September 5, 2017

We’re sad to have lost Come On Flip, who succumbed last week to chronic laminitis. The 1996 Hawthorne Cup (G2) winner came to the Georgetown Farm a several years ago along with Do One Dance (“Francis”). After Francis passed, Flip spent his turn-out time with Kudos and Affirmed Success.

201705 Come on Flip winter coat

As Flip coped with heat intolerance and other Cushing’s Syndrome (a pituitary gland dysfunction) issues, he was befriended by Old Friends supporters Dr. Val Nicholson and her husband Dr. Brent Haskell. “He had a tough last two years since the death of Francis,” Val recounted. During the daytime he was sheltered from the weather in the upper barn, on the back rise beneath the shade trees and “was really very good about being there. He loved the company of Hidden Lake and Binti who came to their paddock fence to visit him.” After Hidden Lake passed and Bint Marscay moved to another paddock, Flip’s daytime neighbors were Hussonfirst and Lusty Latin. “He was so happy when we took him for a ‘walkabout’ during midday and he could visit the other horses in the ‘back 40.’ He particularly liked Jimbo Fallon.”

201705 Come on Flip

Flip spent his evenings with companions Affirmed Success and Kudos in the paddock the three of them shared on the near side of the upper barn, enjoying the summer night breezes and grazing together.

Val wants to express her heartfelt thanks to Carole and Antonio who provided most of Come On Flip’s hands-on care, and to James, Tammy, Snowden, Zach and Marissa, all of whom contributed to his day to day wellbeing, and to Drs. Waldridge, Fleming, Tanner and Smith for their tireless vet care.

201705 Come on Flip and Kudos

Come On Flip (R) during his evening turn-out time with Kudos.

We’ll miss Flip. As Brent said, “He was a perpetual five-year-old boy, sometimes stubborn, always loving, who enjoyed his clover until the very end.”

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Photos by Laura



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August 21, 2017

95% Solar Eclipse at Old Friends in Georgetown

What the Big Event was like at the farm!

Today the long awaited event finally arrived. An almost full solar eclipse. Unless an eclipse is total there’s no corona, but the moon covering all but a little sliver of the sun would be pretty dramatic, we figured. The light would get dim and strange, the angles of shadows would be weird. With eclipse glasses we’d see the sun shrink to a narrow crescent, and the world would look like a slightly unfamiliar planet under an alien sun.

2017 08 21 - LSC Ready for the show

We all prepared for the show.

Michael led a special Eclipse Tour, while some of us gathered near the barn, next to War Emblem’s paddock, where there was a clear view of the sky. Some of the barn crew had supplied themselves with eclipse glasses, and Dr. Waldridge had some super-duper-quality ones which he kindly let us pass around.

2017 08 21 - Humans enjoy the show

Gradually the silhouette of the moon began crossing the sun (Dr. Waldridge: “Now it looks like Pac-man.”). We wondered what the horses and other animals would do when the light got strange and dim. Would it excite them? Puzzle them? We hoped it wouldn’t scare them. Here are some of their reactions, in photos taken during the eclipse.

2017 08 21 - Rapid Redux unconcerned

Rapid Redux found the event thrilling. (That’s just his summer see-through fly mask, not eclipse gear.)

2017 08 21 - Alphabet Soup

Alphabet Soup. “What eclipse?”

2017 08 21 - Eldaafer and Boule dOr

It got dark enough that some of the photos are underexposed. See how impressed Eldaafer and Boule d’Or are. And Photon, at the left.

2017 08 21 - Google

Not to mention Google, who was more interested in posing. Mountain Goat!

2017 08 21 - Timmy unconcerned

Or Timmy.

Suddenly, at the height of the eclipse, we saw every single horse over in paddock 51 raise their heads in unison, on total alert. What made them do that? we asked each other. What mysterious thing did they, and only they, sense?

2017 08 21 - 51 - 1 Whats That

On the alert

All at once, they took off running. By then it was so dark the camera’s shutter speed had probably slowed down. Any motion came out as a blur. Only a few of them are in the photo, but they were all sweeping across the pasture at a fast gallop.

