November 16, 2020

Caught in the act!

It’s great to have so many people on the farm who are able with a camera. It means that a good deal of what happens gets recorded. Some of it may not seem so important at the time, just the everyday doings of the same old residents and staff. In later years snapshots of daily life often prove the most valuable of records, once times and faces (horse and human) have changed, the evocations of some of our best memories.

Another kind of photo easy to overlook at the time are the captures of silly moments. Sometimes accidentally, sometimes very much on purpose, Laura or Rick or Tim or a visitor to the farm, might end up in possession of an especially cute, or characteristic, or fun, or downright embarassing, moment. A moment that’s utterly useless as a calendar photo, or a publicity portrait, or a gift shop postcard, yet just wonderful for the smiles these moments bring to all of us who love the horses.

Here are a few such moments with horses (and people) caught in the act by Laura during the fall of 2020.

A truly embarassing moment for Patch and Stormy Liberal. The multiple graded stakes winners get beaten in a race by Little Silver Charm and Michael (while Ide looks on).

And in case you’ve doubted the tour guides’ reports that Little Silver Charm is indeed a house horse, here’s the proof, caught in living color, as he not only goes indoors but brings Michael in with him.

Amazombie and Rapid Redux, caught in the act of being gorgeous.

Tuneintobow and Saratoga Episode caught telling secrets.

While Windy Land and He Loves Me Not share a bromance moment.

And Green Mask acts like … well … like Green Mask.

And Sarava acts like Green Mask.

Awwwww….

Sun King!

Beth

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November 7, 2020

Breeders’ Cup 2020 has been an exciting two days. Though the stands couldn’t be open to the public due to the pandemic, this year’s two days showed racing at its best and all the horses had safe runs. This year’s Breeders’ Cup featured four victories by hugely talented horses who have Old Friends retirees, past and present, among their ancestors. They are:

Vequist, winner of the Juvenile Fillies. This two year old girl, who looks to have a bright future, is a great-great-granddaughter of Gulch.

Gulch (1984-2016). Photo by Laura Battles.

In the Dirt Mile a course record was set by the handsome gray, Knicks Go, whose sire Paynter is by Awesome Again.

Awesome Again on his recent arrival at Old Friends.

Now that Awesome Again has made his home with us, we will no doubt be constantly celebrating the achievements of his descendants. Awesome Again, a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner himself, has been one of the foremost sires of his era (as Game On Dude and Awesome Gem would no doubt agree if they could read this blog). Old Friends is honored to give a home in retirement to this superstar.

This year’s most prestigious Breeders’ Cup race for fillies and mares, the Distaff, was won for the second time by Monomoy Girl, who also won in 2018. The superlative Monomoy Girl gets some of her talent from her second damsire (great-grandpa), the unforgettable Williamstown.

Williamstown (1990-2015). Courtesy of Equisport Photos.

Williamstown was, of course, a son of Seattle Slew.

The Distaff, the Classic, several of this year’s Breeders’ Cup races, were exciting competition among especially impressive fields, but maybe the biggest thrill of all was Whitmore‘s win in the Sprint. Seven-year-old Whitmore, a fan favorite co-owned and trained by Old Friends supporter Ron Moquett, is a great-great-great-grandson of the one and only Ogygian.

Ogygian (1983-2015). Photo by Laura Battles.

And hey, did you catch the great closeup of Joel Rosario wearing his Old Friends face mask in the Classic post parade? Woo-hoo! Thank you Joel, and all of you amazing supporters whose generosity keeps us going during these challenging times!

Beth

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October 31, 2020

Einstein (2002-2020)

He was one of the best racehorses of his era. He won G1 and G2 stakes on all 3 surfaces, including the 2009 Santa Anita Handicap and two runnings of the Woodford Reserve. After stud duty at Adena Springs in Kentucky and Daehling Ranch in California, his retirement to Old Friends was enabled by Frank Stronach. On arrival at Old Friends in March 2019 had been diagnoised with a tumor. He received surgery which it was hoped would be entirely successful.

It seemed to be. His health returned and Einstein enjoyed a happy year and a half at Old Friends, but in fall 2020 fell ill again with what proved to be a widespread resurgence of cancer. He was euthanized on the morning of Wednesday, October 28, 2020.

On the track he was courageous, determined and gritty. In retirement he was spirited, demanding, affectionate and kind. We, his friends and fans, are grieving. We will always miss him.

