Today we gathered to celebrate the lives of the Old Friends residents who passed on during the last year: Benburb, Buzzovertomyhouse, Eternal Orage, Kano Doble, and Marquetry.
It’s always sad to see the new markers, to feel that sense of finality that the beauty, presences, eyes, scents, individual merits and quirks that are still so vivid are now only memories. In some senses they are so near. Every one of them.
Our commemoration began in a way that is becoming a tradition, with longtime supporter Kyle Weisker’s melodic rendition of the National Anthem, followed by a tradition Old Friends has been fortunate to have included in every memorial gathering, Bill Mooney’s eulogy. Bill won an Eclipse Award for his 2006 story about the last days of Old Friends resident Precisionist.
Simply and movingly, Bill paid tribute to each of the horses who passed during the last year. While I can’t replicate his eulogy, some of it stands out as especially memorable. He recalled 1992 Canadian Horse of the Year Benburb’s defeat of A. P. Indy in the Molson Million as “a dream come true” for the connections and “an upset for the ages.”
Buzzovertomyhouse, though not a remarkable racehorse, had a “tremendous family heritage.” The game, New England-based Eternal Orage had a remarkable win percentage, including multiple stakes victories. Kano Doble, by Holy Bull, also carried a proud heritage, being a great-grandson of the small but superlative mare Ta Wee.
And Marquetry. A multiple Grade 1 winner. A sire of two Eclipse Sprint Champions, Artax and Squirtle Squirt. Marquetry defies any description in words, but he was certainly “a bona fide star.” Bill summed up what we all felt. “When Old Friends leave us, they always do it prematurely.”
Volunteers and supporters shared memories. Tour Guide Mercer VandenBurg on Buzzovertomyhouse—“Aunt Buzzy,” as she was known to her friends at the Merefield facility—“Her strength was in her personality.” And Benburb mischievously showing who was boss with the occasional well-timed shove with his head. Louise, an equine photographer, remembered capturing Precisionist and Glitterman, as well as living residents Prized and Sarava, through her lens.
Faithful supporter Terri Bey shared her memories of one-on-one time with Marquetry, and tour guide Teri Haverfield recalled the way Eternal Orage, the gentlest of souls, couldn’t resist egging on Tinners Way. Michael spoke of Marquetry. Of watching him win the 1991 New England Classic at Rockingham in 100° heat. Of Marquetry’s intelligence and kindness, the way he rested his head on children’s shoulders. “He was the only horse who’s ever been here who never made a mistake. He created great times for everybody who came here.”
Michael also told the story of Kano Doble, abandoned by his former owner, and of the battle that developed when one day the woman who’d abandoned him decided she wanted him back. (Moral of the story: Don’t go to war with a newspaper columnist if your motives aren’t good. Columnists have friends who are newspaper cartoonists.)
The memories having been shared, Keeneland bugler Bucky Sallee played the final call to the post for Benburb, Buzzovertomyhouse, Eternal Orage, Kano Doble, and Marquetry. The farewell did not go unnoticed by the living horses. Creator poked his majestic red head over the fence. Flick pricked his ears and gave a hop. Danthebluegrassman danced in place. Popcorn Deelites and Special Ring appeared over the rise of their paddock looking around as if to find out where the track was.
We toasted the horses that we’ll always remember. We felt gratitude to have been part of their lives and to have helped make their final years happy ones. Under the May sunshine, we strolled this way and that among the paddocks, appreciating and celebrating our wonderful living Old Friends anew.