2017 08 21 - 51 - 2 Running

Sorry about the focus. It was darker than the photo looks.

As I moved to try to get more of the geldings in the frame, the reason for their dash came into view. A car had parked by the roadside so the people in it could enjoy the nearly full coverage of the sun. A car! Woo, what’s a car doing there? Hey guys, look, a car, wow! Let’s run over and investigate!

2017 08 21 - 51 - 3 So what

Well, but after all, it was just a car.

The paddock 51 herd soon got bored and went back to where they’d been grazing before (as Amazombie, left foreground, wondered what was up).

2017 08 21 - Dude and Cat aftermath

I don’t think Game On Dude (foreground) and Catlaunch looked up once.

Soon the moon passed on over the sun and it began to get light again. Shadows returned to their usual sizes and colors brightened. The birds, the only ones besides the humans who seemed to notice anything strange was going on, stopped their roosting behavior and began singing again.

2017 08 21 - War Emblem - Big so what

War Emblem: “Ho hum.”

War Emblem seemed to have the final word. “I knew the sun wouldn’t get eaten up. Speaking of eating, when are you-all going to stop gawking at the sky and deliver my dinner?”



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August 11, 2017

2017 0811 Johannesburg Smile arrives 1

Johannesburg Smile arrives at Old Friends

Here’s a story of a horse who isn’t a star. His retirement didn’t make news. But his journey says a lot about a certain kind of horse. Horses who once thrilled racegoers, once earned nicely for connections and bettors, but later face an uncertain future. Here’s a story of how people worked together to gain one horse a secure retirement.

Johannesburg Smile, foaled in New York in 2007, won the 2011 Noble Nashua Stakes at Belmont Park at 4 years old. At 5 he won the Lemon Drop Kid Stakes. At 6, he reached the top of his game when claimed for $100,000 by Mike Repole and trained by Todd Pletcher, he nearly won the 2013 Toboggan Stakes (G3). Have a look at the determined heart of this horse when he was in his prime.

2013 Toboggan Stakes. Johannesburg Smile is on the inside, post position 1

His body language says it all. At 6 he was into what he was doing and gave his all. He was what the game is all about.

He ran some more good races, but by age 8, time had caught up with him. When he ceased to appear on the track, his apparent retirement made good sense. Then, at age 10, Johannesburg Smile reappeared on the track. This time his claiming tag was $12,500.

You see two kinds of horses racing at that age. One kind, like John Henry, Cetewayo, or Old Friends resident Flick (1992-2016; raced to 2002), stays on top of their game and their competitive urge keeps burning bright. They’re still into it, they can still do it, and that’s great. The other kind isn’t so lucky. For an older has-been, having “back class” can be a double-edged sword. Some people hope the horse will regain some form, or if an ungelded male, might interest a breeder. But by age 10 his former 114 speed figure had dwindled to a dull 80 (Equibase). He was racing hard to nowhere.

Old Friends began trying to retire Johannesburg Smile in early 2017. It’s a long, frustrating story, so I’ll fast forward to June, and his drastic drop into a $4,000 race. But for Johannesburg Smile this became a stroke of luck when Old Friends was contacted by Ginny O’Malley. Turns out other folks had also noticed this horse’s situation. Better yet, they backed their concern with positive help.

So on June 14th, Johannesburg Smile ran his $4,000 race. He no longer had it in him to win even this, but thanks to the teamwork of more than a dozen people, he won a secure retirement. Ron Paolucci of Loooch Racing Stables, Inc. claimed him on our behalf, Ginny cared for him at her farm, then personally trailered him down to Old Friends in Georgetown (Your visit was fun, Ginny. Come back and see him soon!). I’ve seen Facebook posts mentioning more than a dozen people who helped, and I’m aware of still others. If you’re among them, I hope you’ll understand when I don’t attempt a list for fear of leaving out some deserving people. All of you, please accept Old Friends’ heart-felt thanks for your part in getting the job done at last. And please, come visit Johannesburg Smile so we can thank you in person!

