Monthly Archives: May 2020

May 28, 2020

This week’s Old Friends Blog Visit returns to Farm 2 where some of our most wonderful gelding herds live. After saying hello to Eldaafer and Boule d’Or in passing, it drops in on the horses on that part of the farm not visited in earlier videos:

Starspangled Heat




multiple graded stakes winner King Kreesa (L) and He Loves Me Not


Windy Land, son of Mixed Pleasure and descendant of Seabiscuit


handsome South American personality Star Plus


two-time Pat O’Brien Stakes winner Disturbingthepeace (center) and Tinners Way’s son Riva Way


Fergus Mac Roich and Slamming


Summer Attraction


multiple graded stakes winner Daytona


Chilean star Porfido, Ireland’s Eye and graded stakes winner Massone


Skip Away’s son Secret Getaway


Old Friends Stakes winner Kalamos


gritty survivor Winning Dubai


So please join me for a visit during a gorgeous May sunset at Old Friends.

photos by Laura



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Memorial Day, May 25, 2020

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:




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.


191226 Geronimo 2


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.



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.


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May 24, 2020

A few evenings ago Laura took some photos in the rain that are so spectacular, and so close to the horses’ individual essences, that they don’t need much narration. They come pretty darn close to the horses speaking for themselves.

Because I’m human I feel an urge to apologize for how muddy they are in these pictures. I doubt the horses feel any need to apologize at all. During a spring rain what’s more natural than rolling in the mud?

In this little photo essay Game On Dude shows how it’s done.



Amazombie and Rapid Redux

…once properly decorated, it’s nice to enjoy some fresh, green May time salid.

Bourbonize and Johannesburg Smile take shelter from the rain

Though some take a different view of spring showers.


Najran’s son Palmer’s Approach

Others prefer their water in a glass. Or waterer, as the case may be.

Victor Cooley

Others figure that if you fix a photographer in a steady gaze for long enough, a carrot will often materialize. That technique didn’t work much at Woodbine or Belmont – or maybe Victor Cooley was too busy winning races there – but it’s an amazingly effective method at Old Friends.


Miss Hooligan


Though Touch Gold has moved into the paddock that was War Emblem’s, the 1997 Belmont Stakes winner has brought his signature Grand Entrance with him.

At 26 I think Touch Gold has adopted an attitude that Creator patented: “Old age? Yeah, I read about it somewhere.”

Here are two especially beautiful photos of Miss Du Bois and Elusive Honey.

Miss Du Bois (front) and Elusive Honey

Miss Du Bois poses by herself


Special Ring and Popcorn Deelites are always ready to pose.


As is the breathtakingly gorgeous Einstein.


As usual, Green Mask would rather play.


So would Patch.


…while Stormy Liberal relishes a scratch from Michael.


There are yet more beautiful photos from this most recent session of Laura’s. So many more that soon they’ll make a whole nother blog post or two (can you tell I was an English professor?). For now, I hope you’ll enjoy these glimpses of life as it goes on at Old Friends. With all my heart I look forward to when we can safely open and you can take photos of the horses for yourselves. They’ll be so pleased to see you.

photos by Laura


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May 20, 2020

This week’s Old Friends Blog Visit features Hollywood Gold Cup winner Rail Trip, Ogygian’s descendants Cherono and Johannesbourbon, hard workers Photon, Rathor and Cost Affective, Saint Aloysius, Bunker’s Edge, and Lion Hunter. These horses live in two big pastures south of the main tour route. If you’ve taken one of the regular tours you’ve seen them just beyond Sarava’s paddock and the paddock shared by Soi Phet and Hogy. In fact, getting there means passing Soi Phet and Hogy, who also wanted a carrot and ended up in the video too.


Rail Trip (R) and Cherono

Compared to most of the others, this week’s video is short on information, so I’m including some factoids here. Why is it a little short on clips of horses politely taking turns standing for closeups while they’re being introduced in live-tour fashion?

Well…you’ll see if you watch to the end.

The most impressive pedigrees in that herd belong to Cherono and Lion Hunter. Cherono who is now – hard to believe! – 18 years old is its senior member and leader. He’s by Grand Slam out of Smooth and Classy by Ogygian out of a Never Bend mare. He was a promising runner for Jerry and Ann Moss until an accident cut short his career. Though aware he would not be able to race again, the Moss team gave him the surgery he needed to have the comfortable, paddock-sound life he’s enjoyed with us since 2009. Lion Hunter, 11, is an unraced son of Lion Heart whose dam is by Alydar’s son Turkoman.

Saint Aloysius (front) and Lion Hunter


Saint Aloysius is the youngster of the herd at 7. He’s by Exchange Rate out of a daughter of Saint Liam and is the mischief maker of the herd. He was raced by the late Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints and other sports teams and trained by Dallas Stewart.


