February 16, 2023

Afternoon Deelites
(February 28, 1992 – February 14, 2023)
photo by Laura Battles

Two days ago our grand old man Afternoon Deelites was euthanized due to inoperable colic. He passed just days after his racing owner and breeder, Burt Bacharach.

Soon after his arrival at Old Friends in 2011 (photo Rick Capone)

Losing Afternoon Deelites is different from our other losses this winter, in that his going did not shock or take us by surprise. He achieved a remarkable 31 years old and in the last couple of years has really aged. Yet, we keep hoping one of the horses will break the record age 32 achieved by six of our late retirees, and Afternoon Deelites fought his body’s slowing down with a spirit that never flagged. He was always so here, so present, that it’s almost impossible to believe he’s gone.

He was a magnificent stallion, big and muscular in the mold of his great-grandsire Damascus. He awed his visitors. He bit some of them. He bit all of us. But never in meanness. He loved the whole world so much he just had to grab it. He was 100% stallion, yet he was the most affectionate horse on the farm.

Afternoon Deelites, May 2013. Photo by Nick Newman (I think)

He was also a great-grandson of Secretariat. Bred and owned by Burt Bacharach, with a dad named Private Terms and mom named Intimate Girl, what else could he have been named but Afternoon Deelites? His name suited him well, but since it’s a mouthful to say, he went by nicknames. I don’t know what he was called on the track, but Brereton Jones told me that at Airdrie Stud he was called Dee. At Old Friends he answered to AD.

As a juvenile he went into training with Richard Mandella and teamed up with Kent Desormeaux who became his only jockey and continued to visit him during his retirement. More than once he’s told us, “This is the fastest horse I ever rode.” In the 1994 Hollywood Prevue win he set a record 1:20.4. In the Hollywood Futurity he beat future Kentucky Derby winner Thunder Gulch by open distance. In 1995 he won the San Vicente, San Felipe, and the Malibu Stakes. At four he won the Commonwealth Stakes at Keeneland and finished second in the Met Mile. He stood at Airdrie Stud in Kentucky, then Clear Creek Stud in Louisiana which on retirement donated him to Old Friends in May 2011.

photo by Laura Battles

From the beginning we found AD to be powerful, friendly, a show off, and more than a little bit of a playful goof. As we got to know him better and deeper over the years, we learned he possessed courage and stoicism next to none, exceptional intelligence, and a constantly high spirited mood. Every day he was curious, on top of things, in your face, and happy. He was a dominent, competitive stallion, and with some of those you don’t want to mess with their dignity, but AD loved to tease and joke with his friends. He played so many games with different ones of us that I’m sure I have no idea of half of them. He played slow motion boxing with some of us. With me he’d flirt with his tongue, teasing me into trying to grab hold of it, but usually he was way too fast. Some of us would sneak up on him when he was snoozing with his back turned to his stall door and scratch his butt. At first he’d whip his head around, “What’s that?” but after awhile he’d just open one eye, “Yeah, right.” He adored getting that big, muscular back end scratched. And all along his back. And his neck.

If you met him on a tour, it may have been in his stall. During the last several years of his life, he spent his days indoors and his nights turned out in his paddock. He had more sensitivity than most horses to the sugar in green grass so we had to limit how much spring and summer grass he ate and make sure his hay wasn’t overly rich. With careful management of his sugar intake and—when the technology became available—spiffy shoes that provided great cushioning without the bulk of old style glue-ons, AD stayed in exuberant health. At 28 he was more energetic than many Throughbreds half his age.

Afternoon Deelites. “Old age is a state of mind, but it’s not mine.”

(photo by Laura Battles)

He was a good friend to us all, the greatest of company. Dependably, always. He loved tours not just for the carrots, or even just for the attention and praise. I think he looked at each tour that came his way as a chance to have fun joking around. He’d get that gleam in his eye and we’d have to watch that he didn’t grab, but he never intended any hurt. He was just interacting. And to see if he could. As AD’s good friend, former Old Friends staff John put it, “What a grand old stallion. His playful nature when we cleaned his stall, and when we would bring him in every morning and he knew breakfast was waiting for him. It was like trying to walk a D9 bulldozer into the barn. He provided us all with many smiles and a million laughs with his playful nature and stallion attitude.”