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The good life. Photo by Laura Battles.

In fact, everybody reading this post, you’ll love meeting this hard worker who gave his all, as much when he was a low level claimer as when he was in his prime. Of course, at 10 he’s hardly a senior resident at Old Friends. In fact, some of us call him Junior. Or Johan Junior, because he looks so much like his dad, Johannesburg. When he first arrived he was angry. He thought that after his wonderful weeks with Ginny he was back at a track. He looked us right in the eyes and told us exactly what he felt about that—loudly.

2017 0811 JS What kinda race track is this

Arrival day. He looks at his new world. “What kinda race track is this?”

But he soon figured out there’s no race track on the farm. He’s so smart, playful and kind that the barn staff and tour guides are already in love with this resourceful charmer. You will be too, when you meet him.


2017 0811-1 JS face

He’s got a reason to smile. Photo by Laura Battles.






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July 19, 2017

20170719 Bonapaw spring 2017 1

Bonapaw April 13, 1996 – July 7, 2017

Bonapaw lived with us as a reserved, benign presence. Except for his good looks he didn’t call a lot of attention to himself in retirement, but he sure did attract notice on the track. Bred in Kentucky by Dr. William O. Reed and bought at the Keeneland yearling sale by twins James Richard and Dennis Richard, Bonapaw began racing at Evangeline Downs in Opelousas, Louisiana. At two and three he ran like a pretty good sprinter. At four be developed into an extraordinary one. Having conquered the Louisiana circuit, he went to Oaklawn Park for his first graded stakes win in the Count Fleet Sprint. By this time, Gerard Melancon was his regular jockey.

Bonapaw was on a roll. He marked his five year old campaign with five stakes wins, including the Grade 1 Vosburgh Stakes at Belmont Park, where he beat the formidable Aldebaran. For another year he continued to earn at graded stakes level, raced at Kentucky Downs, and won at Keeneland. He retired to the Richards’ farm with earnings topping $1 million and with a race at the Fair Grounds named after him.

In 2009, James Richard, Jr. retired Bonapaw to Old Friends and he began his new career, greeting his fans and introducing his new admirers to the beauty and athleticism of the Thoroughbred.

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Bonapaw in 2009

When he arrived at the Georgetown farm, a surprise came with him—his trophies. When Michael called Jamie Richard to thank him, Jamie answered that since Bonapaw won the trophies, he figured they were Bonapaw’s. Old Friends has been honored to display Bonapaw’s tall silver Vosburgh trophy on the office mantelpiece for years. Maybe even nearer to our hearts is the glass bowl Bonapaw won in the stakes named for Taylor’s Special.

When Bonapaw first joined the gelding herd in the original left-hand back pasture, he laid down the law to them. That’s a ploy some less dominant horses use when uncertain of their reception, but within a week Bonapaw had fit into what would be his place in the pecking order, not the boss, but a herd member they all accepted.

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The geldings watch their herd companions move to the back 40, 2009. Bonapaw is nearest to the camera.

20170719 settling into the back 40

Bonapaw ca. 2013

With people, Bonapaw was dignified and a bit aloof, polite but not interested in being best buddies. His good looks drew the eye. His bay coat was a handsome burnt sienna with a touch of flash from his bold blaze and expressive eyes.

2017 0718 Bonapaw and Lion Hunter

Bonapaw plays with Lion Hunter

As the years went by, what had been the original gelding herd gradually shifted to a younger population. Bonapaw became a senior member but continued to fully participate in their races and the frat boy tone of their play. When this herd moved to the big, new front pasture, he was very much part of the breathtaking sight as they thundered over the rolling land.

2017 0718 Cherono Lion Hunter Bonapaw and Ball Four run

Racing with Cherono, Lion Hunter and Ball Four. Bonapaw is farthest from the camera.

Then he grew less able to keep up with the herd. Along with effects of aging, he was diagnosed with EPM. Equine protozoal myeloencephalitis is caused by a single cell parasite to which nearly all horses are exposed, since it’s carried by opossums and other small quadrupeds. It is not contagious between horses. Its neurological symptoms include loss of coordination, but it does not cause pain.

