Yesterday afternoon was Old Friends’ annual Memorial Day celebration of the lives of the residents who passed during the last year. As the number of our residents grows, so does the wonderfulness of being on the farm, but, inevitably, so does the one hard part, the eventual loss of those we’ve come to love. There’s comfort in gathering to share our memories of them, some of them brilliant, most all of them courageous, and not a few of them real characters, the likes of whom we won’t see again.
This year we also keenly felt the absence of Bill Mooney, our official eulogist for a decade. Bill passed last January, but he left us in capable hands when he chose his successor, fellow turf writer Mary Simon. Mary recalled the accomplishments and adventures of Al the Bingel, Charismatic, Delay of Game, Duke Ora, Futural, Halo America, Hidden Lake, Judge’s Case, Karakorum Patriot, Sea Native, and Swan’s Way.
Some of the people who knew these horses best kindly shared their admiring, often fondly amusing, recollections and insights, among them, Charismatic’s breeder Robin Roach, Judge’s Case’s former owners Daniel Zamborsky and Jason Phillips, Sea Native’s former owner Angela Black, several Old Friends staff and volunteers who grew close to them in their retirement, and others who loved them.
The gathering concluded with the traditional toast in Maker’s Mark or lemonaid to the great athletes, the hard-knocking claimers and the gracious sharers of our good times, who may have left us, but who will never leave our hearts.
Duke Ora’s trainer Lorita Lindemann, who enabled Dukie’s (and Slamming’s, and other deserving horses’) retirement to Old Friends, couldn’t make it to Kentucky for the gathering, but she sent these words about the brave old campaigner:
Myself and another trainer shared a mutual owner back at Suffolk Downs. When the other trainer no longer was able to train Duke Ora due to sickness I was asked if I would take him into my stable. Dukie was a local fan favorite and one of the last foals of Lord Avie still racing. Coincidentally, I shared ownership of Slamming with the same connections! When Dukie turned 13, still racing and still a winner in his senior years, I knew he deserved a safe haven with nothing to prove, and instead of the green turf he raced so long on, to enjoy a green pasture.
Finally, I need to express our sadness the loss last night of another courageous campaigner, Diamond Stripes (2003, Notebook-Romantic Summer by On to Glory). He was the winner of the 2006 Pegasus Stakes (G3), 2007 Meadowlands Handicap (G2), and 2008 Etisalat Godolphin Mile (G2). He died due to complications connected with a condition described by resident veterinarian Dr. Bryan Waldridge as progressive ethmoidal hematoma, a benign but highly locally invasive sinus cancer. Throughout his illness, Diamond Stripes remained, as always, a kind and patient friend to our staff members and volunteers. We will miss our beautiful Diamond.