March 9, 2018

On February 14, 1998, Alydar’s daughter Twenty Eight Carat delivered a special valentine, a handsome bay son by A. P. Indy. He was raced by former University of Kentucky Wildcats coach Rick Pitino’s Ol’ Memorial Stable (then called Celtic Pride Stable), and it’s not hard to guess why they named him A P Valentine. A grandson of Seattle Slew and great-grandson of Secretariat, he was remarkably muscular, athletic, and talented. Hall of Famer Nick Zito trained him to a juvenile win in the 2000 Champagne Stakes. He was a favorite for the Derby and finished second to Point Given in both the 2001 Preakness and Belmont Stakes. Eventually retired with $864,170 earnings, he began an enthusiastically heralded breeding career at Ashford Stud in Kentucky.

Then, oops. How could a stallion named Valentine fail to get a single mare in foal? Coolmore, which owns Ashford Stud, had no choice but to retire him from stallion duty. Some of you avid race fans will remember this story. But did you know that A P Valentine did go on to be a dad? For Texas veterinarian Dr. William Day, he sired 28 registered foals, not enough for a career at a major stud farm, but 21 of them became racehorses, and two, A P Valor and Ifonlyjohnny, earned more than $100,000 apiece.

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A P Valentine in a sleepy moment. Photo by Laura.

Now permanently retired to Old Friends by Dr. Day, A P Valentine arrived just in time for—you guessed it—Valentine’s Day. So I guess for his 20th birthday, he got Old Friends. He’s a handsome, confident guy with more than a passing resemblance to his great sire.

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River Squall. Photo by Laura.

Old Friends also thanks Dr. Day for donating Hawthorne Derby and Saranac Stakes winner River Squall. We miss our two sons of Summer Squall, Charismatic and the less famous but no less loved Delay of Game, and we welcome this son of Summer Squall, who on his dam’s side also happens to be pretty closely related to Creator. So River Squall is already family and we hope he’ll feel happily at home with us. He’s 24.

20180308 Prized PoachPrized Poach

Speaking of family, here’s newcomer Prized Poach, an unraced 8 year old son of Prized. He’s not on the main tour route—the farm is too large for all paddocks to be visited in a 90 minute tour—but he’s settled in and is currently with Tuneintobow.

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Michael and Joe Steiner graze…our two minis??

But what is this?

Are we seeing double?

Or are tours about to get twice as fun?

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If you’re local you probably saw the coverage of Winston’s retirement from the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs on Louisville’s WHAS and Lexington’s WTVQ’s coverage of his arrival at Old Friends. If not, I hope you’ve followed the news on our social media and Little Silver Charm’s Facebook page. Little Silver Charm’s wisecracks notwithstanding, here’s the two enjoying grazing together this afternoon.

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Can you tell which is which? (Hint: Winston’s got the long legs, Little Silver Charm’s got the big hair.)


Amid the celebration of our new arrivals, we are saddened by the loss of one of our long-time residents. Gritty, tough-knocking Hidden Dark was one of our oldest mares, and has battled a combination of issues during the last few years. “Dee Dee,” as some of us called her, never won a race, but in her time with us she showed the steady fire of an enduring spirit, no doubt an inheritance from her great sire, Ferdinand. We miss her.

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Hidden Dark (1990-2018) toward the end of her life. Photo by Laura.

Magic Dot, Ava Lotta Hope, Hidden Dark

Hidden Dark in her younger days (R) moving her herd, Magic Dot and Ava Lotta Hope.

Our summer tour schedule resumes on March 15, with 3 tours a day at 10:00, 1:00, and 3:00 seven days a week by reservation, or phone us to ask about our special private tours by appointment only. We hope to see you this summer when you come to meet A P Valentine, River Squall and Winston (Gorgeous George says “me, too!”). If you visited us last summer you’ll be pleased to know you can see Z Dager again in the barn area. He may be the absolutely sweetest horse we’ve ever had.

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Z Dager gets a kiss from Dagmar Galleithner-Steiner, Old Friends’ artist.

Did you know that you can now pre-order Dagmar’s forthcoming book of gorgeous paintings of our horses, The Art of Old Friends? Find more information here.

We hope to see you soon.

The Real Photos are by Laura
Snapshots of Minis, Z Dager & Dagmar by Beth



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February 25, 2018

A lot has been going on at the farm. A few weeks ago we were saddened to lose Ukiah. To racegoers, he was just a horse. Bred and raced in his early career by Jerry and Ann Moss, he was by the superlative sire Unbridled’s Song, but of his 20 races, he won only 2. When he’d been racing for two years with only one win, he went into the claiming ranks and was acquired by trainer Doug O’Neil for partners Dennis O’Neil, Paul Reddam, and, for whom he got his second win. He was tried in a stakes race, the Californian (G2), but couldn’t beat those. Before long he was back in the claiming ranks, where he stayed and was claimed another time or two. By 2010 and the age of eight he’d done about all he could and was by then racing for the low tag of $7,500. Ukiah retired to Old Friends in 2010 thanks to the Mosses’ support for their former homebred.