2017 0718 Bonapaw and Yankee

He and Yankee Fourtune enjoyed each other’s company.

Moving in with quieter companions, Yankee Fourtune and Regal Sanction, Bonapaw received carefully monitored medication and care from Dr. Waldridge. All the barn staff, Carole and Antonio especially, gave him patient and loving care. He seemed so healthy otherwise that we never gave up hope that the meds would catch up with the condition. Looking at his beautiful body condition and bright eyes, it was hard to accept that he was losing the battle, but he was. Then his symptoms sharply worsened. Treatment and his  strong constitution had done all they could. A well-lived life had run its course.

I’ll always remember Bonapaw’s Vosburgh. And I’ll always remember Bonapaw himself as an eye-catching, peaceable presence, the kind of horse that racing people dream of, and a horse whose benevolent composure his companions, human and horse, appreciated.

All photos by Laura except my 2009 snapshots

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Bonapaw, April 2017


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July 12, 2017

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Tinners Way
May 25, 1990 – July 5, 2017

Tinners Way spent a long, full life upholding family tradition, while being very much his own horse. For many fans of Secretariat, he provided a living connection to his great sire. In his golden coat, white markings and handsome head, you could catch strong glimpses of the Triple Crown champion. But in his own right Tinner was an extraordinary athlete and a most definite presence.

Three Grade 1 wins and $1,846,546 earnings, for Juddmonte Farms and trainer Bobby Frankel, attest to Tinner’s prowess on the track. In the first of his two Pacific Classic (G1) wins he nearly equaled his dad’s Derby record. Secretariat ran a mile and a quarter at Churchill Downs in 1:59.40; Tinners Way covered a mile and a quarter at Del Mar in 1:59.43.

Tinner track - Laura

Tinners Way’s obituary in The Daily Racing Form

At stud in Kentucky, California, then Texas, he continued to enjoy a good life. As the stallion began to age, owning partner Phil Leckinger had such affection for him that he confided that letting Tinner leave Key Ranch wasn’t easy. I spoke with him on the phone once as he was making the decision to retire Tinner to Old Friends, and I remember thinking that whether Tinners Way retired with Phil or with us, this was a horse who’d always have the best of everything.

Yesterday I phoned Phil to reminisce. “You’re supposed to approach it as a business,” he said, “but a lot of sentimentality went into that purchase. I’d watched Tinner from the beginning. There were high hopes when he went to stud. If you go back to the ’96 Blood Horse, Tinner was on the cover: ‘How the West was Won.’ For us, it was a privilege that we could stand him at stud. Being Secretariat’s son put a special shine on him, but I think he was appreciated for more than that. When the time came to retire, we would have given him the care he’d had all his life. Retiring him to Old Friends was a heartfelt tug, but we wanted him to have the best care and wellbeing. And I’m glad he helped Old Friends provide for other retired horses. He had a good run, any way you want to see it.”

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At Old Friends, we’d given a final home to Secretariat’s son, Academy Award, and we still missed the small red stallion whose sweetness was much like Alphabet Soup’s. “Oscar” let children pet and hug him. Tinner immediately told us he was a different kind of horse. He was fiery, proud, a stallion who expected respect, and got it. But he also reached out to people. He wanted to make friends. When he let us know the front of the farm was too busy for him, we gave him a quieter paddock off the beaten track of the three daily tours and all the other comings and goings. Tinner liked his new digs. A line of tall trees provided him shade and a wind break, and instead of the usual stall-sized run-in shed, Tinner had a luxurious double-sized run-in shelter. Unlike some, he wasn’t really a fan of his shed, though. He preferred the front of his paddock. From that high ground he could see pretty much the whole farm, and we could see him.