There was also another side to him. If you were upset or sad, he could be so gentle he’d rest his head in your arms. We’ve had greater champions on the farm, but we’ve had the honor of few greater presences than Afternoon Deelites. More than anyone else I’ve ever known, he understood how to enjoy life. He gloried in every minute of it, and he reminded us to do the same.


Remembering Afternoon Deelites


Watch Afternoon Deelites win the 1994 Hollywood Prevue Stakes

He’s easy to spot. He’s the big guy.

And the 1994 Hollywood Futurity







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February 11, 2023

Quindici Man delivers The Look.

Among Laura’s latest photos this morning I was wowed by this one of Quindici Man, just as a really striking picture.

Too bad he’s so muddy, I thought. If he was clean I’d have uses for that photo on OF materials. Then I realized it’s the lines of the mud, the trees, and his mane that make the photo. Without the mud it wouldn’t be nearly as dramatic.

So I thought the blog would be a good place to share it. If you like the look, you might be interested in seeing exactly how accomplishes it.

First it takes some thinking out.

Go for it!

Yeah, that ought to about get it.

Flaunting it.

Since many of you haven’t had a chance to meet Quindici Man yet, let me introduce him. He’s a 17 year old son of Came Home. He raced mostly on the West Coast and at 3 won the Pomona Derby at Fairplex, Jack Coady, Sr. Stakes at Turf Paradise, and Zia Park Derby, and at 4 the Bull Dog Stakes at Fresno. He also finished second and third in more prestigious graded stakes races. His biggest performance was in the 2011 Santa Anita Handicap where he ran third to no less than Game On Dude. Though he couldn’t catch the Dude, he outran some very fast horses that day. He went to stud in California and stood for a modest fee at Firth Ranch in Hemet until he was pensioned in 2022 and came to live with us.

Here he is cleaner and very handsome. This is his share photo. It’s by Mary Greene.



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January 31, 2023

Star Plus
(July 18, 2003 – January 28, 2023)

This is the saddest month I can remember. Winter can be hard on older horses, but we’ve never lost as many residents in one month as we have this January. There has been no one cause of death or any reason. We only ask with all our hearts that fate will be kinder to us for the rest of the winter.

Star Plus was a longtime favorite and loved by many visitors. Some met him a decade ago when he had the paddock where Birdstone now lives and played enthusiastic host to every tour. Some fell in love with him more recently on private tours to the south part of the farm, or very recently when, as companion to Eldaafer and Yahoo the goat, Star Plus again greeted walking tours. His looks stood out, and his extroverted personality made visitors into his instant fans.

He was bred in Argentina and raced in South America until he was brought north at age five. He won at Keeneland and Gulfstream and was graded stakes placed at Turfway. After a severe ankle injury, owner Earle Mack looked out for his safety and retired him from racing. When a small farm contacted him asking to buy Star Plus for stud duty, Mr. Mack stipulated in the contract that he would not race again, and if the buyers ever did not want him, Mr. Mack would be notified so he could find him a safe retirement spot. But new owners turned right around and put the horse back on the track. Even now, the legal aspects of the path to safety in such circumstances need to be more clearly defined. When Earle Mack learned Star Plus was racing, he began a hard-fought battle until he reacquired Star Plus, who had finished last in all four of these starts with stewards’ comments such as “labored throughout” (Mountaineer, Nov. 28, 2011).

Mr. Mack enabled Star Plus’ retirement to Old Friends. When he arrived in July 2012, we had some impressive horses on the farm, but frankly, this new guy’s presence blew us away. It wasn’t just his strong, handsome looks, or that supernova of a star (plus some) on his face. It was his irrepressible energy and joy in life, and his nonstop mischievous friendliness. If a horse ever had a sense of humor (and some definitely do), Star Plus did. He kept that sense of play and total confidence throughout his life.

