I feel moved to mention a sadness that lingers over Old Friends. Though Bill Mooney’s presence at the farm was as often in spirit as in person, especially during the last few years as he battled illness, Bill’s wisdom and love for the Thoroughbred have been a beacon throughout Old Friends’ existence.
Bill’s Eclipse Award winning account of Precisionist’s death at Old Friends in Georgetown has become iconic, but he chronicled many of our residents long before there was an Old Friends. His words contributed to our—racing fans’—perceptions of them on the track and as through their progeny. As Michael nurtured Old Friends from a few paddocks with a few horses into its present thriving three farms and two satellites providing homes to more than 150, Bill Mooney was a steadfast supporter, an active publicist on Old Friends’ behalf, and a champion on behalf of all Thoroughbreds.
Bill was also our eulogist. He, who had chronicled their careers and the eras of racing that their achievements blazoned, gave them, and we who mourned their passing, a final gift of words in his respectful and loving tributes each Memorial Day. I especially remember Bill’s eulogy at the first Memorial Day gathering, when his words closed the circle between our horses who had passed that year and the human veterans honored on that day by reminding us of the equine veterans of wars they did not cause but in which they served and died, and the wartime contributions of, and losses to, the breed of the Thoroughbred. I remember, too, his yearly naming their names, making each horse appear vividly again in all our minds.
But my favorite memory of Bill comes from a party at Michael and Diane’s, sitting on the sofa with a Kentucky Derby tee shirt spread between us. The kind with the names and silks of that year’s entries printed on the back. This shirt was for the 2007 Derby, by that time some years past. As Bill or I pointed to this name and that one, we traded observations on the horses, their sires, dams or damsires, their runs in the Derby and in other races. What I remember the most vividly is Bill’s kindness in listening to my takes on these horses about whom, and about whose connections, he knew so much more than I, just a fan on the sidelines, ever could. I felt pretty honored.
Bill’s wisdom and kindness will continue to live on in all we do at Old Friends.