Today feels strange. Hollow. It’s the first Memorial Day in more than a decade that I haven’t hustled over to the farm in the morning and washed the markers and headstones, my traditional part in getting ready for our annual gathering to honor the lives of the horses who have passed during the last year. I know how empty today must feel to everybody who usually gathers to make Memorial Day at Old Friends the sweet, sad, comforting time it has been, and will be in the future.
In a way, it’s just as well. For the first time in Old Friends’ history this Memorial Day it’s not just raining, there’s a thunderstorm. We’d all be huddled in the big barn among the farm vehicles. When we can gather safely, I trust the weather will be kinder.
I look forward to being with all of you who’ll gather to share memories. For now, because it’s Memorial Day, this blog will – as every year- honor the horses who each, in his or her way, made a place in our lives, and a place in our hearts that only they can ever occupy. At the main Georgetown farm, they are:
BEAU CASHIN IN
W. C. JONES
BEAU CASHIN IN
Unusually for an Old Friend, Beau Cashin In was a flashy sorrel and white Quarter Horse, though with Count Fleet, Blenheim and War Admiral in his deep ancestry. He was also a contender in the Quarter Horse races at the Fair Grounds, Delta Downs, Sam Houston, Lone Star and elsewhere. His single win came at Delta Downs in 2002. But his claim to fame was quite different. After retirement from racing, Beau continued to work on the track for Thoroughbred racing. After the Preakness Stakes, as the victorious horse and jockey head for glory in the winner’s circle, former jockey Donna Barton Brothers joins them on horseback for a television interview. And the horse she rode? Absolutely. Beau Cashin In.
Lorita Lindemann arranged Beau’s retirement with us. At Old Friends he proved himself to be a steady soul. Not a pushover, he wasn’t cuddly with most people, but he was a horse of great good sense and dignity who provided Dinard and Archie’s Echo with peaceful companionship. He was strong, too, managing to accommodate the issues of aging with quiet steadfastness.
Cajun Beat, winner of the 2003 Breeders’ Cup Sprint and other top stakes, was as kind as he was handsome. Raced by Padua Stables and John and Joseph Iracane and trained by the great Bobby Frankel, Cajun Beat was a son of Grand Slam and descendant of Secretariat. He spent his retirement inseparable from his longtime friend, Padua’s Pride, who stood guard over Cajun’s body after he died, nudging him with his nose. Padua is still with paddock mate Riversrunrylee, now joined by Discreet Hero and Cappucino Kid.
Cajun Beat’s name brings to mind the easy-going joy and grit of Zydeco music, and this champion sprinter had plenty of all these qualities. His playful moods were of a kind, good natured variety. For his fans he gladly played the star, accepting treats and petting with equal graciousness, but just as graciously let his paddock mates get a share in the booty. He did everything gracefully and we miss him.
Euronfire’s passing in a paddock accident last winter took us unprepared. Her life seemed to have grown into a shape perfectly to her liking. In her early days at Old Friends she was a junior member of Hidden Lake’s herd before moving to the big mare herd ruled by Santona. As life went on in that herd Euronfire gained seniority and confident leadership of her herd. She enjoyed ruling the roost. Throughout it all, the beautiful chestnut mare remained friendly and sweet. She liked to be caressed, and she was a kind companion to her best equine friend, Miss Hooligan.
As a young horse, Euronfire captured the heart of her racing co-owner, Patti Davis, whose tribute to her can be read by clicking January 2020 on the sidebar. When the neurologic herpes virus EHV-1 ended Euronfire’s athletic career, Patti was there for her, enabling her retirement to Old Friends and spending time with her as often as she could visit Kentucky. These two had a strong bond.
