Monthly Archives: February 2008

February Freeze, Eclipse Awards

The weather for the past two days has been very nasty, freezing rain on top of snow yesterday, snow on top of ice today. But we can’t let the boys and girls wait for their breakfasts, so Michael and I bundled up and trudged out into the elements to deliver feed and lots of carrots (thank you, Tim Ford) to some happy and excited horses. They don’t mind the weather, in fact they seem energized by it, as though they’d been given a day off from school.

We wouldn’t have been able to attend the Eclipse Awards at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel if it weren’t for two of our most generous and steadfast supporters. Racing writer Bill Mooney won an Eclipse for the piece he wrote about the death of the great champion Precisionist at Old Friends. It was heartfelt and it was beautifully written. He invited Michael onstage and donated the award to Old Friends. It was a remarkable moment. Angie Dickinson, who has supported Old Friends from the first, bought us a table and sat with us, lending us some much-needed glamor. I don’t mean to disparage the Old Friends group – everybody smartened up pretty well – but Angie is “Hollywood royalty,” as she was described very apty when she presented the awards for best three-year old colt and filly.  She’s also a very funny lady. When she met Dr. Holly Aldinger, looking gorgeous in a strapless coral dress, Angie said, “If she were your vet you’d make sure your horse was sick every day.”

Holly is working for six months near Palm Springs. You may remember that she was the vet who was called upon to put down Precisionist, and kissed him tenderly as he passed away. Old Friends is very fortunate to have Angie, Bill, Holly and so many other wonderful friends.  – Diane

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Santa Anita et cetera

It’s weirdly warm here today, nearly 70 and stormy. Any minute we’ll probably be back to single digit temperatures, but meanwhile we’re enjoying the unpredictable Kentucky weather. Spring is in the air. It’s breeding season, and while most of our older stallions have seen it all, done it all and are pretty blase about the mating game, some are raring to go. There’s plenty of life in these old boys. Ruhlmann, in particular, has been looking for love in the wrong place, to wit, a telephone pole in his paddock. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, to borrow a phrase from a “Seinfeld” episode, but it’s a little undignified, and splinters could be an issue.

Today is Futural’s 10th birthday. He’s celebrating with extra bananas, his favorite snack, and apples. Saturday Swan’s Way turned 19. We sang him a chorus of “Happy Birthday” and  plied him with Stud Muffins, a gourmet horse treat sent by a generous donor. He loves them. They all love them, actually, and I can see why. I took a bite of one – they have an irresistible aroma – and it was very tasty.

Of course you’d rather read about horses than humans, but bear with me for a bit. Our trip to California for Old Friends day at Santa Anita was heartening. It was great to see so many of our West Coast supporters, and some of our friends who traveled from other parts of the country to attend. It has been raining a lot in L.A., but when we were there the weather was perfect, sunny and cool. Michael says the good weather was due to Old Friends karma, but he says that about anything good that happens.  Santa Anita was beautiful. The air was clear, so the view of the mountains, some of them capped with snow, was spectacular. We had a good spot for our gathering on the clubhouse patio where we enjoyed a delicious lunch, had a silent auction of Old Friends-related item and watched – and bet on – the races.

The highlight of our day was the fourth race, the Old Friends. Peggy Whittingham, as charming and funny as ever, presented the trophy. Peggy’s late husband Charlie is, of course, a racing legend, “the best trainer who ever lived,” according to Peggy, who should know. She pointed out an imposing portrait of Charlie, prominently displayed in the clubhouse. We were impressed.

 Two Step Salsa, a 20-1 shot trained by Julio Canani, won the Old Friends. Our farm manager, Janet Beyersdorfer, used to work for Julio, so in this case maybe it was Old Friends karma at work. Janet had planned to make the trip, but her dog, Duncan, has been having seizures and had to undergo an MRI. Janet wouldn’t leave him, especially after the vet suggested the problem may be related to separation anxiety. We missed Janet but we understand. Duncan is a very sensitive dog.

The Old Friends race was Michael’s wagering highlight too, and he used some of his winnings to treat some of the O.F. contingent  – Sylvia “Director of Everything” Stiller and her husband Jim, tireless volunteers Ruthann and Mercer Vandenburg, Michael’s sister Pat and me – to dinner at the Derby, the Arcadia restaurant that used to belong to legendary jockey George Woolf, who rode Seabiscuit and so many other outstanding horses. We had a lot of fun looking at the collection of racing memorabilia displayed in the restaurant.

Next (I hope), the Eclipse Awards. And I plan to post lots of photographs of horses, humans, cats, dogs etc. if I can ever figure out how to transfer them. Help! – Diane

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