In his first role as a meeter and greeter of tours, Star Plus gave us a chance to familiarize visitors with the story of this willing athlete who’d given his best and the owner who’d overcome difficulties to do the right thing for the horse. We’ve had others since with similar stories, and awareness of such situations can help other horses. The memorable personality of Star Plus made him perfect for the role, but he didn’t stop at that. To him, tours were invented specially so that he could get treats, show off, and have fun. Even with champions on the tour, it’s Star Plus who many fell in love with, and no wonder. Michael wasn’t immune to his charm either. Star Plus was one of his favorites.

Eventually, it was a new stallion’s turn to have that front paddock, and Star Plus moved to a bigger paddock on the path up the hill. He couldn’t join a herd until he was gelded, and then a horse’s hormones need time to settle. Star Plus remained a starburst of energy. Woe to those of us who de-iced his waterer in the snow and slick mud. I never knew Star Plus to have a mean intention in all his years with us, but he’d play chicken or nip your butt as you tried to work. Or, in the days before we could afford to lay gravel on the paths and the farm vehicles made some serious mud puddles, if you skirted the one between his paddock and Commentator’s steadying yourself with a hand on the fence, to Star Plus this was a wonderful game invented purely for his amusement. Fingers offered, just for him to nip! Whee! Yet he was always a gentleman when he accepted a carrot from a visitor. To him, it was all good, and all fun.

Star Plus (R) with his buddy, Kharafa

When he joined a herd, it meant moving farther from the main tour route, but he had big shade trees, more room to run, and he liked his new friends, Kharafa (his favorite buddy), King Kreesa, and He Loves Me Not. Soon they were joined by Windy Land. When folks came along, it was Windy Land who played boss, but it was Star Plus who was Mr. Personality, always friendly, always on the case, always getting the most carrots. Did I mention that this horse was smart?

Star Plus (L) with Eldaafer

When Eldaafer needed stall rest for awhile, his old buddy, Boule d’Or, joined other horses, so when Eldaafer rejoined Yahoo the goat, he also wanted horse companionship. Not everybody has an ego to match Eldaafer’s. Star Plus was selected as a good match. He, Eldaafer and Yahoo got along well, and Star Plus got more tour action, which suited him just fine.

We hoped he and Eldaafer might grow old together, and that we would have the pleasure of having Star Plus in our lives for many years to come. His passing was an unexpected shock. His going has torn a hole in our hearts. A hole as big and deep as his big presence. All of us, staff, volunteers and friends, will always remember him with love.

photos by Laura

Remembering Star Plus





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January 22, 2023

Thornfield (March 15, 1994-January 20, 2023)

Thornfield, by Sky Classic out of Alexandrina, a daughter of Conquistador Cielo, was bred in Canada by Knob Hill Stable, which raced him. He specialized on the turf and ran all but one of his starts at Woodbine in Ontario. His wins at age five in the 1999 Canadian International Stakes (G1) and Niagara Breeders’ Cup Handicap (G2) earned him the 1999 Sovereign Award—Canadian Horse of the Year—and the 1999 Sovereign Turf Award.

After his racing was done and an attempt at a career as a hunter/jumper did not work out, Thornfield was retired to Old Friends in 2007. The Georgetown farm was small then, and he lived at a satellite location where he was soon joined by Hussonfirst (see January 15 post). I so clearly remember meeting Thornfield in July 2008. There was a pasture with a big hill and no sign of a horse, but then here some came trooping over the brow of the hill, led by Duke Ora, with smallish, bright chestnut Thornfield between them. You could tell his the herd liked him, but he didn’t push forward for the carrots we’d brought. He obviously liked people but he didn’t compete for herd status. As I got to know him better, I saw he sort of let the others push him around. But when Hussonfirst joined that herd he singled out Thornfield for his particular friend.