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Ukiah 2002-2018

At Old Friends, Ukiah was never on the main tour route. Chances are you didn’t meet him. We knew him as a small but gutsy little grey guy who got along well with his paddock mates, but 2002 Kentucky Derby contender Easy Grades knew Ukiah as his best friend in the whole world. Those two were close to inseparable during Ukiah’s entire eight years with us.

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Ukiah and Easy Grades

Ukiah was never a squeaky wheel. He had a happy 8 years with us until the day he had a severe colic attack. Brought to the barn and treated by Dr. Waldridge, he seemed at first to be better, but soon it was clear he needed hospital care. As we watched Ukiah load onto the trailer, his small, grey form seeming so vulnerable in the big open doorway, all of us at the barn thought he’d be coming back home to us. But colic can surprise in harsh ways. Despite the best attempts to save Ukiah’s life, it was not to be. We miss him. So do his paddock buddies, especially Easy Grades. But Easy is doing well.

Instead of thinking about his last illness, the link below is how I like to remember Ukiah. This is the time he tried top company in the Californian Stakes. When I found this race online, what do you know. Look who all is in this race. Ukiah’s the only grey, easy to spot. That pretty red horse is future OF resident Awesome Gem. And look who’s up front battling for the lead during most of the race. None other than our own sassy guys, Rail Trip and Ball Four. This race may be the record for most OF horses in a single race, ever. Ukiah liked herd life, so even though he didn’t win this race, I love this goodbye image of him running with so many horses we’ve come to know and love.

Ukiah, Rail Trip, Ball Four and Awesome Gem in the 2009 Californian Stakes

Though no horse can take another’s place, we have had some arrivals I look forward to posting about and are expecting another soon. Stay tuned for more about that.

As we approach spring we’re still providing hay and other winter care, now working in the mud instead of the ice or snow, but the horses all seem to have spring fever. Everybody’s mellow. Everybody wants to nap half the day away, recharging their batteries, so to speak, whenever the rain stops and when – like today – the sun comes out. Tours have picked back up again, too. Can it really be spring this early? Time will tell, but for now, there’s definitely a spring feeling among the horses.

And guess what. We can share that feeling with you, thanks to staff members Tammy Crump who took this little video and James Crump who posted it on Youtube. Enjoy!

1996 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Alphabet Soup plays with his best buddy, Gorgeous George!

photos by Laura
video by Tammy







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February 3, 2018

It’s with wistful sadness that we say goodbye to Private Zone, an outstanding race horse who showed courage and patience as he quietly struggled against illness. Private Zone was bred in Canada by Adena Springs and was a son of Macho Uno and Auburn Beauty, a daughter of Siphon. He won the 2014 Vosburgh Stakes (G1) and Cigar Mile (G1), and he finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. In 2015 he won the Churchill Downs Stakes (G2), Belmont Sprint Championship (G3), and Forego Stakes (G1), and was third in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint. His career earnings were close to $3 million.

Private Zone 01

But it’s as a member of the Old Friends family that we’ll remember Private Zone. Unlike some, he made no fuss about settling in at the farm. During the quarantine all new arrivals go through, he watched the tours, gathered what was going on, and when he graduated to participation in the tours he always behaved kindly to his admirers, accepting carrots with graciousness.

Then it was time to join a herd. Private Zone, who was 8 years old, joined the other youngish geldings in “Maybesomaybenot’s herd.” They have an especially pleasant paddock where a line of trees casts a sheltering shade through hot summer mornings and makes a windbreak in cold weather.

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Private Zone last summer living the herd life.

The herd accepted him, but his time with his new companions was all too short. Concerns about his health led to his being brought back to the barn where he could receive Dr. Waldridge’s visits and close observation by the barn crew. He had turn-out time in the small paddock accessible from his back stall door. Though he, and we, tried our hardest to fight his digestive tract disorder, we lost the battle. The afternoon Private Zone went back to Park Equine Hospital for the second time in two weeks, we bid him goodbye with heavy hearts. He received the best care humanly possible there, but I think we knew this was one race Private Zone would not win.

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In his stall, where you may have met him on a tour in spring 2017 or this winter.

He’d only turned nine years old. It’s terribly sad when a horse dies that young, all the more because he had so little time to enjoy the retirement his valor and hard work had so richly earned. He fought the good fight, first on the track, then against a difficult illness, but finally it was time to let him go in peace.

Photos by Laura

Old Friends’ press release about Private Zone’s passing.