Johannesbourbon, by Ogygian’s juvenile champion grandson Johannesburg, was raced by Bourbon Lane Stable. In the video I say I lost my money on him at Keeneland. To clarify, Johannesbourbon ran in the 2012 Lexington Stakes. Impressed by him in the paddock, I made a bet I would have cashed had the race ended one furlong sooner. So it goes, but he showed talent and competitive spirit. As later developed, he had all a racehorse should, except for perfect knees. When his knee issues worsened, Bourbon Lane sold him for stud purposes but he fell into less ethical hands and was put back on the track on a bottom level circuit. He probably wouldn’t have lasted long there had not Mike McMahon of Bourbon Lane Stable purchased him back and retired him with us. Does Johannesbourbon dwell on all of this? I doubt it. He hangs out with his cousin Cherono, holds high rank in the herd, and takes no sass from Saint Aloysius.


Photon, 11, a son of Invasor, was a hard working athlete. He raced 36 times and earned nicely at ordinary racing levels. He raced mostly in New York and held the distinction of wins on the dirt at distances varying from 6 furlongs to 1 1/16 mile. He arrived at Old Friends in 2014.


Cost Affective and Bunker’s Edge

The other herd lives one pasture to the south. I say “herd” though they’re now a trio, Palmer’s Approach having moved to a different paddock – so he’ll be in a different video soon. Cost Affective, 10, is the trio’s undisputed leader. He’s by Officer out of a Danzig mare and began his race career as a homebred for Juddmonte Farms. He also was an honest hard worker with 28 starts though only 3 wins in Kentucky and along the East Coast. Later he raced for West Point Thoroughbreds, and afterwards was claimed by Drawing Away Stable. I was wrong in the video. An injury ended his career in July 2018 and he arrived at Old Friends later that year.

I also boo-booed about Bunker’s Edge. He raced 7 times, not 8. One of the nicest horses on the farm, he looks like a diminutive version of his dad, the great Giant’s Causeway. His damsire is Mr. Prospector, so his pedigree is plenty impressive, too. The video explains why he has two name signs, one as Bunker’s Edge and one as Shirley’s Horse.


The Irishman, Rathor, is 18 and so the senior in the trio. He’s by Machiavellian … Street Cry’s damsire, so a close cousin of Zenyatta for all you Z fans out there … wonder if those interestingly shaped blazes are a family trait? Rathor raced 48 times in England and America and won 12. He was trained by Bobby Frankel and a good earner on all three surfaces. Though not famous, he holds the distinction of beating Funny Cide in a race Rathor won at Keeneland.

These are the horses. Here’s the video. This one is a two-parter, the straight version and the blooper reel.

photos by Laura


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May 13, 2020

“Ain’t too proud to beg.” Muliple Grade 1 winner Affirmed Success finagles a carrot from Laura.

He used the same move on me a few evenings later when I made the video. Again, it worked magnificently. Affirmed Success is one of the biggest stars at Old Friends’ Georgetown farm. He hasn’t lived on the front of the farm for some years, so he’s not on the regular tour route. He’s made his home in big pastures with the original gelding herd, of which he and Kudos remain the foundation members. Both of them are featured in this week’s Old Friends Blog Visit video.

Affirmed Success, now 26, won the Vosbergh (G1) beating no less than Tale of the Cat and Distorted Humor, the Cigar Mile (G1) , the Carter H (G1), the Forego H (G2), the General George (G2), two runnings of the Poker H (G3), and the Toboggan (G3) which he won at age 9. I never saw him race in person, but whenever I felt down I knew that win or lose, a race of his on TV would leave me smiling. Affirmed Success was the definition of courage. I’m still in awe of the old warrior and I often tell him so.

El Oh El (foreground) and Kudos (pretending to be in the background)

Kudos, looking deceptively modest in this photo, is actually anything but. His many claims to fame include earning a million dollars on both the turf and the dirt for owners Jerry and Ann Moss and trainer Richard Mandella, his victories in the Oaklawn H (G1) and Californian S (G2) and other stakes, and the track record he set for 1 3/16 miles at Hollywood Park. Oh, and also the time he photo bombed Michael and Invigorate on the cover of People magazine. Kudos, who’s 23, has mellowed over the years he’s been with us but still holds high rank in his herd.

The handsome El Oh El, at 10 the youngest member of the herd, now leads it due to his youthful energy. He’s a vocal nickerer and very clever. Though not a champion, he’s a successful veteran of 55 starts. Bred by Mace and Samantha Siegel, he’s a son of Speightstown and raced on the Eastern Seaboard.