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Tinner’s preference for the back of the farm made some inconvenience. Visitors who asked to see him sometimes couldn’t when their schedules wouldn’t allow staying after the regular tour, or when no guide was available to take them up the hill. To all who never got to feed him a carrot I offer heartfelt apologies, but I know you understand that Tinner’s wish for calm surroundings had to come first. For all that, he really enjoyed playing host once every day or three. He liked making friends. A long horse but not a tall one, he’d put his nose between the fence boards for carrots, often huffing and puffing (“I’ll blow your house down!”) just so we’d all understand he was no pushover.

His favorite thing of all was to have his butt scratched. A one person, two handed scratch was good. A two people, four handed scratch on his back and butt was bliss. Phil recalled Tinner’s enjoyment of a good scratch. At OF, Laura eventually brought him a wooden back scratcher of his very own, which he loved her to use. Sometimes when I delivered his lunch he’d ignore the food, sling his fanny upside the fence, and call me over.

But other times, it’d be all about the meal, or the carrots, or the neighbors. Tinner’s relationship with the horses in the nearby paddocks was competitive. Whether it was Williamstown, son of Seattle Slew, or Affirmed’s son Affirmed Success, or Zippy Chippy during the summer he spent in Kentucky, Tinners Way made sure everybody knew exactly who he was.

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Who he was—decidedly in his own right—is impossible to put into mere words. Tinners Way had a big presence. He was demanding but outgoing, feisty but affectionate. He was no pussycat, but he had an honest, kind heart. I know I’m just one of those who will always miss Tinner just because he was Tinner.

Photos by Laura

170706 Tinner 1


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June 1, 2017

170601 view from new mare pasture

The view from the new pasture, looking over Yankee Fourtune, Regal Sanction, and Bonapaw’s paddock, over Geronimo, Cost Affective and Rathor’s paddock, toward the barn.

We’ve opened up a wonderful big new pasture on the main farm. It’s on the south side, a little up the hill from the hay barn, and it runs all the way back to the tree line. This is one of the most beautiful spots on the farm. In the morning it gets sun, and in the afternoon that solid line of tall trees casts a nice, big shade over the upper part of the paddock.

So, which lucky horses have moved into these great digs? It’s three of the mares, 1992-93 Australian Juvenile Champion Bint Marscay, Ferdinand’s daughter Hidden Dark and Film Maker’s mom, Miss Du Bois. A fourth mare will soon join them, but for now these three girls, who have been together in a smaller paddock for some time, are exploring the wider spaces, their new surroundings, and some conversations with their new neighbors, in one another’s familiar company.

170601 run-in shed and waterer

They have a spacious run-in shed. That brightly colored gizmo is their automatic waterer. You can see their shade trees in the background. Their feed tubs are positioned along the back fence in the afternoon shade, and in the winter the trees will make a bit of a wind break.

170601 the girls

Left to right, Hidden Dark, Miss Du Bois, and Bint Marscay.

Here they are enjoying a gorgeous first morning in June in their new home.

170601 the boys woo-wooing the girls

The guys (Fabulous Strike and Marshall Rooster) woo-woo-ing their new neighbors, the girls. Fabulous Strike was whinnying winningly at them. The girls didn’t pay the two geldings much mind, though.

170601 Binty lady of mystery

Binty, lady of mystery.

Their fly masks don’t make for the best of photos, but they do keep the bugs out of their eyes. On tours I often get asked two questions: Can a horse wearing a fly mask see? Yes. It’s mesh. When you hold a fly mask in front of your own face, the world looks much as it does through a window screen. It provides a little bit of a protective sun glasses effect, but its real purpose is to keep pesky flies out of a horse’s eyes. So—second question—why are only some of the horses wearing fly masks? Often it’s because either they or a paddock mate pulled their fly mask off. And certain residents have let us know they don’t want a fly mask. Also, as a courtesy to visitors, a few of the superstars have no fly mask so that their faces will show in photos. Silver Charm and Game on Dude, for instance, wear no mask and use more fly repellant. As for the magnificently photogenic War Emblem, can you imagine him wanting a fly mask? He’s let us know he most certainly would rather not.

170601 War Emblem

War Emblem. Photo by Laura.

