February 10, 2017

The saga of the mild winter continues.

What? I thought harsh winters were the stuff of sagas. But our weather this winter has been so easy it’s made little tribulations seem big. Like when not even one person came to the Georgetown farm for a tour last Saturday.


Danthebluegrassman and Fighting City Hall wait for something to happen at Old Friends

Admittedly, January and February have always been our slowest months for visits, but with the weather so mild we’ve had an active winter this year. So, imagine. Saturday, and no entertainment for the horses. No adulation.


“Do I not deserve adulation?” Fabulous Strike

And – what, no carrots?!?

Sarava gave up waiting for a tour and took a disgruntled nap. So did Genuine Reward. Rapid Redux put his nose to Amazombie’s, and did I hear the whispered words, “Let’s go on strike”?

Oh-oh. What’s to be done? How to make the day fun for the horses?


Alphabet Soup: “Come on, entertain me.”

There was only one answer.

The Bucket!

Yes, I mean that plastic bucket full of chopped carrots the guide hauls out on the tours so everyone can hand-feed carrots to the horses. But I mean more than that.

It’s like the difference between when a friend takes a bonbon out of the candy box and gives it to you, and when they hand you the whole luscious box with an invitation to choose several of the pieces you want the most.

On tours, carrot pieces are forthcoming but The Bucket is the Plastic Grail. It is coveted, yearned for, but almost never in reach. Except for those rare and special times when a horse gets to stick his or her nose in and choose!


Archie’s Echo loves his carrots shredded.

Not everybody on the farm gets the uncensored Bucket. Silver Ray, Geri and Archie’s Echo don’t have the teeth to chew carrots. We shred carrots for them. And Alphabet Soup, Swan’s Way, Dinard and some others of our older residents have trouble with the thicker, harder to chew carrot pieces. We try to select easier pieces for them to chew (Afternoon Deelites, this means you, too.)


Afternoon Deelites. “Old age is a state of mind, not a state of mine.”

But for those of fewer years and better teeth, The Bucket is an incomparable event. Oh, the freedom of choice! This carrot must be sweeter than that one. Oh, what a fun Saturday! The Bucket is on the loose!


Little Mike


Popcorn Deelites


Special Ring

As Laura and I headed toward Touch Gold, who should we meet but one Michael Blowen, on a Bucket walk from the opposite direction. Doubles!


Touch Gold




War Emblem



So last Saturday turned out deliciously. Even so, it was a little short on entertainment for the horses. I think they look forward to their visitors. Our same old faces probably get boring after awhile. I hope they’ll be meeting some new friends and enjoying reunions with old friends tomorrow, and on into the week, and picking up pace as spring approaches and retirement at Old Friends just gets more and more delicious.


photos by Laura


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February 2, 2017

I feel moved to mention a sadness that lingers over Old Friends. Though Bill Mooney’s presence at the farm was as often in spirit as in person, especially during the last few years as he battled illness, Bill’s wisdom and love for the Thoroughbred have been a beacon throughout Old Friends’ existence.

Bill’s Eclipse Award winning account of Precisionist’s death at Old Friends in Georgetown has become iconic, but he chronicled many of our residents long before there was an Old Friends. His words contributed to our—racing fans’—perceptions of them on the track and as through their progeny. As Michael nurtured Old Friends from a few paddocks with a few horses into its present thriving three farms and two satellites providing homes to more than 150, Bill Mooney was a steadfast supporter, an active publicist on Old Friends’ behalf, and a champion on behalf of all Thoroughbreds.

Bill was also our eulogist. He, who had chronicled their careers and the eras of racing that their achievements blazoned, gave them, and we who mourned their passing, a final gift of words in his respectful and loving tributes each Memorial Day. I especially remember Bill’s eulogy at the first Memorial Day gathering, when his words closed the circle between our horses who had passed that year and the human veterans honored on that day by reminding us of the equine veterans of wars they did not cause but in which they served and died, and the wartime contributions of, and losses to, the breed of the Thoroughbred. I remember, too, his yearly naming their names, making each horse appear vividly again in all our minds.