Fabulous Strike

Fabulous Strike, 17 now, won $1.5 million. He also won a running of the Vosburgh (G1), as well as the True North H (G2), Alfred G. Vanderbilt H (G2), Aristides H (G3), Gravesend H (G3). Confident yet nearly always the gentleman, he doesn’t need to order his paddock mates around to be the solid rock supporting his herd’s sense of security.


Others starring in this week’s video are 2011 Kentucky Derby competitor and outstanding sprinter Comma to the Top, 2002 Derby contender Easy Grades, Interwin the Australian who never won a race but was a three star eventer…


…Nothern Stone (a. k. a. Rocky), Hussonfirst, Fantastic Day, Marshall Rooster, Sokitumi Samurai…

Sokitumi Samurai


…Sakatoga Stables’ Saratoga Episode, Tuneintobow (a. k. a. Bobo)…



… along with a finale from Wake Forest and Brilliant Decision and hellos from Silver Charm, Alphabet Soup, and Maggie the cat. I hope you’ll enjoy it.



photos by Laura




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May 8, 2020

2017 & 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Stormy Liberal is one of the horses featured in this week’s OF Blog Visit. Here he is photographed by Laura in much prettier weather two days before the overcast evening of the video.

Whether acclaimed champions or just hard working horses who did their best, it’s a privilege and joy to spend time with the Old Friends retirees. That’s something that strikes me freshly every time I’m with them or am able to do anything for them. Even when it’s time to take more video clips and the weather doesn’t cooperate. Even when the horses wonder why I’m standing there talking to no one with a mysterious rectangular object in front of my face.

This week’s Old Friends Blog Visit may not quite be the “dark and stormy night” of its opening line. In fact, it wasn’t raining at all, though unlike in these beautiful photos Laura took a few evenings earlier, the light was leaden and the colors aren’t bright.

Ide also stars.


And Eye of the Tiger.

But horses are always a bright spot, so here’s this week’s video visit with Stormy Liberal, Ide, Eye of the Tiger, Amazombie, Green Mask and Little Silver Charm, plus cameo appearances by Pollard’s Vision, Patch and Rapid Redux. As for Little Mike and Sun King…well, you can decide about that. I mean, they already had nice, long segments in last week’s video.

2011 Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Amazombie was more into socializing than Rapid Redux. Next time, Rapid may be the sociable one.

I apologize that Alphabet Soup and Gorgeous George aren’t in this week’s video. Until the weather warms up, those two are still doing their turnout time by day and spending the chilly nights in the stall they share. As I promised Alphabet Soup when he looked out of his stall to say hello I plan to devote quality video time to him and George when the days heat up and they start spending the cool of the evenings outside.

Little Silver Charm puts in an appearance.


2012 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Little Mike: “If it’s happening in my home, it’s my party.”


Sun King is never an attention hound.

Whatever the weather, I hope you’ll enjoy this visit with more of our most illustrious former athletes, Old Friends Blog Visit 8, Favorites on the Front of the Farm, part 2.


photos by Laura

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May 5, 2020

This weekend Laura took some of the most gorgeous photos of several of the horses that, to my mind, have ever been taken of them. I want to share my favorites with you.

Riva Way, 22 year old son of Tinner’s Way, and grandson of Secretariat


Ivan Fallunovalot, 10 year old Texas bred graded stakes winner


Sokitumi Samurai, an 11 year old son of First Samurai


Discreet Hero and Cappucino Kid share a mutual back scratch


Padua’s Pride, an Irish son of Caerleon, is 23.


Fergus Mac Roich, 13, is a son of Peace Rules.


Disturbingthepeace (with the blaze) and Slamming, share a paddock with Riva, Fergus, and Summer Attraction.


Brilliant Decision, a grandson of Ogygian


Now I’ll admit it. I hope you enjoy these gorgeous photos, but they’re also bait to draw you in. If you haven’t yet donated to Old Friends through the GoFundMe Giving Tuesday Charity Grant Program, please consider doing so. If you already have, thank you!!! Until tours are again possible, you are making all the difference to them.

Click Here to Donate

photos by Laura Battles


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May 2, 2020

Though today isn’t Kentucky Derby Day 2020, the first Saturday in May is too much in my DNA not to be thinking about the Derby. As we look forward to this year’s Derby which is rescheduled for the first Saturday in September (Sept. 5th, 2020), the quiet of this spring allows time to contemplate and admire the great athletes that have competed in past runnings of the Kentucky Derby.

A good many of them live at Old Friends. A good many others spent their final years with us. We’re proud to be the place one of the greatest living Derby winners calls his home.