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February 1, 2018

They say blogs are for contemplation, not news. Whoever “they” are, they’re probably right about that. All the same, I can’t help mentioning two news items. First, tickets for Old Friends’ Annual Homecoming are now available! Our 2018 Annual Homecoming is Sunday, May 6 – the day after the Derby – at the main farm. It’s always a fun party and a great way to meet other Old Friends supporters, so I hope very much to see you there! To find out more, call us at 502-863-1775.

Second, you probably already know that Green Mask has arrived. But did you know he’s a really sweet guy?

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Green Mask

Green Mask is by Mizzen Mast out of the Forestry mare Bonzai Beauty. He specialized in sprints on the turf. He won the Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G3) at Churchill Downs and Highlander Stakes (G2) at Woodbine, and a race close to our hearts, the Bonapaw Stakes at the Fair Grounds in Louisiana. He also got third in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Keeneland.

He’s currently doing the routine quarantine for all new arrivals, and is also recuperating from the fractured sesamoid that ended a beautiful race career, so he’s receiving special care in the barn with restricted, supervised turn-out, as Arson Squad and Jimbo Fallon did on their arrivals. When Green Mask is ready for tours I think he’ll love them. He already knows that people and treats are some of his favorite things. And if he’s one of your favorite horses, you don’t have to wait to get a share in him. You can phone us for one now.

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Green Mask – don’t you love his blaze? Question mark in a mirror.

Old Friends thanks Green Mask’s racing owner, Sheikh Abdullah Saeed Almaddah, his trainer, Brad Cox, everyone at the New Bolton Center and Dell Ridge Farm who took care of Green Mask and enabled his retirement with us.

If you asked the horses, they’d probably tell you there’s another news item. Mud! Oodles and oodles of it. Carole says she’d rather deal with snow than slurp through the mud catching horses who’d rather not take medicine.


The farm’s humans just don’t know how to get into the spirit of a good roll in the mud, that’s all.

But the milder weather seems to have a relaxing effect on the horses. Everybody’s laid back, just being nice and lazy.

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Hanging out waiting for dinner.

When’s dinner gonna come, when’s dinner gonna come? Clockwise, from left top: I’m Charismatic & Arson Squad. Right top: Ready’s Rocket, Geronimo & Cost Affective (Rathor seems to be outside the frame). Right foreground: Sokitumi Samurai (out of frame are his friends Fabulous Strike, Awesome Gem & Marshall Rooster). Left foreground: Got to be either Tuneintobow or Prized Poach. Whoever he is, he actually does have a head, I promise.

Milder weather is for hanging out with their favorite paddock buddies.

Dan and FCH

Danthebluegrassman (L) & Fighting City Hall

Affirmed Success Kudos

Affirmed Success & Kudos


From L: Dinard, Archie’s Echo & Beau Cashin’ In

Dinard and Archie’s Echo have a new paddock mate, Beau Cashin’ In, who was formerly with Tuneintobow. Making friends with an already-established herd or twosome is usually a gradual process for horses. Sometimes it only takes hours, but more often, weeks until the new guy or girl is fully accepted, as Archie and Dinard are signalling here. Beau’s being wisely patient about it. That’s just how it is when you’re a horse.

Santona Lady Grizzley

Santona (L) & Lady Grizzley

Lady Grizzley can tell you all about that. Last summer she was the new girl on the block. Now she’s tight with boss-mare Santona.

Princess and Bella

Princess (L) & Bella

Hey, these aren’t horses…

Dude and Soup

Alphabet Soup is curious about Game On Dude

In the barn the socializing happens from a safe distance. Safe, because Alphabet Soup is a stallion and stallions won’t share space with another male horse, even a gelding like Game On Dude. Looks to me like Alphabet Soup may be sizing up the Dude, thinking he looks like a formidable champion (he’s right about that), and wondering if he could beat him on the track. We’ll never know, which is probably just as well for 27 year old Alphabet Soup since Game On Dude is a mere 11 and still very speedy. If they were both 5? Who knows. I think I’ll put equal money on both of them.


Photos by Laura


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January 21, 2018

Hay Winter

We’re having a spell of warmer weather, all the way up into the 50s today and the same is expected tomorrow, with this milder trend predicted to last for the week. The snow in these pictures is, for the time being, a thing of the past.

Instead of icy ground the horses are picking their way through mud. Obviously some of them don’t mind. (If only I had a photo of Johannesburg Smile today. Imagine a horse completely made out of mud wearing a blanket completely brown with mud, with that long forelock of his in mud-dreads—and with a complete, saucy obliviousness to our head-shakings and sighs.)

Even with the mud, this warmer spell lets the horses rest. It may surprise many to learn how comfortable horses are in cold weather if their weight is healthy and they’re allowed to grow the full, fuzzy winter coats nature intended. In fact, a horse’s body is adapted to deal with cold more easily than with heat. In the coldest weather a good, waterproof blanket is beneficial for some. Those who need one get one, and they all have shelter, but the mechanism powering a horse’s internal “heating system” is their metabolism. And what powers their metabolism in cold weather is hay.