Beth
photos by Laura

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October 16, 2020

Today’s post and video are for Secretariat fans and pedigree geeks. Old Friends Blog Visit 20 began a three part series recognizing Secretariat’s ongoing influence on racing by celebrating the retirees at Old Friends who descend from him. They include some of our most successful athletes. Part 1 covered the horses in the paddocks and pastures on the south part of Old Friends’ main location in Georgetown. Old Friends Blog Visit 27, Secretariat Descendants part 2, visits with the horses on the main tour route who have the great Triple Crown winner among their ancestors.

Rapid Redux

Stormy Liberal and Patch

Some are stars of the sport, some worked hard and honestly, achieved according to their abilities and now enjoy a retirement just as amply earned. One is a movie star. Another never raced but gave birth to horses who did.

Mystery Trip

The horses you’ll visit this time are Afternoon Deelites, River Squall, Popcorn Deelites (who played Seabiscuit in the 2003 film), two time Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Stormy Liberal, Patch, Nobiz Like Shobiz, Smooth Air, Sun King, Green Mask, Breeders’ Cup Marathon winner Eldaafer, and Mystery Trip.

If you’re wondering where are Saudi Poetry, Johannesburg Smile and other of your favorites who haven’t yet had Secretariat-related spotlight, his descendants who live on the back of the farm will star in part 3 in a few weeks.

Popcorn Deelites

Sun King

Eldaafer

Green Mask

To learn some horse-genealogy about these horses who range in generation from a grandchild to some great-great-great-grandchildren of Secretariat, or just to enjoy the beauty of the horses on a splendidly clear, colorful autumn evening, have a watch.

photos by Laura

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October 8, 2020

On Friday, October 2, 2020, Old Friends at Ashton Grove held its official opening. It’s been a long time in the works. When Old Friends supporters Bev and John Passerello moved from California to Ashton Grove Senior Living in Georgetown, they saw the potential for a wonderful blend of happy horses and happy people. The Passerellos saw that Ashton Grove, a new facility only a few miles from Old Friends’ main farm, included some good pasture land and a barn. These had formerly been used by Hill ‘N’ Dale Farm and were still in excellent shape. They saw there was good fencing and ample room well back from the noise of the road. They saw that Old Friends could use more space for horses. So, they talked with Michael and with Davonna Saier, Executive Director of Ashton Grove, both of whom loved the idea. Retired people and retired horses—it was a natural.

AG 201002 herd and peoples

It was a big project being proposed, and of great importance to all concerned, equine and human. It had to be done right, and implementing such projects takes time, forethought, and effort. Through the year of planning and preparation the Passerellos provided the energy and unfailing confidence in the project that made it a reality.

John Bradley, who has been with Old Friends for many years, first as a tour guide, then full time barn staff, is managing the Ashton Grove extension of Old Friends. During the summer he oversaw the building of additional fences, installing of waterers and renovations to the barn. Davonna had given me a tour of the premises nearly a year before, so I knew it was a good, sound barn, but when John showed me the improvements he’d made for the safety and comfort of the horses and staff, I was really wowed.

A run-in shed under construction

In the last week of September the first five horses were moved to their new home. Daytona, Secret Getaway, Massone, Porfido and Ireland’s Eye—the herd some of us call “the red guys” though Porfido is bay—have lived together for more than a year. They’re a peaceful herd who all get along well with each other and they settled right in once they realized they were still together. When they discovered the wonderful un-grazed grass at their new home, their acceptance became delight.  When they realized they shared Ashton Grove with human admirers who’ll make sure they get as many carrots as they did in their old location, they quickly decided all was truly to their liking.

Secret Getaway

AG 201002 Irelands Eye gets treated

Ireland’s Eye gets a carrot slice

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Daytona enjoys a carrot

AG 201002 Massone

Massone

AG 201002 Jennifer w treat cart

Jennifer Miller brings treats for the people at the opening event.
She and Secret Getaway have made friends.

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John unveils the sign, which names the barn…

AG 201002 Barn name revealed to Bev and John P

… after the unfailing belief and energy of Bev and John Passerello,
which made Old Friends at Ashton Grove a reality.
(Notice their reaction. I think we succeeded in making the
dedication a fun surprise.)

AG 201002 Laura does her magic

Laura does her magic.

AG 201002 Channel 18 interviews Davonna

Davonna gets interviewed by WLEX, Channel 18 in
Lexington, which covered the event on their
evening news.

AG 201002 Mary photographs MW and BaT

Mary Greene shoots the video of the event she would post
on Old Friends’ Youtube channel and on Facebook.

A few days before the opening, Old Friends’ newest residents, Magic Weisner and his longtime friend, Bo’s a Ten, arrived and settled in, too.

