Monthly Archives: December 2009

Thursday December 31, 2009

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. 



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Sunday December 27, 2009

Happy New Year to all our Old Friends supporters and fans. I’ll be back later in the week with a full blog entry, including a report on Gulch’s arrival at Old Friends.



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Sunday December 20, 2009

The holiday season is upon us, and on a gray and quiet winter afternoon, it seemed a perfect day to absorb some Old Friends atmosphere.   We have about an inch of snow in central Kentucky, just enough that from afar the paddocks look like they are sprinkled with powdered sugar. (It’s not until you look more closely that you realize how much mud that pretty snow is hiding!)  Snow fell lightly most of the afternoon, adding to the wintry feeling.

For the most part, the horses were either quietly grazing or napping most of the day.   Even Buddy the office cat was uninterested in sneaking outside.  Visitors are less frequent this time of the year, and the lessening of tours has an interesting effect on the horses.  The old timers–the horses who have been through a couple of winters at Old Friends—adjust with a shrug.  They use the slow season to nap, graze on some frozen blades of grass, or just to gaze off into the distance, pondering whatever it is that horses need to ponder. 

 The new boys aren’t quite sure what to make of the downturn.  Escaped looks hopefully at every car that comes up the drive.  Commentator ran over everytime I passed by his paddock, clearly wondering what has happened to his adulation, and his mints.  Clever is among the deep thinkers, standing at the far side of his paddock gazing across the fields.  Gramps won’t bother to come over for just one person, but Jade Hunter didn’t disappoint.  He loves to be patted.  Mecke, Wallace and Blues were running up and down the hill in their paddock, although Pops and Ring were among those who opted for a nap.  Dan and Flick, both completely covered in mud, wandered over to say hi but didn’t seem too upset at the lack of tours.

 Creator loved the snow, running laps around his field with his head and tail up.  Swannie took a few laps as well, although he was somewhat disappointed when his efforts only got him one peppermint.  He banged on the fence and grunted his displeasure, then wandered into his run-in shed out of the snow.  Du Pars was fascinated as Kent fixed a downed board in his paddock, peering over Kent’s shoulder ready to offer his supervisory opinion.   Smokey and Benburb thought about some exercise—they ran maybe four or five strides before realizing they didn’t really want to exert the effort.  They resumed grazing quietly. 

While I would much rather see visitors at the farm, I admit to enjoying the quiet days with the horses.  I patted Black Tie Affair, scratching his neck and face.  Norty was in the barn as well, but he was napping and didn’t want to be bothered.   Even Wallenda let me know he didn’t want company when I interrupted his morning nap.  Of course, later on in the day he was more than happy to have me peel the layers of dried mud off his coat.  

The very first time I ever visited Old Friends was in January. Today reminded me of that cold day, when I first met Fortunate Prospect, Bull inthe Heather, Sunshine Forever, and when I fell for Kiri’s Clown.   If you dress warmly, this is a wonderful time to meet the horses.  We continue to offer tours daily, although at this time of year an appointment is most appreciated!   We hope you can visit us soon.  In the meantime, from everyone at Old Friends, we wish you and yours a most merry holiday season and a wonderful New Year.  Thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends. 



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Sunday December 13, 2009


Winter, also known as Mud Season, is upon us.  Instead of writing the blog this week, I thought I’d offer up a photo tour of the farm.  As you can see, mud is everywhere—except on Smokey Stover!

All photos are courtesy of my Pittsburgh friend Carolyn Nicastro.  Thank you, Carolyn!  (Scroll over the photos to see the horses’ names.)