In case you’re wondering who’s moved into the paddock in the back 40 acres vacated by the three girls, it’s two of the guys who have been biding their time in the barn area, Jimbo Fallon who you may have met in his stall or seen in the small outdoor paddock connected to this stall, and Skip Away’s grandson, Skip’s World, who you may have visited when he got his turn-out time in the round pen between the two barns. Jimbo and Skip have known each other across the barn aisle for a some months. Now they’re getting to know each other much better as roommates.

170601 Jimbo and Skip new buddies

“You’re gray, you’re okay.’ Left, Skip’s World. Right, Jimbo Fallon.

As you can see, confident Jimbo seems to be spending some get-acquainted time reassuring his new buddy that life in a paddock of their very own is going to be really great. Their new home is perfect for two horses, with plenty of room to play and graze, and they also have some tree shelter on two sides.

I should mention that all the paddocks in this blog post are off of the main tour route. We try to keep as many of the stars as we can on the front of the farm, on the walking tour routes, but if you want to visit the mares, or Tinners Way who much prefers the peace and quiet at the back of the farm, you can often visit them by request. The best way is to ask ahead of time, when you make the appointment, so we can have someone, and maybe a golf cart, take you to the horse you want to see after the regular tour is done. My other best advice is to schedule your tour for 10:00 or 3:00 during the weekend, when a tour guide or other OF humanoid is nearly always free to take you to see the horse you especially want to see. If at all possible we’ll make it happen.

Currently our main goal is to provide more space and a continuing high standard of care for the growing number of residents at the Georgetown farm. As we do, we will eventually expand the available tour routes. For now, we have an option to make more paddocks–fencing, run-in shed, waterer, ground prep–on land just to the south of the new paddocks. Here’s some of that land.

170601 more land

Beautiful, eh? And it’ll be a lot more beautiful with horses living the good life on it. We’re working hard to make that goal a reality, and we couldn’t do it if it wasn’t for each and every one of you, our fabulous supporters. Thank you!

This morning Michael alerted me to a really great story about Sarava winning the 2002 Belmont Stakes, and about him now on the farm. It’s got good quotes from his partnership owner, Gary Drake and his trainer, Ken McPeek, and some really informative tidbits, so I thought you might enjoy it too. It’s posted on the Bourbon and Barns blog.

Sarava, the Biggest Long Shot in Belmont History on the Bourbon and Barns blog.




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May 30, 2017

170529-01 C and HL flowers

Charismatic and Hidden Lake will be buried in the champions’ cemetery at the front of the farm.

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.

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Mary reminds us of the achievements and lives of the horses who passed during the last twelve months.

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.


170529-02 gathering

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.


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Dukie the day I first met him, June 2008 – Beth

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.


170529-05 Diamond Stripes

Diamond Stripes (2003-2017). Photo by Laura.


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May 20, 2017

170501 Swannie

Swan’s Way remembered by his best friend, Tom Beatty

There aren’t many Thoroughbreds born in the Virgin Islands – that locale barely makes the foaling list each year. Recently, only three of over 22,000 live foals reported to the Jockey Club call the Islands home. One of those rare islanders from the1989 foal crop was our very own Swan’s Way.

By the great champion sprinter Smile, Swan’s Way (called Swannie by his friends) is not the best known of Smile’s offspring; that honor probably goes to I’ll Get Along, the stakes-winning dam of Smarty Jones, the Eclipse-winning three-year-old colt who thrilled race fans in 2004 as he missed the Triple Crown by less than a length. No, Swannie is far less important in racing annals, but if they bestowed an Eclipse Award for heart and determination, Swannie would win it outright.

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Swan’s Way at 17 years old. Photo by Tom.

In 81 lifetime starts spanning 12-plus years or racing, 52 of those contests in lower claiming company, Swan’s Way earned just over $64,000; many of our Old Friends’ retirees earned that much on their worst day of racing. Swannie’s racing career ended on August 4, 2004 at age 15 when he was eased shortly after starting a six-furlong claimer at Suffolk Downs where he had launched his racing career in 1992. Time had finally taken its toll on this old blue-collar survivor.