Every time I pass the paddock that was his I miss his flaming chestnut coat, his Arabian-esque refinement and beauty, and our countless, long play sessions. Geri looked nothing like his great sire, Theatrical, but he inherited much of his prowess and heart. Geri won the 1996 Oaklawn H (G1), 1997 Citation H (G2), 1996 Crème Fraiche H (G3), and 1997 Woodbine Mile. I was one of his many fans, as was Michael, neither of us imagining in those days that we’d come to intimately know the spirited, wildfire-fast horse. As a stallion he stood at Hill ‘n’ Dale, in Japan, and finally in Italy. Most would say his best progeny was the grey turf mare Bedanken, but I’ll always be grateful to Geri for his son A. P. Slew (1999-2014).
As those he regarded as his own can attest, Geri had many moods, some of them a little grumpy. He was possessive of the people he regarded as his property. I got in trouble if I spent too much time with his neighbor, Silver Ray, but Geri always came around. Grooming blissed him out as much as any horse I’ve ever known. Especially his mane. He’d close his eyes and never want you to stop. After the dentist extracted front teeth that had given him pain, Geri liked to gum his favorite people. Zach, for instance. I got him a big purple chew toy, one of those barbell things for large dogs. He chewed it and the stimulation seemed to feel good to his gums, but he preferred an elbow or the heel of a hand.
I’ll always be grateful to John for phoning me early on the Saturday morning Geri colicked. Antonio, Selso and I walked him in circles for what seemed an eternity until he could be trailered to the hospital. It was a Saturday, so I had to stay and do the 10:00 tour. All the signs were hopeful. We all, vet and farm folks, thought he’d make it. But kissing Geri and walking off that trailer was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I never saw him again. Others loved Geri and could tell their own stories of times shared with him. I know who some of them are and that they knew other sides of the exceptional athlete and unforgettable stallion, so I hope I haven’t gone on too much about our bond. Losing Geri still goes deep with me, as with all who loved him.
Geronimo, a top stakes horse in Chile, was imported to the United States at the age of four. He proved himself in America with his wins in the Morvich Handicap (G3) and Green Flash Handicap. He was a winner on all the major West Coast tracks and earned through the age of seven. After spending the first years of his retirement at Tranquility Farm, a California nonprofit, Geronimo came to us with Areyoutalkintome during the hard winter of 2014. He prospered with us and was well liked by all the horses with whom he ever shared a paddock.
He was a big horse with a golden coat, his good looks made even more distinctive by the white “eyebrow” – a quirky extension of his blaze – over one eye. During the five years we were fortunate to know Geronimo he endeared himself to all with his steady good nature.
Our Chilean, Santona, was a mighty mare in both size and personality. She was a champion at the Club Hipico De Santiago where she won Las Oaks (G1) in 1997. At four she was imported to the United States where she raced for Earle Mack. Her best foal was Grand Hombre, a Pennsylvania Derby winner by Grand Slam (Cajun Beat’s sire). When Mr. Mack, a good friend to Old Friends, retired her from breeding we were delighted to give her a home.
Always kind with people, she ruled our biggest mare herd with an iron hoof. Nothing fazed Santona. Once when a farm vehicle was in the paddock so some of us humans could deploy the wingless wasps we used to use for fly control, Santona decided she wanted the humans not to leave but to continue the strange poop-kicking ritual she and the other mares found so entertaining. So she positioned herself broadside in front of the Kubota, its headlamps almost touching her, and squarely refused to move. The horn made no more difference than our urgings did. She wouldn’t budge until she was led away. That’s the kind of being Santona was. Confident. Totally secure in herself. Pleased with the many good fortunes her life offered her.
Shadow Caster was a gentleman. Genuinely gentle. Affectionate with people, sociable and peaceable with his paddock mates. Well, most of them. For some reason he liked to pick on Areyoutalkintome. He was a loyal friend to Maybesomaybenot, and Bobby Sands completed the trio of buddies. Shadow Caster won the Forego (G2) and other stakes. He and Futural looked much alike and had the same sire, Future Storm. But how many were aware that Shadow Caster and Beau Cashin In were first cousins, the damsire of both being Duck Dance?