My first sight of Thornfield, July 2008

In 2009 the main farm gained more land and Duke Ora’s herd, including Thornfield, moved to Georgetown. Right away visitors began requesting to see him, including many Canadian fans. “Thorny” loved playing host to visitors—if you could get his buddies to move over and give him room. For awhile, he and his companions had a paddock next to another Canadian Horse of the Year, 1992 champion Benburb (1989-2012), also a Knob Hill homebred. Benny, actually a roan, was a big, old, sweet, beautiful snowball of a horse. His befriending of new arrivals like Smokey Stover wasn’t surprising since he’d been a baby sitter for years at Knob Hill. Everybody, horse and human, adored Benburb. Since he and Thornfield had known each other in Canada, why did they only give each other dirty looks across the fences if they were forced to acknowledge each other at all?

One day a former Knob Hill staffmember came to visit her two old friends, and she told me this history: Thornfield’s dam, who raised several foals at Knob Hill, was a harsh mom and all her foals turned out timid. Thornfield ranked low among the weanlings and though he had talent on the track he didn’t have much competitive oomph at first. Between race meets he returned home and was among the youngsters put in charge of babysitter Benburb. Nobody knew what Benny did, but it was some kind of last straw, because Thornfield started pushing back. Not only did he stand up to Benny, the two were explosively competitive against each other. When Thornfield went back to the track, he took that competitive spirit with him. That year, 1999, he was the best racehorse in all of Canada.

But time catches up with athletes, and when Thornfield retired his dominant years were past. So was his dominant behavior with other horses. He resumed his don’t-make-waves behavior on the farm and brought it with him to Old Friends.

Thornfield in 2009

We never made Thorny share space with Benny. His companions were horses he liked, Hussonfirst, Ball Four, Seek Gold, Duke Ora, come to mind. Nice horses, but not pushovers. Thornfield was definitely one of the gang but gave way to the others.

Thornfield with Ball Four at Kentucky Downs

Then, in summer 2015, Old Friends opened a branch at Kentucky Downs racecourse in Franklin. The founding residents were Thornfield, Ball Four, Tour of the Cat, Sgt. Bert, and Rumor Has It. We’ve never known why, but the moment Thornfield stepped off the trailer and looked around Kentucky Downs, he took it over. He arched his neck and seemed suddenly twice as big as before. He took his four companions in hand, let them know this was his location and he would take care of the herd. If you think I’m making this up, have a look at “Remembering Thornfield” below. Laura Battles and Rick Capone captured this surprising and pleasing development with their cameras. Compare the photos of Thornfield before and after arriving at Kentucky Downs and you’ll see how confidently he stepped into his new role. Why he did remains a mystery, at least to us humans. All I know is that for the second time Thornfield found himself.

Thornfield at age 25

When that division of Old Friends closed in 2019, Thornfield and his friends returned to Central Kentucky. They remained together and the last years of Thorny’s life were spent quietly among his longtime buddies. His unexpected death due to a paddock accident at age 29 has deprived us of a longtime friend and a sweet presence who we will deeply miss.


Remembering Thornfield


Thornfield winning the 1999 Canadian International Stakes (G1)



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January 15, 2023

(April 11, 2005 – January 13, 2023)

He was not famous. He never won a stakes race. But Hussonfirst was one of the sweetest horses ever to grace Old Friends.

Hussonfirst was foaled in New York and bought by a partnership calling themselves Trackmen Golf Club Stable. He won at Saratoga in his first start. He was then tried in a stakes race and didn’t do so well but when dropped back to allowance competition he finished in the money more often than not. He showed talent. But then, having raced seven times, he fractured his leg. It could be fixed but he would never race again. He had already cost more than he’d earned. But partnership member Jim Ponte took full ownership, financed the care Hussonfirst needed, and gave him his life back.

Hussonfirst moved in at Old Friends in fall of 2008 at the age of three. Was that ever a win-win situation for us! We got playful, kind, cute Hussonfirst, and Jim’s JPonte Printing in Phoenix, Arizona donates high end printing to Old Friends. Have you ever seen our brochures? Do you have any of our bookmarks? The Old Friends Breeders’ Cup Program? When you admire the gorgeous printing, think of Hussonfirst.