When I joined the Old Friends volunteer corps in early 2006, one of the first horses I met at Hurstland Farm was a feisty stallion trotting up and down the fence trying to get the attention of a couple of mares in the next paddock. He wasn’t the best looking horse on the farm, but there was something about him that caught my eye. I gave him some carrots; he snorted a couple of times, and went back to his mare-chasing routine.


Swan’s Way at 26. Photo by Laura.

Over the next few months, our visits were more frequent. He waited for his treats at the fence and allowed me to pet him; Swannie and I found a friend in each other.


Swannie on a misty summer morning, about 20 years old. Photo by Beth.

On June 30, 2006, we moved 15 horses to Dream Chase Farm. Swannie settled in to his new paddock and quickly learned the tour routine. Later that year he developed ulcers in his eyes and was confined to the barn during the days so we could treat his condition; he got his exercise at night when the sunlight wouldn’t hurt his vision. I cleaned his stall daily, so it was ready for him when he returned to the barn each morning and took a nap. I didn’t know horses could snore until I met Swannie.


Swannie (wearing fringed fly mask) races Little Silver Charm and Michael, April 2014. Photo by Laura.


Swannie in 2017. Photo by Laura.

Over the years, Swannie entertained our visitors with his good looks and pleasant personality. He loved his carrots, enjoyed our visitors, and the fact that he was a pauper among many millionaires didn’t bother him a bit.

Rest in peace, my friend.





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May 1, 2017

For now, just an update:

Due to the weather forecast for this coming Thursday
Bloodline Products announces the postponement of
the Derby Lawn Party at the Conrad-Caldwell Estate
in Louisville to benefit Old Friends.

The Lawn Party will be rescheduled at the same location.
Stay tuned for the announcement!

And, a promise. When we lose a resident, sometimes sadness overcomes my ability to put words together at first. Last week we lost two longtime, much loved, retirees. Duke Ora and Swan’s Way left us with years of happy memories. I want to share some of those with you, and I will post about each one of them soon.

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Duke Ora (1994-2017)

170501 Swannie

Swan’s Way (1989-2017)

Meanwhile, as you enjoy the Oaks, the Derby, and our Annual Homecoming, join us in a farewell toast to these two hardworking old Suffolk Downs and Rockingham Park campaigners, who each went on to provide Old Friends with much, much more, over the years, than words will ever say.

photos by Laura

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April 27, 2017

Awesome Gem

“What? The best 2017 Derby party in all of  Louisville? And it’s a benefit for Old Friends? Wow!”

Silver Charm

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Silver Charm’s Kentucky Derby win, jockey Joe Steiner will recount exercising the champion-to-be during his Triple Crown bid!


Rail Trip

And there’ll be great refreshments!

W. C. Jones

And music, and a cool auction, and some unusual games!


We all hope you’ll come kick off Derby weekend at Bloodline Products’ Derby Lawn Party Fundraiser on behalf of Old Friends!


The event will take place at the Historic Conrad Caldwell Estate, 1402 St, James Ct, Louisville, KY
on Thursday May 4th from 4 pm -7 pm.
Hors d’oeuvres, music, silent auction, lawn games, and more.
Special guest host: Jockey Joe Steiner
For ticket information and reservations 
please contact Bloodlines at:

For more information call


And yes, that really is Awesome Gem at the Georgetown OF, where he’s settling in beautifully.

As is Albert the Great.

And Jimbo Fallon is enjoying the Kentucky spring weather!

Tinners Way amid the blooming redbud trees

Afternoon Deelites – who enjoys just about everything in the universe!

Bonapaw and Yankee Fourtune are doing fabulously.

And don’t forget Bebe!

Tinners Way

See you soon!

…at Bloodline Products’ Derby Lawn Party to benefit Old Friends on Thursday evening in Louisville,

…and at Old Friends’ own Annual Homecoming, Derby weekend Sunday at Old Friends in Georgetown!




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