Today was a pretty special day at Old Friends. Jockey Calvin Borel visited the farm this afternoon and it was a real treat. As you know, Calvin won this year’s Kentucky Derby (on Mine That Bird) as well as the 2007 running, on Street Sense. He is also the regular rider of Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra. But let me back up a little and start earlier today…
It was a gorgeous day in central Kentucky—about 80 degrees with blue skies and big puffy clouds. Calvin was due at the farm at about 4 pm, so I went a little early to visit “the boys.” The big barn was emptied of horses in preparation for the event and everything was pretty much ready to go. I took a short walk, starting with a quick visit to Fortunate Prospect. Gramps has been spending his afternoons in the barn out of the sun. I think he really likes that; Janet says he comes right to the gate and heads into the barn. The stalls have box fans set to blow into the stalls, and Gramps apparently enjoys just standing in front of his own personal breeze. But today he was outside and he positioned himself in a prime spot for attention. He made sure he got his share of that attention, too!
Swan’s Way looked very dapper today, with his halter off and his long, black forelock covering his eyes. If you have ever met Swannie, you know that he has a very pretty, almost Arabian horse head with a dished face. Of course, the overall elegant picture is somewhat deceptive. When you get close, you realize he is his usual dirty self. Pat him on the neck and you raise a cloud of dust.
EscapedfromNewYork had zero interest in visiting and never lifted his head from the grass. So I moved on to Sunshine and his next-door neighbor, The Wicked North. Both horses were happy to say hello and get some attention. Sunshine Forever and The Wicked North–two fantastic, gorgeous Eclipse award winners, side-by-side, waiting to be patted. Where else can you see that?
I am used to seeing Norty in the barn, and I think I kind of forgot how beautiful he is. Norty is a large, muscular, gleaming red horse with a white stripe down his nose. He is something to see when the sun shines on him. But despite that beauty, his best quality is still his kind and gentle temperament. He never nips or bites, and just loves to be patted and fussed over. And today I caught another tour guide, who shall remain nameless (Mercer!) communicate very nicely with Norty using….baby talk!
Kiri was able to be without his grazing muzzle today, for the party. He won’t be happy when it goes back on tomorrow. But we have had a decent amount of rain this year and the grass is still amazingly green and lush. Given his age, we have been worried about his weight and afraid he might founder, eating such rich grass for so long this year. But for today, he was happy to rub his face against me without the encumbrance of the muzzle. It’s easy, sometimes, to ascribe human expressions to the horses, but I really suspect his vanity is offended by having to wear the muzzle.
As the afternoon marched on, people began arriving for the afternoon’s festivities. There were several horses that saw crowds of people and immediately went into “show-off” mode. The usual suspects—Danthebluegrassman, Bull inthe Heather, Pops and Ring—took advantage of the moment to either run around, or strike poses at the fence. Even Clever Allemont came over and hung out near the fun, taking advantage of the extra attention. Ogygian stayed in his run-in shed, apparently way too cool to bother with so much nonsense.
But of course the main reason everyone came to Old Friends today was the opportunity to meet Calvin Borel. Calvin, his fiancée Lisa, and his jockey agent arrived promptly at 4 pm. Wearing jeans, a shirt and a Rachel Alexandra hat, Calvin immediately started greeting people and posing for photos. He did some media interviews, answering questions about the Triple Crown, Mine That Bird, and Rachel Alexandra . (Calvin told me, by the way, that Rachel “is not normal,” meaning of course, that she is something very special.) Michael took Calvin and Lisa to see Mark of Success, who Calvin rode, and then he got down to the business of signing his autograph. What a guy! He signed hats, shirts, photos, posters, magazines, Derby glasses and who knows what else. There must have been well over 200 people standing in line to meet him, and he greeted every single person with a huge smile, chatting with them all. I think the best part was how willing he was to pose for photos with anyone who asked, making a special effort with the kids. A nice, nice guy–hands down not your typical professional athlete. He is exactly the man we all saw on TV, celebrating his Derby and Preakness wins so joyfully.
As I stood and watched the lines of people wait patiently for their autograph, I was struck by how many faces I had never seen at Old Friends. Usually, when we have events or fundraisers, I see a lot of familiar faces. Today was a great mix of regular supporters and people who had never been to the farm but who came to meet Calvin. There were a few familiar faces from my Sunday tours as well. I think we made a lot of new friends at the farm today, thanks to Calvin’s support. I know everyone at Old Friends can’t thank him enough.
As the day wound down, I found myself with a fan of my friend Wallenda. And wonder of wonders, Wallenda actually posed for pictures—he usually is more interested in checking out the photographer—and stood relatively calmly to be patted and admired. A woman, whose father owned the horse Wallenda beat in the Super Derby, also stopped by to see him. For me, I have to admit, having people admire Wallenda was the icing on a pretty good afternoon!
Well, I guess that’s probably about all the excitement for today. I’m back to my regular tour and blog schedule next week, although I am going to Churchill Downs on Saturday for the races. I promise we will be rooting for Calvin Borel, on every horse he rides! Thanks for stopping by OldFriends on a Tuesday, and we hope to see you soon!