Shadow Caster had the love of everyone on the farm, and he returned it. He was just that kind of horse. He was exceptionally tuned into what the people around him were feeling. If he sensed you were sad he’d hold still to be rubbed and he’d nuzzle you. His decline was gradual, and we kept hoping we could get him over his issues, but they became multiple. When the time came for him to go, he was surrounded by people who loved him.
W. C. JONES
Though he came to us as an unwanted horse, W. C. Jones always knew he was entitled to whatever treats or attention were on offer. His big, rugged frame, distinctive blaze, and friendly good nature made him a standout with visitors who got over to the pasture officially numbered 51 (a.k.a. “Area 51”). Jones never won a race, but he won plenty of hearts. That pasture is home to a herd of especially confident, active geldings, all of them with strong opinions (see last week’s video), and as you might imagine, a lot of politicking goes on among them. That herd has two gangs who get along better at some times than others. Jones was unique in being welcome among both gangs. If they’d been two fraternities (gelding herds have much in common with frat houses) or two parties of senators, W. C. Jones would have been the negotiator between them.
His going was unexpected, and hit us harder than we foresaw. He was never a squeaky wheel, but he was a real character.
There is no way to define War Emblem. I wouldn’t presume. The epitaph Michael wrote for his headstone comes as close as any attempt I’ve seen: “Tough, tenacious, genius. We thought he was immortal.” It’s true. Obviously, War Emblem was no mere horse.
But of course there’s much more to say about him. For instance, that he won the 2002 Kentucky Derby and Preakness for trainer Bob Baffert, ridden by Victor Espinoza. He led from start to finish. His strong will decreed that no other horse would be allowed to get even a nose in front of him for even a moment. He was the best, and he was always the best. So he was in front, and he was always in front. A stumble at the gate interfered with him running that kind of a race in the Belmont, but he did overtake the leader and held his dominance for much of the race before his unsettling start tired him and he was forced to concede. But he came back in the Haskell, winning again from wire to wire. The rest is history. How he decided he’d had enough of racing. How his stud career at Shadai Stallion Station in Japan was marked by talented offspring but he decided he’d had enough of that, too. How Shadai generously donated this formidable Derby and Preakness winner to Old Friends where he decided he liked the work. Eating carrots and being admired were two activities of which War Emblem never tired.
Because he liked his life with us, and because we did our best to make his life predictable and leisurely, two conditions he let us know were essential to his sense of security, War Emblem mellowed with us. I think he developed real affection for Michael, and for some of the barn staff. He had our deepest affection. We started out respecting him, little knowing that independent-spirited though he was, he also liked to engage with all that went on around him. I’ll always remember the solar eclipse, a bunch of us watching through Dr. Waldridge’s special glasses, and War Emblem on his side of the fence, hanging out with us through the whole event.
None of us will ever know another like him. Never. There will never be another like him. Even the larger than life presence of Touch Gold in that paddock leaves it looking bigger, less filled to the brim, than when it was War Emblem’s kingdom.
Yankee Fourtune died after a long, difficult coping with the issues that slowly robbed him of his mobility. It was time and he went peacefully, but he was still young, all of which made his illness and going hard. Some of you will remember him as he really was, in his comparatively sound days sharing the big front paddock with Game On Dude. In temperament and affection, those two were a perfect match. We regretted eventually having to separate them, but Game On Dude, young, sound and exuberant, wanted to run and play more than Yankee Fourtune could keep up with. Yankee was overdoing it, and had to move in with quieter companions.
The second part of his retirement was spent with a few geldings who, like Yankee, were among our less physically active. He was unfailingly nice to them and kind to people, whether friends or strangers. But I’d rather remember Yankee Fourtune playing with the Dude. Or winning the 2010 Hawthorne Derby in Ohio and the Commonwealth Turf Stakes at Churchill Downs. As a fleet silver streak running free. That’s who he was.
photos by Laura
Watch the Old Friends channel’s slide show tribute to these horses we’ll never forget.