Hay Binty

Bint Marscay enjoyed her hay during last week’s cold and snow.

Their grain feed is important too, of course. That’s what keeps their weight up so that their metabolism stays robust. But it’s the forage—in places like Kentucky where the grass dies in winter, HAY—the that’s a horse’s “internal heater’s” real fuel. So in winter the OF residents get plenty of hay.

Hay Popcorn

Popcorn Deelites, too.


Little Silver Charm

And more hay.

Hay Duck

And our new mare, Hard Luck Duck.

In the smaller paddocks at the front of the farm the hay is delivered by being pitched over the fence by a human on a Kubota—their favorite kind of farm vehicle since it also brings their meals (their regular feed). In the big pastures, like the one we call “Area 51,” a monster brings the hay. The horses don’t mind. This monster has also become a favorite sight to the inhabitants of Area 51: Rail Trip, Cherono, Johannesbourbon, Photon, Z Dager, W. C. Jones, Lion Hunter… have I forgotten anybody in that pasture? I hope not.

Hay 51

The benign monster delivers hay to Area 51.

Hay also provides opportunities for socializing. By day, Alphabet Soup and miniature donkey Gorgeous George share the paddock that for many years was Ogygian’s. But at night Alphabet Soup comes into the barn and sleeps in a stall. Ide, who’s spent the day in the barn and whose metabolism is younger and so still more efficient, gets his turn-out time from late afternoon until morning. George’s favorite company is Alphabet Soup, but he and Ide get along nicely too. Here they are sharing their hay.

hay Ide George

Ide and Gorgeous George

hay Ide 2


hay Ide 3

…yum, yum, yum!

Another thing all that good hay does is provide the energy to frisk and play, which also helps keep a horse warm.

hay Gem

Awesome Gem

Eating snow is also fun.

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War Emblem’s snowy nose.

hay snownose Sun King

And Sun King’s

And of course, Special Ring and Popcorn have their own game. It doesn’t change with the seasons or the passing years.  It’s their signature, patented, original, one-of-a-kind shtick. I guess you could say it’s having a long run because it’s such a hit.

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The Pops and Ring show.

If you’ve been to the Georgetown farm, no doubt you’ve seen the Pops and Ring show for yourself. Special Ring want us to know that though his buddy impersonated 1930s champion Seabiscuit in the movie of that name, he – Ringy – is not an impersonator. He is the real, honest to goodness, multiple G1 winner, Special Ring, and he proves it by showing his i.d., the official Jockey Club identification number tattooed on the inside of a race horse’s upper lip.  Popcorn never shows his. He hopes that if he charms his visitors with his most appealing faces, they’ll believe he’s Seabiscuit. And if he’s not, then at least he must be a great actor to be such a talented comedian.

They wrote the script, they perform it with zest time after time, and better yet, they give this their performance their all. And for mere carrots.

… So what in the world was this sight that met Laura’s and my eyes a few days ago? This isn’t one photo, but these photos were taken within seconds of each other. Rapid and Amazombie really were doing this in unison exactly like…

Hay Rapid and Amazombie do Pops and Ring

Rapid Redux and Amazombie steal Pops and Ring’s act.

Go figure!


photos by Laura


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January 15, 2018

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Early Pioneer

When a horse passes who’s been with us a long time, his or her going takes away part of who we are. Yet, Early Pioneer left behind a gift, a plentiful store of good memories. In his quiet way, “Earl” was an unforgettable character. Here are a few of my favorite memories of him.

The 2000 Hollywood Gold Cup on TV. Early Pioneer, the longest shot in a strong field, biding his time patiently until the stretch, putting on a strong run and passing them all, holding off General Challenge to win one of the most prestigious races in the country.

Nine years later, his arrival at Old Friends. Though retired by racing owners Holly and David Wilson, sometimes things don’t go as expected and some years later Early Pioneer ended up in a string of $1000 horses purchased by fair circuit horseman Shawn Davis. His feet were in no condition for racing, and Davis did right by the old campaigner. Cass Dewey fostered him and facilitated his retirement to Old Friends (Here’s Jay Hovdey’s article about it in the Daily Racing Form).

Early Pioneer began life at OF in one of the new pastures in the back 40 acres of the main farm. That herd had some strong personalities, but he swiftly and peacefully made himself accepted among them. Here’s Michael’s description of that social scene at the time. “Futural runs things in that paddock. Siphonizer made a takeover play a couple weeks ago, but Futural took care of that in a hurry. Affirmed Success puts up with all of it with kind of a knowing sigh. As for Early Pioneer, he doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. As long as he stays out of Futural’s way, everything’s fine” (Hovdey, above).

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Early Pioneer in the newly fenced pasture, May 2009. I think that’s Northern Stone on his left.