Yes, you read that right. Magic Weisner now lives at Old Friends!

AG 201002 Magic Wiesner 03

Magic Weisner, who ran 2nd to War Emblem in the 2002
Preakness. He’s now 21.

During the 2002 Triple Crown season, Magic Weisner and his breeder-owner-trainer, Nancy Alberts impressed the racing world and became fan favorites. Nancy had bought a daughter of Bold Forbes named Jazema, paying $1 because of the filly’s crooked legs, but she trained Jazema to 14 wins. Jazema’s first foal was a decent racehorse too. Her second was Magic Weisner. Magic won the Maryland Juvenile Championship Stakes at Laurel Park. His three stakes wins at three prompted Alberts to give him a shot at the big time. Quite a long shot, in fact. He started at 45-1 in the 2002 Preakness Stakes, and with Richard Migliore up, Magic Weisner beat all except War Emblem. He impressed again with a 4th in the Belmont Stakes won by Sarava. Magic then won the Ohio Derby and finished 2nd in the Haskell. The 2002 contenders were a strong field, and Magic Weisner, the son of the $1 mare, managed by a hardworking horsewoman, proved himself one of the best.

AG 201002 photo Nancy Alberts and Magic Wiesner

The Meisters brought this big, beautiful photo of Magic Weisner
and Nancy Alberts, 2002.

Then, at the top of his game, Magic contracted West Nile Virus, a mosquito-borne neurological illness. He was successfully treated at the New Bolton Center, but when he never regained his form Nancy Alberts retired him. He remained with her until her death in 2011, then was cared for by her sister Linda Meister and brother-in-law Carl “Bunny” Meister, Jr. until their their farm’s sale meant Magic and his companion Bo’s a Ten needed a new home. They found one with us.

The Meisters chose Ashton Grove as the Old Friends location where Magic and Bo would live, were on hand to make sure the two horses settled in well, and attended the opening on Friday.

AG 201002 Bos a Ten 01

Bo’s a Ten

As for Bo’s a Ten, here’s some news that’ll make you love her. She’s a daughter of Patton! If you were lucky enough to visit Patton during his years with us, you know he was one of the kindest and most lovable stallions we ever had. Bo’s a Ten may not have been a famous racehorse with her 3 wins out of 43 starts, but former connections remember her sweetness. Former owner Theresa Groff moved her to Tarad Hill Farm, where the Meisters had Magic Weisner, in 2015. Bo and Magic bonded tightly, and they now share a paddock of their own at Ashton Grove.

The setting is idyllic, the horses are relaxing into their new surroundings in John’s loving care, and this looks like the beginning of wonderful times and happy new friendships for all!

Beth

Here’s the OF Virtual Tour you saw Mary filming in the snapshot above.

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September 30, 2020

King Kreesa, Kharafa, He Loves Me Not, Windy Land and Star Plus in the rain

Feeling stressed? Here’s a tonic. The ingredients are simple. Horses. Rain.

When rain came two days ago I rushed over to the farm hoping to capture video of horses rolling in the mud, splashing in puddles and playing. Often they become kids in rainy weather. As I drove up, sure enough, Sun King was having himself a good, wet roll, but soon as he saw me he popped up, eager for carrots. By the time I was ready to shoot video he’d finished playing slime games and was doing what he’s done a lot of lately, hanging out with Birdstone. We wondered why Birdstone ignores his other neighbors but really likes being right across the fence from Sun King until we remembered that these two were Nick Zito trainees at the same time. Maybe they remember each other from the old days.

Be that as it may, Sun King was the one who asked for the carrots and camera time, and got them. Maybe Birdstone will want to star in another video soon. Meanwhile, I took a very wet stroll around the farm making clips of what the horses were doing in the rain. Most of them chose to be outside the run-in shelters they have in their paddocks.

Little Silver Charm, dry in this photo Laura took a few evenings earlier, was impressively wet. That’s by choice. He’s got one of the best run-in sheds on the farm, and the only one with pin-ups of Zenyatta on the walls.

Winning Dubai, also dry in this photo, was out for a stroll in the pleasantly temperate rain with his new best friend, Cost Affective. In this photo he’s with Rathor.

The video also shows what Soi Phet, Hogy, Photon, Johannesbourbon, Cherono, St. Aloysius, Winning Dubai, Bunker’s Edge, Star Plus, Kharafa, King Kreesa, Windy Land, He Loves Me Not, Mystery Trip and Gold Round were doing on a mild, soft, wet, evening at the close of September.