But my favorite memory of Bill comes from a party at Michael and Diane’s, sitting on the sofa with a Kentucky Derby tee shirt spread between us. The kind with the names and silks of that year’s entries printed on the back. This shirt was for the 2007 Derby, by that time some years past. As Bill or I pointed to this name and that one, we traded observations on the horses, their sires, dams or damsires, their runs in the Derby and in other races. What I remember the most vividly is Bill’s kindness in listening to my takes on these horses about whom, and about whose connections, he knew so much more than I, just a fan on the sidelines, ever could. I felt pretty honored.

Bill’s wisdom and kindness will continue to live on in all we do at Old Friends.


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January 19, 2017

We’ve been having a run of mild winter days. For the horses, relaxing days. Quiet days, with only one tour a day. Summer is fun with all that luscious green grass and three times a day when tours of carrot-toting humans come to let the horses get a good look at them and, confined in the runs that are there to fence the humans in, to do their best to entertain the horses (I often wonder if this is what a tour is all about from their perspective). Yes, summer is good. But mild winter days bring pleasures, too.

Game On Dude

Game On Dude

Like just taking life easy.

Tinners Way

Tinners Way

And watching the humans work. Humans doing maintenance, delivering lunch, delivering hay, driving around in those day-glow Kubota things doing all those peculiar things humans do.




Like rummaging through all that good hay they bring for the best stuff, the rich, fine hay dust at the bottom.

Bint Marscay

Bint Marscay

Well, and, yes, carrots…

Sokitumi Samurai

Sokitumi Samurai

…and a few more carrots, if you please.

Hidden Dark

Hidden Dark

And like being pretty.



Or not.

Kudos (standing), Affirmed Success (R) and Come On Flip (L)

Kudos (standing), Affirmed Success (L) and Come On Flip (nose to ground)

Like napping with your friends.

Dinard (standing) and Early Pioneer (zonked out in dreamland)

Dinard (standing) and Early Pioneer (zonked out in dreamland)

And then napping a little bit more.

War Emblem

War Emblem

Or, if you happen to be War Emblem, giving the whole rest of the world the part of you it truly deserves.

photos by Laura


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December 29, 2016

What a year 2016 has been for Old Friends! We continue to grow, and this year, thanks to our generous and far-sighted supporters, we have recovered and improved our barn facilities and met significant goals toward providing our increased roster with more paddock space. The care they’re getting has never been better. There’s no feeling more wonderful than walking a farm full of happy horses. Inevitably, some much-loved residents passed in 2016, who we’ll always miss. As life goes on, new residents make their own places in our hearts –Little Mike and big-personality Ide, to name just two.

I think Charismatic likes it here.


In becoming home to Charismatic, Old Friends has achieved one of its original goals and we’re pleased to deepen our valued relationship with the organizations in Japan that provided such excellent care at stud to Charismatic (JBBA’s Shizunai Stallion Station), War Emblem (Shadai Stallion Station), and Silver Charm (JBBA’s Stallion Stations). We’re also honored that Old Friends’ retirees played host to a record-breaking 10,000+ visitors in 2016. Counted in numbers of carrots enjoyed, it’s been a great year.

Now, once again, it’s that time of the year when we tour guides try to remember to add a year to every horse’s age. Here are some landmarks.

Dinard will be 29.

Dinard will be 29.

Dinard, our oldest Thoroughbred, will be 29. Officially, at least. He was foaled April 6, 1988. Our next most senior, Swan’s Way, Silver Ray and Highland Ack, each turn 28. At Cabin Creek, Will’s Way has seniority at 24, and at Kentucky Downs, Thornfield will officially be 21. In Georgetown, so will Charismatic, of course. Silver Charm and Touch Gold will be 23, and War Emblem and Sarava are a youthful 18.