When I first met Hussonfirst he was a bright, curious kid with his leg still bandaged. His surgery had been successful and he’d progressed to turn-out alone at the quietest of our satellite farms. A P Slew (1999-2014) was recuperating there too, learning to forget his last couple of trainers who weren’t good guys. The night before I met Hussonfirst, he’d jumped the fence, bandaged leg and all, to be with A P Slew. He wasn’t gelded yet and A P Slew was only newly gelded but in the morning they were found grazing happily together. That’s the kind of horse Hoosie was.

When he progressed to pasture sound and could have companions, he joined the herd in that farm’s huge pasture. Duke Ora was one, and Burrwood, and Kano Doble, but his favorite friends were Thornfield and Miss Docutech. Hoosie kind of adopted Miss Doc as his mom. He and Thornfield remained good friends long after they moved to the main farm.

As a youngster there was something of the cheerful, curious monkey about Hussonfirst. He already had the affectionate kindness that was his hallmark throughout his life. When the “Back 40” was added to the main farm, he and Thornfield were among those who moved in and they remained close, but Hoosie got along with all. As he matured he became capable, a bit of a boss but nice, a good companion for Lusty Latin (1999-2018), who was developing some physical issues that needed TLC. For some years they shared a paddock. Lusty Latin was on the lunch program, an extra meal a day to help him stay at healthiest weight. Hussonfirst didn’t need lunch, and it’s hard for a horse to watch another horse eat food they can’t get, but unlike some he didn’t need to be held on a lead until his buddy finished, and he never tried the sneaky stuff (talkin’ about you, El Brujo and Skip’s World). As long as you stood beside Hussonfirst he was good as gold. He also liked a massage or back scratch at those times. He was just an all-round loving guy.

Sadly, Lusty Latin passed in 2018. Hussonfirst then joined a spunky herd who were as fit as he was. These were his good friends for the rest of his life, especially Fabulous Strike, Commatothetop and Sokitumi Samurai. They shared gallops and good times, play and quiet times. As our private tours grew in popularity, this herd was a favorite stop. On summer days, before Covid, they often saw two or three tours a day. Hussonfirst, who shared the leadership of the herd with Fabulous Strike, got plenty of chance to shine for admirers along with his daily care and friendship from staff and volunteers. During Hussonfirst’s fifteen years at Old Friends, some of his best friends were Jim Ponte and his family who often come to Kentucky for the races and always spent time with him. He especially loved Jim’s grandkids.

A few years ago, Hussonfirst had colic and needed surgery. He recovered, rejoined his herd and had more happy years with them, but last Friday he had another bout of acute colic. Though he was rushed to the clinic and had surgery, this time it wasn’t possible to save him.

In his fifteen years with us, Hussonfirst gave affection, entertainment, love, comfort and laughter to his horse companions and many humans. He won a race, inspired Jim and the great people at JPonte Printing to do gorgeous stuff for us, nuzzled visitors and gave us all wonderful memories.

Don’t try to tell me there’s no use in a Thoroughbred with a career ending injury.



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January 7, 2023

(April 17, 1997 – January 4, 2023)
Kris S. – Souq (Damascus)

Grade 1 winner. Record holder. Character. Survivor. Friend. When Kudos died we lost one of our most beloved residents and a foundation builder for Old Friends.

Kudos was bred and raced by Jerry and Ann Moss. He began competing at two but it took him awhile to break his maiden. His first win came on his fourth birthday. He must’ve liked winning because he rattled off three more in a row. In one of these he set a track record at Hollywood Park. Another was his first stakes victory. In 2002 he won the Oaklawn Handicap (G1), and in 2003 (after finishing third to Milwaukee Brew and ahead of Futural in the Santa Anita Handicap) he won the Californian (G2). He earned over a million dollars. The Mosses retired him to Old Friends where their legendary Ruhlmann was then enjoying retirement.