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Sunday December 6, 2009

Now that Thanksgiving has passed, I am forced to admit that 2009 is about over.  It is just so hard to believe that another year is nearly gone!   Here we are, in December, and so much has happened this year at Old Friends.  It’s been a year since we lost Flying Pidgeon and Ruhlmann, and I still half expect to see the Pidge hanging out in his field.  Since last December the main farm has expanded twice—once with the addition of the “back 40” acreage, and again last month with the leased property next door.    The New York version of Old Friends welcomed its first residents this past week.  We’ve met so many new horses; some famous like Black Tie Affair, Bonapaw, and Commentator.  Others, like Du Pars and Appygolucky, were far from well-known.  EscapedfromNewYork didn’t even have a name when he arrived.  We’ve been visited by famous jockeys, met owners and trainers, had great fundraisers, and greeted new fans.  And yet, underneath it all, the point remains the same:  providing a home for retired racehorses where fans can visit and meet their heroes. 

We are so fortunate to have so many kind and gentle horses. Last weekend two little boys visited, leading us to take the “nice horses to pat” tour.  The “nice horse” loop is Black Tie Affair, The Wicked North, Clever Allemont, Danthebluegrassman, Fortunate Prospect and Jade Hunter.   For the record, we also have the Canadian loop—our two great Canadian horses Benburb and Thornfield are at the annex farm.  Then we have the “mare and gelding run”—up to the back 40.  The “Eclipse Award tour” takes us to Blackie, Norty, Sunshine and Hidden Lake, and Millionaire Row covers, among others, Blackie, Tator, Wallenda, Sunshine, Awad, Kiri and Will’s Way!   We can also visit offspring and parents of Kentucky Derby winners (Williamstown, Leave Seattle, Bonnie’s Poker, Polish Navy), black horses, gray horses, horses who actually ran in the Derby.  You can see the list of tour possibilities is nearly endless!

Carolyn from Pittsburgh, whose photos I have posted on the blog in the past, came to visit this afternoon.  Our mission was to visit every horse on the farm, and we did.  Even Bonnie came over to visit, enjoying a couple of mints and a face rub.  She looks terrific—fat, shaggy and content.  Hidden Lake, Kudos, Bonapaw, Futural and Affirmed Success  made their way over for mints, as did Regal Sanction and Easy Grades.   I also took Carolyn over to see the new farm, where she met Smokey, Tour of the Cat, Klassy, Bennie and Luke. 

Tour of the Cat has figured out a way to get dirty and stay that way.  He is a kind of active horse and when he is outside he tends to run around until he gets warm and a little sweaty.  Then, when he is good and damp, he rolls in the mud.  The combo of sweat and mud dries to cement-like balls of dirt that are stuck to his long winter hair like, well, concrete.   Only on one side, though, as his left side is nearly pristine!  It’s far too cold for a bath, and Tour doesn’t like the pulling on his coat when you brush him, so I guess he stays dirty until the next rainy day! 

I’ve said it plenty of times but it remains true—the cooler weather makes all the horses more active and energetic.  Awad feels as good as I have ever seen him, running hard and showing off for just about everyone who comes by.  I suspect he can run nearly as fast as when he was younger, since he has managed to pretty much maintain his youthful figure!  This is not true for a few others—while Will loves to run, no one would say he has maintained his “fighting weight.”  The same is true for Kiri and Sunshine. 

The horses rarely miss a trick when treats are involved.  While one may occasionally choose not to come over to visit, every one of them always knows when people are headed their way.  Still, occasionally one of them takes that to a new level.  EscapedfromNewYork lives in the first paddock on the right as you come up the drive to the farm.  He always, and I mean ALWAYS, meets people as they walk up the drive for tours.  Given the lack of socialization in his past, he has come a long way.  And he doesn’t need to see people walking his way to pay attention.  Oh no, he is way ahead of us–he watches for cars to turn onto the access road from the main highway!  He knows if the cars turn right, they are not headed to the farm and he ignores them.  BUT, if the car turns left, it must be coming to Old Friends and he immediately lifts his head to see if the car brings people.  Because, to Escaped, people equal treats!  You can’t tell me horses don’t have their own kind of logic.  Smart.

I promised I’d post a couple photos from Old Friends at Cabin Creek—the Bobby Frankel Division, so here they are.  We hope you can visit us soon, either here in Kentucky or in New York. In the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends.   –Val


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