Creek’s most beloved character. Two books were written about him, one even available in German! He found his best buddy ever, Red Down South (when Zippy spent one summer at the Georgetown farm Red came with him). He got to boss around Joann and the other folks at Cabin Creek to his heart’s content. As Joann said, “He taught me so much about life, and I’ll miss him forever.”

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River Squall (April 15, 1994 – April 15, 2022)
(photo by Laura Battles)

River Squall wasn’t famous, but he was a seriously good racehorse, winner of the 1997 Saranac Stakes (G3) and Hawthorne Derby (G3). And for the barn staff and tour guides, he was a much-loved presence in his stall or his turnout area that he could use at will through the back door of his stall. He had this arrangement because a condition that inhibited his ability to sweat made it part of his wellbeing to always have access to shelter and cool whenever he wanted it.

River Squall in 2019
(photo by Laura Battles)

This is why I couldn’t make a “Remembering” slide show video for him. Because he was indoors much of the time there aren’t a lot of photos of him. He did spend plenty of time in his outside run, but that tended to be in early mornings and in the evening. However! If you visited Old Friends in Kentucky at any time from 2018 on, I can almost guarantee you met River Squall and remember him. He was the dark bay stallion who never let a tour go through the barn without banging, making a ruckus for attention and carrots, and always demanding even more. River Squall was sort of tough, but he loved attention and admiration.

River Squall in 2021
(photo by Laura Battles)

One person who will always remember River with especial love is former staff member John Bradley. And River was fond of John, who often wet him down when he was hot—being wet was River’s favorite thing ever—and played tongue-pulling games with him. Some horses really get into tongue-pulling. John recalled how whenever he’d walk by River’s stall, the stallion would stick out his tongue at him. Though River started out his retirement a toughie, he decided he liked us and mellowed into one of the most loved characters on the farm. That barn just doesn’t seem the same without our River Squall.

Beth

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