West Side Pasture

Kudos arrived at the farm in June 2006, the same month I did. It took him all of a few minutes to take charge of what, at that time, was our only gelding herd. The only catch was, it already had a leader. Thus began the Sharks and the Jets. Bingo (Connery), leader of the Jets, had Riva Way and Easy Ellis. Sharks leader Kudos had Invigorate and Remmington (Zupardo’s Big Boy). Actually, they all got along pretty well, but you could tell who was loyal to which leader. When tours showed up with treats the Bernardo and Riff act began. Bingo had the charm, while Kudos had the presence. Being tall and handsome didn’t hurt. Over time that herd’s population changed, and when Bingo aged and moved to a less competitive herd, Kudos was its sole leader for years.

How Kudos Starred in People Magazine

One of Old Friends’ first national publicity breaks came when People did a feature on us. How exciting that was! Interviews. Photography. Little Silver Charm got special notice. The lead photo, full page, was planned as Michael with Invigorate, the horse he and Jack Nicholson had raced. Michael had a few carrots. Viggie got in close for the shot. As the shutter clicked, Kudos reached his long neck in for a carrot and stole the show. That’s the photo they used. Thus Kudos became a star in People Magazine.

The Best of Friends

Of course Kudos felt entitled to share Invigorate’s treats, and not just because Kudos generally felt entitled. He and Viggie shared one of the deepest ever of Old Friends’ many equine bonds. Through their herd’s changes in membership, and in location when the big pasture up the side of the hill was divided into paddocks and Kudos’ herd moved to the back 40, the bond between those two remained tight. On the sad morning in 2009 when Invigorate was found to have died, Kudos was standing guard over him. Kudos continued to boss the herd but refused to accept any of them as his companion until the supremely socially graceful young Cherono joined the herd and somehow broke the ice. Kudos and Cherono became fast friends. You’d almost think they knew they were both with us thanks to their mutual former owners, the Mosses.

Ellis and Remmy passed, Riva was moved into a different herd, and the population of Kudos’ herd got younger. Eventually, Kudos was moved to a more mature herd. There he formed his last strong bond, with Affirmed Success. Living in a big back pasture, one of the best on the farm, Kudos and Affirmed Success, the two who’d been stars of the track in the day, became the two wise old patriarchs of their herd. Young whippersnapper El Oh El might make the dive for the first feed trough, but they all respected Kudos and Affirmed Success.


In the last years of his life Kudos survived EPM (Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis), a neurological condition caused by feces from possums, racoons and other small quadrupeds, against which there is no vaccination. It causes loss of coordination, and at its worst, fatality. Kudos had more than one onset, and during the worst we feared we’d lose him, but he was made of tougher stuff than it was. Survivors even of serious EPM often gradually regain lost neurological function, sometimes miraculously, and Kudos improved. Through it all, he never lost his desire to keep on keeping on. He maintained high rank in his herd. He was smart and found ways to do what he wanted to do. His canter became odd, but he wanted to canter and canter he did. Quite fast, actually. He was always at the center of all that went on.

His Final Year

Last February, Affirmed Success passed, and I won’t pretend Kudos wasn’t sad at losing him. But his was a courageous spirit, and this time he didn’t refuse friendship. He hung out with El Oh El, a younger gelding who’d moved into the leadership of the herd. But not exclusively. Kudos was well liked by all his pasture mates. At twenty-six, he definitely seemed his age. He no longer bossed the others or shouldered everybody else out of the way for carrots. Yet he kept the dignity of a horse who enjoys life and knows who he is, and he had devoted friends among the staff and volunteers, of whom one of his favorites was Laura, who saw him win the Oaklawn Handicap in 2002, documented his last decade in many photographs, and gave him great back and neck scratches.

Not that even the most expressive photo could capture who Kudos was. I tried to add to the impression with the music I chose for the video, but I think you just had to know him. Kudos wasn’t shy, and many people had the good fortune to know and love him during his retirement years. With them he has left an indelible impression of character, confidence, strength of will, and friendship. We were so very fortunate to have Kudos in our lives.

photos by Laura

Remembering Kudos



Laura gives Kudos a scratch, 2019

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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.


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

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.

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.






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