Swan's Way

Swan’s Way, 28 in 2017


Silver Ray

Silver Ray, 28


Highland Ack (Landy)

Highland Ack (Landy), 28


“Hrm!” I feel a hoof tap my back. Because it’s Little Silver Charm who really has seniority over all the horses at Old Friends. We just don’t know exactly how old he is. He’s not telling, but he does want his status duly recognized.




The ones whose ages I can hardly wrap my head around are the new twenties, Special Ring, Kudos and Judge’s Case.

Kudos with his buddy Affirmed Success

Kudos, 20, with his buddy Affirmed Success, 23


Judge's Case

Judge’s Case, 20

Ringy, 20 years old? Seems impossible. Wasn’t that just yesterday he arrived all fiesty at Hurstland, a 9 year old kid with a big notion of himself—deservedly, since he’s a multiple G1 winner with earnings of nearly $1 million—and just yesterday that he adopted Popcorn Deelites with the attitude that he could push Pops around all he liked but he’d protect him with his last breath if it came to it? Ring and Pops have settled into an easy, kind companionship over the years.

Pops always feels secure under Ring's protective supervision.

Pops (19) always feels secure under Ring’s (20) protective supervision.

Under Ring’s bossy, protective eye, Pops continues to flourish. He’s turning 19, himself. Derby winners competing for carrots make no difference to this star team. They’ve got their act down solid.

Play it again, Ring.

Play it again, Ring.

Time to confess, though. When Special Ring is off stage, he’s one of the most sensible horses on the farm. Of course, it’s obvious at all times that he’s smart. Who else on the farm gets a carrot just by lifting a lip?

Other decaders at the main farm are Game On Dude, Little Mike, Yankee Fourtune, Sarbonne and Fergus Mac Roich, all hitting the big 10.

Game On Dude

Game On Dude will really be 10? Such a cool Dude.

The one and only Little Mike.

The one and only Little Mike, 10 in 2017

Yankee Fourtune (10) whispers a secret to Bonapaw (21).

Yankee Fourtune (10) whispers a secret to Bonapaw (21).

Who, me, 10? Fergus Mac Roich

Who, me, 10? Fergus Mac Roich

Of course, I'm a 10! Sarbonne.

Of course I’m a  perfect 10. Sarbonne.

All of us at Old Friends, horse and human, warmly wish everyone a 2017 of peace, kindness and love.

Best wishes for a good new year from Maybesomaybenot, Bobby Sands, Areyoutalkintome, Shadow Caster, and all the rest of us.

Happy New Year from Maybesomaybenot (9), Bobby Sands (12), Areyoutalkintome (16), Shadow Caster (21), and all the rest of us.


Photos by Laura Battles

All but Pops and Ring taken Christmas Day, 2016

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December 13, 2016

Here’s a short clip from WLEX, Channel 18 in Lexington, from Charismatic’s press conference yesterday.


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December 12, 2016


Considering Silver Charm’s obvious disapproval of the attention lavished on the newcomer to the farm, the two Kentucky Derby winners are working out a neighborly ease with each other. Yesterday afternoon Laura captured this interaction between them.




It may seem as if horses in two different paddocks have little contact with each other, but watching stallions who are too territorial to share a paddock interact over their fences makes it clear how much socializing they actually share. Eye contact, body language, and occasional vocal signals communicate a lot. I’m sure we humans miss a good deal of it, but we notice that certain stallions tend to graze each in his own territory but close to each other, others ignore each other, and some enjoy razzing each other. Awad and Kiri’s Clown, rivals on the track, ran elaborate disrespect numbers at each other but usually hung out side by side and if one went to the barn the other would call out for him. Mixed Pleasure was the only horse on the farm who could get a gallop out of the usually unflappable Clever Allemont. Alphabet Soup is popular. Depending on which side of his paddock he’s on, either Geri or Ide will usually be found nearby. It looks as if 1997 Derby and Preakness winner Silver Charm and 1999 Derby and Preakness winner Charismatic are in the process of working out a pretty neighborly understanding.


2002 Derby and Preakness winner War Emblem isn’t their neighbor, but he’s on friendly terms with Eldaafer in the paddock behind him. And of course he, too, has plenty of human admirers. As you can see, he has Michael in training. Anyone for a future wager on Michael?