Beth
photos of Little Silver Charm,
Winning Dubai and Rathor are
by Laura

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September 24, 2020

A few evenings ago, as we head toward fall and the sun sets earlier, I took the iPad for a walk to the back of the farm. The weather was mild, the horses were contented and lazy, and I asked them all the same question. “Whatcha doin’?”

Game On Dude

Alphabet Soup and Gorgeous George

The video below, Old Friends Blog Visit 25, shows the various answers they gave. I took the route up the hill to the back of the farm, hanging out a little with everybody along the way.

Amazombie (back) and Rapid Redux

Einstein

Everybody who came over to say hello, that is. Some of the horses obviously had stuff of their own to do. That’s fine. Evenings at Old Friends are for horses to peacefully enjoy whatever it is they feel like doing.

Arson Squad (front) and Fighting City Hall

Oh-oh, them again. Johannesburg Smile and Bourbonize

As you’re probably guessing, the horses in the photos were some of the stars of this week’s video. It features Game On Dude, Alphabet Soup and Gorgeous George, Touch Gold, Einstein, Amazombie, Rapid Redux, Arson Squad, Fighting City Hall, Diversify, Persie, Racketeer, Johannesburg Smile, Bourbonize, Easy Grades, Miss Du Bois, Elusive Honey, Kalamos, Lubash, MissZoey Belle, Saudi Poetry, and Forte Dei Marmi – in more or less that order – with glimpses of Little Mike, Classy Charm, Northern Stone, Ferocious Won, Stormy Passage, and Joey P, among others.

Miss Du Bois (chestnut) and Elusive Honey

Easy Grades (L) and Northern Stone

Forte Dei Marmi

I tried to get in as many horses as wanted to participate, but two of them sort of stole the show.

I hope you’ll enjoy this little look in on them to see what they’re up to these days.

Beth
photos by Laura

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September 16, 2020

Meet the two new girls, Mystery Trip and Gold Round. They’re as sweet as they are beautiful. See how Patch and Stormy Liberal are taking to sharing a paddock together, how The Pizza Man and Work All Week are settling in. Alphabet Soup is silver in the sunset and loving to his best buddy, Gorgeous George. This Old Friends Blog Visit also features Pollard’s Vision and Sun King, with glimpses of Special Ring & Popcorn Deelites, You and I, and Wake Forest & Brilliant Decision.

Patch (L) and Stormy Liberal

Stormy Liberal (L) and Patch

 

The Pizza Man and Work All Week with Special Ring and Popcorn Deelites (not an 8-legged horse) in the foreground

The Pizza Man

 

Alphabet Soup and Gorgeous George

Pollard’s Vision

A little background about the new mares. Mystery Trip is by Belong to Me out of Secretariat’s great daughter, Weekend Surprise. In other words, Mystery Trip is half sister to A P Indy, Summer Squall and Honor Grades. Though unraced, she foaled winners to some very prestigious stallions. She’s now 19 years old.

Mystery Trip

Gold Round

Irish bred Gold Round is also close kin to legends. By the formidable Caerleon out of Born Gold by Blushing Groom, she is half sister to the great Goldikova. She was a Grade 3 winner in France, herself and also dam to winners. Though not flashy she’s gracefully put together and confident. Both mares are very friendly.

Sept. 17, 2020 – adding new photos of the mares by Laura.

Mystery Trip
Gold Round

I hope you’ll enjoy this little video about sharing paddocks and sharing love.

Beth
the good photos are by Laura
don’t blame Laura for the snapshots of the mares, though

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September 9, 2020

Derby week is over, and so is the limited run of Derby week tours at the Georgetown farm. The horses on the front of the farm have let us know how much they’ve enjoyed their week of meeting, greeting, getting lots of extra carrots, and being united with their admirers, whether old friends or new.

Rapid Redux (L) and Amazombie

All is, again, a little less entertaining than most of the horses would like. Birdstone is still doing his quarantine, getting used to new ways and new neighbors. His neighbors are also getting used to a new guy on the block, as you can see in this week’s Old Friends Blog Visit video, at the bottom of this post.

Since the horses on the front of the farm had so much tour and carrot fun last week, I took my ipad and treats off that route to see horses who haven’t been able to share in the tour action. This means The Pizza Man and Work All Week aren’t in the video, and Birdstone makes only a cameo appearance. I promise to focus the lens on them soon. Meanwhile, I hope it’ll be interesting catching up with the doings of some of the horses you may not have seen for awhile. To get to them, though, I had to pay dues in carrots to Soi Phet. Hogy was dozing in the run-in shed they share, so didn’t get into the video.