Early Pioneer did stay out of the way of that Terrible Two. Futural bossed the herd as he pleased, and his inseparable buddy Affirmed Success wasn’t exactly un-implicated (Affirmed Success now shares a bond with Kudos, both of them pretty mellow these days). Being a horse of admirable good sense, Early Pioneer didn’t contend for leadership. He was too nice. But his feet also weren’t up to the hustle-tussle required of a herd leader. Those feet caused concern and we kept an eye on them, bringing him down to the barn with turn-out in the round pen when he needed extra care.

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In the round pen, October 2010

You’ll have read in the press that Early Pioneer had chronic laminitis. In his last days he also developed symptoms that may point to cancer. We’re awaiting test results about that. But since most people think of laminitis as the acute form that took Barbaro’s life, a few words about chronic (as opposed to acute) laminitis. It’s not that uncommon, and with proper care horses who have some rotation can enjoy good quality of life for years. Laminitis is a condition caused by weakening of the connective tissue (laminae) holding the foot bones in proper position. Its degree varies. Early Pioneer soldiered through sore spells, but he also let us know he enjoyed his life. If there was ever a horse who was always up for friendly doings, it was Early Pioneer.

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With Northern Stone

Never one to call attention to himself, he was quietly quite the character. To Tammy, John and me, he gave one memory that will always bring a smile. When the winter temperatures go below freezing (as now), the horses don’t mind. They have an internal mechanism that keeps them warm, as long as they get plenty of hay in their diet, and plenty of water. Access to plenty of water means going into each paddock twice a day and busting the ice that forms on the waterers. Most of the horses just stand there complacently watching the humans serve their needs. A few stand right at your shoulder, ready to guzzle as soon as you’re done. Not Earl. Climb the fence into his paddock, encumbered by your layers of winter wear, your hammer to bust ice and your strainer to clear it out, and when you’d clambered atop the fence you’d find your way blocked by Earl’s back. He’d put himself alongside the fence as if to say, “Get on me and ride, please!” Maybe at some time in his younger days he’d been fence-mounted. We wish we knew more about that because someone climbing a fence to mount him and their rides seem to have been happy associations to him.

Another happy memory Early Pioneer gave us: our amazing podiatrists, along with Carole’s and Antonio’s tireless care, licked a troublesome abscess, and Early Pioneer got wonderful new glue-on shoes. Thanks to improved technology lighter glue-ons now fit the form of the horse’s hoof more closely. It’s almost like “Look ma, no shoes!” while problem feet get comfy cushioning. Earl loved his “new feet!” He bounced around his paddock, ran races with his paddock mate, Dinard, and threw his weight around a bit as the boss of that two-horse herd.

20180114 Early Pioneer bounces around new shoes

In 2016. Photo by Laura.

20180114 Early Pioneer and Dinard play

Playing with Dinard. Photo by Laura.

He was a kind boss. He and Dinard were so cozy together that at feeding time, when most horses each hog a feed tub, defending it from the others, Early Pioneer and Dinard would eat together out of one tub, then both move to the other tub and eat together there.

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Dinner time. Photo by Laura.


Nothing lasts forever, but that doesn’t make the good times any less real.

Reluctantly, as the spring of 2017 came around, we all realized Earl didn’t feel as well. He had better days and less good days, but his feet were sore again, and his energy was declining. Archie’s Echo joined Dinard and him because the three were well suited in temperament and age, and Earl let Archie become the new paddock boss. The three of them formed a peaceable relationship. These three lovely old guys, being among those who benefited from an extra meal, got daily lunch and supplements.

It was Carole who took expert, tireless daily care of Early Pioneer, along with Antonio and all the staff. But on a personal note, I want to thank Earl. When Ogygian died, for weeks I wandered around the farm stunned, looking for even a fraction of the love he and I shared for the years I helped care for him. Nobody got it. All the horses just wanted carrots, a back scratch, business as usual. But Early Pioneer got right in my face and gave me the comfort he sensed I needed.

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A conversation with Earl. Photo by Jay Westbrook.

As this year set in, Early Pioneer’s health declined. Moved into the barn for constant attention, care, and shelter. In his last days, Earl had the best of vet care and tending, and companionship from everyone on the farm. When his time came, Carole and others that he loved best were with him.

Early Pioneer, thank you for the gift of your presence. The memories you’ve left with us will be lasting.


20180114 Early Pioneer



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January 10, 2018

Are you out of the starting gate on the right lead this year? Do you have the 2018 Old Friends Calendar yet? What about your 2018 Old Friends membership? An Old Friends membership doesn’t just give you free admission to tours of our farms, it also gets you free general admission to the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs in Louisville and the National Museum of Racing and the Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York. Call us for details.

Finally, have you voted yet for Old Friends in USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice Travel Award Contest? If you think we’re the most amazing travel destination in Kentucky, help us take those daily votes by storm.

