Jockey Palooza Day! And Secretariat himself could not have ordered up better weather. It was sunny and warm, topped with trees turning color, happy horses and fun people. Bobby Ussery, Jean Cruguet, Patty Cooksey and Chris McCarron represented the retired jockey colony. Kent Desormeaux was everywhere, talking, laughing and posing for photos. Chris brought his current crop of Jockey School students. It was a fabulous afternoon.
Earlier in the afternoon Old Friends was a beehive of activity. Stalls were given a final cleaning, the big field by the pond was mowed for parking. The tents were up and tables were being arranged. I took a tour of about 30 FFA kids from North Dakota. They were fun kids, high-school aged, and most of them pretty farm- and animal-oriented. It took awhile to convince them to grab the carrots and start feeding, but by the time we got to Jade Hunter and Gramps, they were having a great time. They really enjoyed Commentator as well, since he does not miss a tour. I didn’t have my usual mints, but we discovered he was just as happy with a spearmint TicTac! One of the girls made sure she had a photo taken with him—she said she’ll never pat another multi-millionaire horse. They happily passed the hat for a donation, and ended up with shares in Pops and Charmie. They were great kids and I enjoyed spending time with them. We also had a large group of 4-H kids visit today. There was a lot of activity for even a normal weekday, let alone a special event day.
By mid-afternoon, Furlong’s Catering had set up the mobile Cajun barbeque pit and the smells were incredible. Tommy from Furlong’s did the very best barbeque—pulled pork, ribs, chicken and dirty rice—that I have ever had. I heard a lot of folks say it beat anything they have ever had in Memphis, Texas or anywhere. It was that good. I think several of us were trying to decide how to sign him up for a permanent stay at Old Friends!
By 3:30, people started arriving. It was great how all the jockeys just fit right in. They mingled amongst the crowd and talked with everyone. One of the things that most impresses me about the jockey colony in Kentucky (and it might be this way everywhere but my experience is in Kentucky) is how friendly and accessible these world-class athletes are. Kent Desormeaux wants photos of the five or six Old Friends horses he rode, to frame for his house. I overheard Chris McCarron talking to a recent business school graduate about opportunities in the horse business. Bobby Ussery dropped a donation in the bucket every time he picked up a beverage at the bar. All of them participated in the live auction part of the evening, including an auction of “Seattle Slew’s Last Carrot” autographed by Jean Cruguet. Really– it was a nice, big, autographed carrot!
The horses were funny throughout all this. Black Tie Affair, The Wicked North and Wallenda were in the big barn during the festivities. Blackie got all wound up when he heard the PA system for the first time. I think he figured it was race time. Norty HATED that people were in the barn and not feeding him treats. If anyone walked past him without paying homage, he banged on his stall door until they did. Wallenda mostly turned his butt to the door and watched through his window as everyone wandered around outside. Dan, whose paddock is adjacent to the main yard of the farm, stood at his fence fascinated with the activity. He and Creator might have had the most fun, just taking it all in. Clever wandered to the far side of his paddock and stayed there. No foolishness for him. Oh, and Escaped stood by his fence greeting all the people who walked up the driveway from the parking area.
But the high point of the day for me, and you really had to be there to fully appreciate this, is when Kent decided to “ride” Silver Charm. Now, Charmie is tiny, as you know. Kent’s feet hit the ground. And Charmie hasn’t been ridden maybe ever, or at least not in the recorded history of man. All I can say is that Kent laughed so hard, after the little guy nearly dumped him! Can you imagine? The guy rides 1200 pound Thoroughbreds at 45 miles per hour. And 250 pound Silver Charm almost did him in. And yes, there are photos here: http://www.equisportphotos.com/Clients. Scroll down to the Old Friends folder. Matt Wooley is a terrific photographer who takes the photos that end up as our poster series.
I hope we can do this again sometime because it was great fun. People hung around until evening–at 7:30 when I left, Kent was still walking around talking with folks. If you were there, thanks for joining us and helping support our horses. If you weren’t able to be there, thanks for spending this Tuesday evening with Old Friends. We hope you can visit us soon!