Silver Charm

Silver Charm, winner of the 1997 Kentucky Derby, came to live with us on December 1, 2014. He was owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis, trained by Bob Baffert and his jockey was Gary Stevens. The Lewis family repurchased him on retirement from the Japan Bloodhorse Breeders’ Association (JBBA) and donated him to Old Friends. He arrived accompanied by Sandy Hatfield, Stallion Manager for Three Chimneys Farm, who formed a bond with the handsome grey champion while he was doing stud duty at that farm and arranged the logistics of his relocation. Silver Charm, who was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 2007, is 26 years old now. He’s one of the smartest and kindest horses we’ve ever had the privilege to know. Quietly regal and unfailingly gracious to his friends, he’s a bit of a task-master with those he considers his servants, from Michael on down. He’s a horse of decided opinions who knows his own greatness and in the manner of the genuinely great, shows it in his generous spirit. But if this sounds solemn, those of you who know him have probably seen those flashes of his other side, his mischievous sense of humor.

As all of us, staff, volunteers and friends, will never forget, we’ve also been privileged to be the home of two other Kentucky Derby winners, War Emblem who passed less than two months ago and who we desperately miss, and Charismatic for whom we waited so long and whom we’ll never stop missing.

War Emblem

War Emblem won the 2002 Kentucky Derby wire-to-wire over one of the strongest fields of the century so far. Owned by the Thoroughbred Corporation, trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Victor Espinoza, he was as legendary for his fierce character as for his considerable prowess. He spent his stallion career at Shadai Stallion Station in Japan and sired 2012 Japanese champion filly Robe Tissage, among other talented competitors. When War Emblem retired himself by refusing to cover mares, Shadai Stallion Station generously donated the spirited Derby and Preakness winner to Old Friends. Though never a team player, he was surprisingly interactive and involved with people, and with all that went on around him. As those of you who visited him know, War Emblem came over to say hello to nearly everyone who came to see him (and, admittedly, to get carrots), seven days a week, three times a day. What else is to say, but that he was one of a kind?


Charismatic. Say what you like, I still think he would have won the Triple Crown. Coming from behind he overwhelmed the others in the 1999 Derby for owners Bob and Beverly Lewis and trainer D. Wayne Lukas, ridden by Chris Antley. I know he did win plenty of hearts in his all too brief retirement with us. Charismatic stood at Lane’s End Farm in Kentucky, then JBBA in Japan, and like Silver Charm, he had financial support for his return home from the Lewis family. All three of our Derby winners have proved in different ways a little imperious, and Charismatic was no exception. Unlike War Emblem he was kind, and the ultimate team player, but once he caught on that groups of people moving around the farm meant carrots – which he did at once – he neighed when he saw a group, demanding their attention and carrots immediately. He was big yet graceful, flashy with that gold coat and those white stockings, beautiful and distinctive. Though he left too soon, he left a gift we treasure to this day: his son, Sun King.

Not only Derby winners but each Derby competitor, is a superb young athlete. All have proven the right to compete in the most important horse race in America. Running in the Kentucky Derby is an honor that forever distinguishes those competitors. If my count is right, nine of our current retirees have participated in a Kentucky Derby. They are:

Afternoon Deelites being visited last May by his jockey, Kent Desormeux; 1995 Derby (won by Thunder Gulch, son of Gulch).


Easy Grades, 2002 Derby (won by War Emblem)


Eye of the Tiger, 2003 Derby (won by Funny Cide)


Pollard’s Vision, 2004 Derby (won by Smarty Jones). Pollard’s Vision also sired 2010 Kentucky Oaks winner Blind Luck.


Sun King, 2005 Derby (won by Giacomo).


Nobiz Like Shobiz, 2007 Derby (won by Street Sense).


Soldat, 2011 Derby (won by Animal Kingdom).


Comma to the Top also ran in the 2011 Derby.


Patch, 2017 Derby (won by Always Dreaming).


Finally, we honor the memory of our past Derby contender residents, with the names of the winners in case that helps you remember that Derby. That may also help locate each one’s Derby to watch our friends run for the roses once again, whether this afternoon on NBC, at the Kentucky Derby Museum, or any time you like on Youtube.

Taylor’s Special, 1984 Derby (won by Swale)

Gulch, 1987 Derby (won by Alysheba)

Proper Reality, 1988 Derby (won by Winning Colors)

Bull Inthe Heather, 1993 Derby (won by Sea Hero)

Wallenda, 1993 Derby (won by Sea Hero)

A P Valentine, 2001 Derby (won by Monarchos)

Lusty Latin, 2002 Derby (won by War Emblem)

Have I overlooked anyone? I hope not, but if you spot a missing Derby-contender Old Friends retiree, please leave a comment and I’ll add that horse to the list.

photos by Laura

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