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“Am I not the very most-est coolest cat-est in all Kentucky?”


Another thing we have in Kentucky is an apt saying. “If you don’t like the weather, stick around for a day or two.” Winter here is a season of quick temperature ups and downs, which is why we get snow but it usually doesn’t stay on the ground long. But so far this year, until two days ago, we had a l-o-n-n-g-g, c-c-c-o-l-d exception, a frigid spell that nobody at the farm, human or horse, liked. How wonderful yesterday when the temperature rose into an overcast 40s. Today we’ve had sunny 60s! Of course it’ll change again in a few more days, but for now the horses are loving it. To give you an idea of how tired the horses got of those 9 days of deep freeze, here are photos Laura took during that time.

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Dinard gives a big yawn.

“Cold weather is b-o-r-r-r-r-i-n-n-n-n-g-g-g!”

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It looks like sunshine, but… Afternoon Deelites

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Ide. “When’s spring coming?”

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Little Silver Charm. “Where are my adoring summer crowds?”

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But George likes his winter togs.

Sooner or later every cold spell ends. Yesterday the milder weather so overjoyed Sun King that he galloped when he could have walked, raced anyone who came alongside his paddock, and when he could have galloped he kicked up his heels and bucked for sheer delight. In the ten months he’s been with us, Sun King has made himself a huge favorite on the farm. He’s kind of tough, but he’s full of enthusiasm and affection, too.

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Sun King. This pic’s from last summer, obviously, but no camera was around to catch his frolicking yesterday.

Personally, though I loved cheering Sun King on when he was racing, I love him ten times more now that I know him. It would have been great if his fertility hadn’t failed and he’d sired some special horse to carry on Charismatic’s sire line, but I trust that the daughters he sired, as well as his sire’s daughters, will keep Charismatic’s genes in the pool (all best luck to young sire Wicked Strong!). I admit, we’ve lucked out to have Sun King with us. We’re grateful to Tracy Farmer for donating him to Old Friends when his fertility declined. Mr. Farmer also enabled the retirement of Old Friends favorites Albert the Great and top racehorse and wonderful character, Commentator, who now holds court at our Bobby Frankel Division and Cabin Creek Farm, New York.

Yes, there’s still a lot of winter to go, but there’ll be warm spells along the way, so come on out and visit us. We’re like Venice (Oh really? How’s that?). No, seriously, we are. We’re great to visit in the winter because the tours are smaller and you get more chance for up close and personal visiting with the horses. Since there’s only one tour a day in the winters (11 am) the horses look forward enthusiastically to their winter visits with their fans and friends, old and new.

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“Come on out soon and give me a carrot.” Alphabet Soup


Photos by Laura

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January 4, 2018

Happy New Year to you all!

20180102 Elusive Honey Hidden Dark

Elusive Honey and Hidden Dark

For Thoroughbred horses, it’s also happy birthday. No matter what day of the year they were foaled, all Thoroughbreds officially turn one year older on January 1. Since the conditions for entry into most any race include being at, or above, a specified age, keeping track of individual birthdays would drive racing stewards even crazier. This way, knowing the year is enough.

That’s why breeders aim for late winter or spring foals. Two and three year olds, who are maturing physically and mentally each month, would be at a real disadvantage racing against youngsters who were actually nearly a year older than themselves, so most are foaled by the end of May. At least, in the northern hemisphere. In Australia and New Zealand where the hot and cold seasons are the reverse of ours, race conditions are figured differently; hence Aussies Bint Marscay and Interwin having their actual birthdays only a few months ago.

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Winter hay! Game on Dude.

20180102 Hay nap Rapid Amazombie

Amazombie: “Hey! Rapid Redux, what are you doing napping on our hay?”

While the Georgetown farm throws no birthday bash for the horses on January 1, the tour guides stretch their brains making mental adjustments. No more can we throw out on automatic pilot, “Game On Dude and Little Mike are both 10 years old,” or “Popcorn’s in his teens.” Visitors often ask how old a horse is, and each horse’s age needs to be scooted up by one year. Our Kentucky Derby winners, for instance, are now 24—Silver Charm, and 19—War Emblem. Same for the Belmont winners. Touch Gold has turned 24, Sarava 19. And our Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, Alphabet Soup, is now a venerable 27 years old.

Eleven of our Georgetown residents have especially noteworthy rites of passage. They have now moved into a new decade by attaining ages 30 (one horse), 20 (several), and 10 (still kids!). So, here are the horses celebrating these rite of passage this year.

20180104 Dinard

Dinard. Our old man is now 30. Real birthday April 6, 1988.

Since our much-loved old generation passed in 2015 and 2016—Creator, Ogygian, Gulch, Francis—the oldest horses on the farm (except for he of the mysterious agelessness, Little Silver Charm) have been in their late 20s. Dinard leads the way, now officially turning 30 years old. Just behind him are Archie’s Echo, Highland Ack (a.k.a. Landy), and Silver Ray, all of whom now reach 29.

