At the beginning of a new decade, life at Old Friends goes on. I suppose the horses don’t know the difference, although they are all a year older. Fortunate Prospect turns 29—and that is hard to believe when you see how good he looks. Black and fuzzy, he is only a little sway backed; you don’t notice his gray face until you are up close. Gramps moved back to his old paddock just behind the office and I think he likes it. He promptly laid down for a long nap in the sunshine, only flicking an ear when Kent walked right over to him.
As you know, Thoroughbreds officially turn one year older on January 1. Lots of carrots are handed out on the big birthday! Tomorrow, Bonnie’s Poker turns 28, as does Clever Allemont. Ogygian will be 27 and Polish Navy, 26. Sunshine Forever, Glitterman, Jade Hunter, and Proper Reality will turn 25. It’s hard to believe, when I watch Sunshine run hard and fast across his paddock, or see Glitterman prance along his fenceline because his neighbor horses are annoying him.
The big news, of course, is that Gulch arrived at Old Friends just before Christmas. Gulch won over three million dollars and an Eclipse award as Champion Sprinter. He also sired Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner Thunder Gulch and more recent millionaires The Cliff’s Edge and Court Vision.
Prior to being pensioned and arriving at Old Friends, Gulch stood at stud at Lane’s End Farm in Lexington. Lane’s End felt that Gulch would thrive with all the attention at Old Friends, and his outgoing personality would endear him to our visitors. It’s the well-known horses like Gulch and Commentator that allow us to introduce people to the less famous horses at the farm. People who come to visit the horse they know invariably leave in love with a horse they never heard of!
At Old Friends, Gulch’s stall is right next to his other millionaire son Wallenda, making them our first father-son combo. Wallenda is bigger and blacker, Gulch smaller and redder. Yet the two of them share their big, bright eyes and a fine sense of fun. Both come right over to say hello, and both like to have their faces rubbed. I have no doubt that Gulch is a ham, just like his son! And now, as Michael reminded me, Old Friends is home to the last surviving members of the Eclipse Class of 1988—Gulch and Sunshine Forever.
As I said, for every horse like Gulch who comes to Old Friends, there are many horses in residence that you may never have heard of. Two of them, Du Pars (who we call Lukas), and Cherono, were gelded on Wednesday. I’ve talked about Lukas before—he’s a very friendly, handsome, and likable horse who loves his mints. Cherono is a beautiful, bay son of Grand Slam (out of an Ogygian mare) who was owned by Ann and Jerry Moss. After a serious leg injury and subsequent rehab, the Mosses donated Cherono to Old Friends. Both horses handled their surgeries just fine. Although, as he came out of the anesthesia Luke acted exactly like he’d had way too much to drink. If he could talk, I think Luke would have asked “Where am I? What happened? Why aren’t my legs working properly?” But after a few minutes his head cleared and he began grazing like nothing (much!) happened. Now both horses will eventually be able to have pasture buddies, and they will be happier for it.
Dr. Fraley was at the farm today, working on Early Pioneer’s feet. Dr. Fraley takes care of Bull, Wallenda, and Black Tie Affair and it’s always fascinating to watch him work. Today’s work was all about making Early’s feet more comfortable, and you can really tell how much the horses appreciate it. As Early went into his stall for the night, he kind of looked over at Dr. Fraley as if to say “thanks, man.”
With tremendous amounts of mud everywhere, it makes telling horses apart more difficult. Swannie? Completely covered. Escaped? Top to bottom mud. Bull was more brown than white. Even Dan and Flick, who are completely different colors, were nearly matched. But nonetheless, mud is apparently just plain fun for the horses. Pops and Ring were running and sliding around like kids. Wallenda went outside and promptly rolled until his whole right side was caked. They were all happy, happy horses!
And so, at the end of this year, thank you to everyone who has had even the smallest part in the success of Old Friends. We’ve received help of every size—from farms and owners, trainers and jockeys, individuals and companies; right on down to kids who held bake sales and fundraisers. We couldn’t do this without all of you. We sure hope you can visit us soon. In the meantime, thank you for spending this year with Old Friends.