Soi Phet

…And Einstein, who clued me into the theme for this video:  “Getting to Know You.” He’s getting to know Birdstone, as are the other near neighbors.

Einstein

And yes, I did look for a version of the song from “The King and I” to use in the video, but I didn’t find a licensed one. Oh, well. The horses made the theme quite clear.

Eye of the Tiger

Because Eye of the Tiger has changed paddocks and this means moving into a new “neighborhood” on the farm, with new horses on three sides to get to know. (He’s also getting a nice new paddock sign, by the way.)

Diversify and Joey P.

Joey P. and Diversify are peaceful across-the-way neighbors for Tiger. They hang near him enough to provide company, heads quietly over their fences, and when he’s not interested in company they have their own stuff to do. The same is true of Arson Squad and Fighting City Hall, who make appearances in the video.

But have you ever moved into a neighborhood and found out too late you have nosy neighbors?

Bourbonize (L) and Johannesburg Smile

Yes. Who else but the “Turrible Twosome,” Johannesburg Smile and Bourbonize. I always thought Afternoon Deelites was the biggest busy-body on the farm, the horse most eager to be in the thick of whatever is going on. He’s right up there, but I think Johannesburg Smile and Bourbonize currently have the prize.

I realize these two make it into more than their share of Old Friends Blog Visits … But they’re just so much ongoing fun.

Other horses featured are Amazombie, Touch Gold, Rail Trip, Cherono, Lion Hunter, Persie, and Northern Stone. So join them on a quiet early September evening when the grass has greened up nicely again and the sunset it at its most beautiful.

Beth
photos by Laura

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September 3, 2020

It’s an Old Friends Blog Derby tradition to present the Old Friends Angle for the Kentucky Derby and Oaks. That is, which of the contenders in America’s top races for three year old colts and fillies are descendants of present or past residents of Old Friends?

Just as Saturday’s run for the roses will be unlike those of other years in so many ways, it also happens not to have the usual several starters whose pedigrees include OF retirees. Of course, Old Friends is extremely proud of our relationship with several human connections of these impressive young horses, whom we wish the very best of luck. So far as equine family goes, though, this year’s Derby features only two, Storm the Court and Thousand Words. Storm the Court is a son of Court Vision, one of the many illustrious sons of the great Gulch. Storm the Court will be starting from post position 4. Thousand Words is a great-grandson of 2001 Preakness and Belmont winner Point Given, himself a grandson of Gulch. Thousand Words starts as number 10.

Gulch (1984-2016) by Laura Battles

Three 2020 Kentucky Oaks contenders descend from past Old Friends residents. Here again, it’s no surprise to find the influential stallion, as well as champion in his own right, Gulch, in the ancestry of two. They’re Tempers Rising who’ll start as number 2, and Bayerness who’ll be number 6. Both of these fillies are by Bayern, whose dam Alittlebitearly is by Gulch’s most famous son, 1995 Derby winner Thunder Gulch.

But the very impressive favorite is Swiss Skydiver. She’ll start from post position 1. She’s by Daredevil out of Expo Gold whose sire is Johannesburg. And Johannesburg’s damsire is Ogygian (1983-2015).

Ogygian (1983-2015), taken Sept. 2013 by Laura Battles

As it happens, Swiss Skydiver’s representation of Ogygian in the Oaks coincides with something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. Soon after joining Old Friends as farm manager, Tim Wilson made a 10 minute video of Ogygian, which he posted to Youtube, but afterward discontinued his Youtube channel. For all Ogygian’s fans who’ve been missing it, I’m delighted that Tim has given me permission to republish the video.

For those of you who didn’t know Ogygian, a few words. In this video Ogygian was 31 years old, an emormous age for a Thoroughbred. He was the grand old man of the neighborhood, having outlived his fellow 1983-foaled contemporaries Groovy, Tasso and even Storm Cat. Not just outlived, but continued to relish life. Ogygian had been through a lot, but in his case that was reason to enjoy every pleasure that came his way. He was incomparably wise, didn’t suffer fools gladly, was still fierce when he thought the occasion required, and the most generous being of any species I’ve ever known. He was also a master of manipulation. To get the most out of this video, keep in mind that among horses, the dominant one is the one who moves the others.

Tim was aware of this. We all indulged Ogygian. Not just because when this video was made in August 2014 he was convalescing from a throat ulcer (it healed), but because he was Ogygian.

Beth

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