20180104 Cappuchino Kid Discreet Hero

Cappucino Kid (L) and Discreet Hero, 20. Cappy was foaled on Feb. 22, Hero on March 13, 1998.

Our former teens who now hit the big two-oh, not old yet but dignified (hear that, Popcorn?) are Medaglia d’Oro’s half-brother Cappucino Kid, and graded stakes winner Discreet Hero.

20180104 Interwin

Interwin, 20 years old, but really not till Nov. 2, 1998.

20180104 Popcorn Deelites

Popcorn Deelites. Our movie star is now 20. Actual birthday April 19, 1998.

Also turning 20 are 2002 Breeders’ Cup Sprint participant Disturbingthepeace, sometime Australian racehorse and later four star eventer Interwin, Popcorn Deelites (…ahem, the name’s Seabiscuit…), and here’s the one I can’t believe. Riva Way, who so short a while ago was a new 6 year old resident, is now 20 and our longest time resident. Amazing. Well, at least, our longest time resident who isn’t Little Silver Charm.

20180104 Riva Way Disturbingthepeace

Riva Way (L) and Disturbingthepeace are both officially 20. Tinners Way’s son Riva was foaled April 24 and Disturbingthepeace March 29, 1998.

And then there are our kids-no-more, those who’ve moved from one digit to two. Though some of them are still kids at heart, and we love the fun their play brings. The newly-turned-10s are Euronfire, Litigate, Maybesomaybenot, and the eternally spunky kid, Starspangled Heat.

20180104 Maybesomaybenot

Sanford Stakes winner Maybesomaybenot is now 10 (you charmer!). Foaled Jan. 27, 2008.

20180104 Litigate

Litigate is 10. Real birthday April 21, 2008.

20180104 Euronfire

Euronfire’s birthday is also April 21, 2008.

20180104 Starspangled Heat

Starspangled Heat, unusually, was foaled Nov. 22, 2008 in California.

To all of them as they begin a new decade, happy birthday, and to all of you a good, hopeful and satisfying new year. And many happy returns.


Photos by Laura


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December 22, 2017

Yesterday was the winter solstice. A busy and eventful summer and fall have passed at Old Friends, and the quiet of winter is settling over the farm. So far, the weather has been mild. For horses, temperatures in the 40s are about as perfect as it gets. Hay has taken the place of grass in their diet (in addition to their daily breakfast, dinner, and for some horses, lunch and/or supplements), but the ground is warm enough for comfortable naps, a lazy way to enjoy the peaceful days with just one daily tour.

20171222 Yankee Fourtune woo

Yankee Fourtune – whoo!

Well…who’d want to be lazy all the time?  Quiet days are also fun times for showing off, soap operas with your paddock mates, and companionship.

20171222 Yankee Fourtune Saratoga Episode

Yankee Fourtune and Saratoga Episode

20171222 Fabulous Strike Sokitumi Samurai play

Fabulous Strike and Sokitume Samurai

20171222 Fabulous Strike Sokitumi Samurai play 2

Sokitume Samurai and Fabulous Strike, just afterwards. That’s Marshall Rooster in the background.

The humans at Old Friends are having a busier time. Farm work changes somewhat with the seasons, but not its demands. And ’tis the time of year when Michael and the office staff work extra hard to ensure the financial support that will carry us through the next productive year of the best possible care to keep the horses happy.

Learn some fun ways to help here. (For instance, would you like to be part owner of a son or daughter of California Chrome and benefit Old Friends?)

About all that hard work. As someone who’s been through a lot of years at Old Friends, and who stands, so to speak, with one foot in the office and one foot in the barn, I’m proud and grateful for the first class professionalism and devotion I see all around the farm every day, both up the hill from the barn staff and down the hill at the office. Words can’t describe the feeling. Things have never been better.

There are powerful reasons to be proud of Old Friends’ supporters, too. Burt Bacharach (generous to OF on behalf of his multiple graded stakes winner Afternoon Deelites) and Elvis Costello will play a concert on January 17 to raise funds for the horses and people impacted by the fire that swept through the San Luis Rey Training Center in California. Read about the event here.

Speaking of Afternoon Deelites, if you’ve met this stallion, you know how impressive he is. Never mind that he’s about to turn 26 years old, he’s gorgeous, and he’s still a whole lotta horse. He’s good natured, friendly, and so full of himself that you’d think about ten horses lived in that one muscular bod of his. Ten playful, rambunctious horses. His favorite winter holiday sport is playing “I’m bad” when he’s taken to his stall in the morning and turned out at night, and he’s been having a great time.

20171222 AD likes to play Zack

AD messes around a little with Zack during his walk out to his paddock. (AD’s face says it all.)

20171222 AD likes to play John

AD gets ready to mess around some with John during another evening turnout (John’s face says it all.)

20171222 AD shakes off

The most fun of all. Rolling in the paddock, then shaking off the dust.

And then, there’s our newest friendship, which is still going strong. You know Alphabet Soup. At least, I hope you do. He and Chris McCarron won the 1996 Breeders’ Cup Classic, beating the great Cigar, and he’s also one of our most beautiful and nicest retirees.

20171222 AS

Alphabet Soup

But you may not know his now-inseparable buddy, Gorgeous George the miniature donkey.

20171222 GG

Gorgeous George

When George came to live with us, who’d have thought it’d be love at first sight?

20171222 AS GG 02

Note George behind Alphabet Soup’s tail.

We’re over the moon about this relationship. Donkeys make great companions for horses. Not all stallions would accept a donkey gelding in their space, but Alphabet Soup, extraordinarily kind horse that he is, has found a new level of contentment with his companion. Like Eldaafer and Boule d’Or with the goats, Google and Yahoo, Soup has proved once again that horses are often wiser than people, seeing past others’ differences from themselves and forming bonds that overcome any challenges those differences may offer.

20171222 AS GG 04

Call the holiday season by whatever name you call it, isn’t peace, brother- and sister-hood, and love for others what its spirit is all about?

20171222 Binty and DeeDee enjoy a little exercise

Bint Marscay and Hidden Dark enjoy a little exercise together.

20171222 Im Charismatic Arson Squad

Season’s greetings from I’m Charismatic and Arson Squad.

20171222 Mike and Dude

And Game On Dude (R) & Little Mike

20171222 Johannesburg Smile

And Johannesburg Smile, settling into happy retirement. Does he ever love tours!

20171222 Beau and Bow

And Beau & Bo aka Beau Cashin In (L) & Tuneintobow

20171222 Silver Charm in a quiet moment

And Silver Charm.

And all of us. May your holidays be filled with joy.


Photos by World Traveling Laura


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November 13, 2017

20171114 Drive

With the grey cold of November settling in and the last leaves falling from the trees, Laura’s latest batch of photos make for wonderful memories of October.

The horses loved the mild weather and almost unseasonably green grass. It was a month for frisking, playing, and of course, saying hello to the many racing fans who came to Lexington for the Keeneland Fall Meet.

20171114 Ide


20171114 Geri and the Heron

Geri naps in the warm sun with one of the pair of great blue herons for company.

20171114 Albert the Great

Albert the Great

By the way, Albert the Great and Nobiz Like Shobiz, who have paddocks next to each other, are father and son (Albert is the best son of 1994 Kentucky Derby winner Go For Gin).

20171114 Nobiz Like Shobiz

Nobiz Like Shobiz goofs around – something he’s very good at.

New residents Smooth Air and Palmer’s Approach spent October settling in and getting to know what Old Friends is all about. Smooth Air already has some fans among our barn and tour guide staff. He’s not especially flashy looking, but is he ever a beautiful horse.

20171114 Smooth Air

Smooth Air

Smooth Air, who’s 12 years old, earned more than a million on the track as a homebred for Mount Joy Stables. He won the Hutcheson Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park, the Ohio Derby (G2), the Needles Stakes at Calder, and the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2), as well as finishing second in the 2008 Florida Derby and 2009 Met Mile. He ran in the 2008 Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic. Be sure to say hello to him next time you visit us.

20171114 Palmers Approach

Palmer’s Approach

Palmer’s Approach, also 12 years old, is a son of Najran (remember that amazing 2003 Westchester Handicap?). Palmer overcame physical issues thanks to the dedication of trainer Nick Zito and his wife Kim Zito, and Dr. Scott Palmer, for whom he was named. Their care and belief in him enabled him not only to become a racehorse, but a two-times winner. Palmer’s second career, launched by Lorita Lindemann, was as as hunter/jumper.

And we even had a birthday party. Rare as it is for a Thoroughbred in the northern hemisphere to be born in the fall, on October 15, 1990, Bint Marscay was foaled in Australia, where she was the 1992 Champion Juvenile Filly. At Old Friends, she is the queen of Laura Battles’ love and the lucky recipient of Laura’s special friendship. She’s pretty special to all of us, and deservedly so. Laura held a 27th birthday party for Binty.

20171114 Binty Birthday Girl 1

Bint Marscay enjoys a special birthday treat prepared and served with love by Laura.

20171114 Binty Birthday Girl 3

20171114 Binty Birthday Girl 2

Being a most generous birthday girl, Binty was also in a giving mood. She gave Dagmar a good, long back scratch.

If you’re not familiar with the beautiful portraits Dagmar Galleithner Steiner has made of a number of Old Friends retirees and other great horses, I’m sure you’ll be as in awe of her ability to capture not just how they look, but who they are.

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