Photos by Laura

Inconsequential remarks by Beth


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December 9, 2016

Today we had the first snow of the winter. It was only a sprinkling, but it was enough to make the ground white for a few hours. Here’s my first snow of the winter haiku.

Red stallion, white snow.
Eyes bright, muscles strong—such care!
Thank you, Shizunai!

By the time I got to the farm the snow was gone, so there’s no illustration. Charismatic is comfortable and relaxed in his warm blanket. With his stall’s back access door open to his paddock he has his choice whether to be indoors or outdoors and has preferred to spend the day outdoors. And, again, I’d also like to thank the Robert and Beverly Lewis Family Foundation, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, and all who are contributing toward Charismatic’s safe journey and smooth transition into retirement.

Hope to see you at Charismatic’s welcome home press conference this Monday, Dec. 12, at 1:00 pm!

Old Friends, 1841 Paynes Depot Rd., Georgetown, KY



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December 7, 2016

No particular news except that today was Charismatic’s first sunny day at Old Friends. Each time he goes out in his paddock he’s more relaxed than the day before as his surroundings grow familiar. Though these are just snapshots, I couldn’t resist posting the morning light shining on his bright chestnut face.



For the horses, a sunny, not too cold, winter day with no demands and no one working – except for the humans who are busy seeing to their comforts – is a day of lazy pleasure. It always amazes me how contentedly horses can sunbathe in even the coolest sun. Silver Charm was grazing broadside to the warmth, Afternoon Deelites no longer feels any need to impress (at least for the moment) and was all but snoring, and Little Silver Charm…somewhere between awake and snoozing, I think.


Stay tuned for more thrilling snoring, sunbathing and grazing.




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December 5, 2016


Here are some much better pics from yesterday, with many thanks to the tireless Laura Battles.


Did I say trot? Wow, look at this floating pace, too. Move over, Dan Patch!


Afternoon Deelites has a ready answer. All 4 off the ground!




Though the horses around him were more interesting than the people, he came over for a little while to say hello.


Silver Charm, in the paddock next to all the action, let us know he was NOT impressed. (He also wants you to notice that Barbara L is NOT pointing her camera at HIM.) Silver Charm: always dignified even in exasperation.



D. Wayne Lukas looks his former trainee over.


And approves. The horses who’ve come to us from both JBBA and Shadai Stallion Station have all returned in admirable condition.


More about Charismatic’s settling in will come soon. Do I like this horse? You might say so.



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December 4, 2016, evening

What a day it’s been! At 9:00 a.m. Charismatic was turned out for his first look at the farm and a chance to stretch his legs. He looked noticeably rested and took in his surroundings with alert curiosity. As he swung into a trot a collective ahh! went up from all of us. What a surprisingly gorgeous, floating, extended trot this horse does on those flashy white-stockinged legs! A winged Pegasus trot, barely skimming the ground!


It was an overcast morning and neither my camera or I are great at photography. This is the nearest I came to capturing that trot.


Of course, all the intriguing smells in a new paddock must be investigated immediately.

He spent much of his morning introducing himself to the interesting personalities around him. Not the humans. The really interesting ones–the horses.


Charismatic meets Fighting City Hall and Danthebluegrassman.


Let’s race.


No contest. (By the way, the paddock has rounded corners and he negotiated them all smoothly and gracefully.)

So, what about that big guy over on the other side of his new digs?


Afternoon Deelites: Who do you think you are, new kid in town? I ran in the Kentucky Derby.

2016 1204 Charismatic first morning 17 AD whos studlier.jpg

Charismatic: Oh really? I won the Kentucky Derby.

2016 1204 Charismatic first morning AD makes faces.jpg

The highlight of the morning, one of the biggest highlights of any morning, ever, at Old Friends, was the welcome-back visit paid by Charismatic’s trainer, D. Wayne Lukas. The Hall of Famer remarked on how good Charismatic looks, and on his excellent muscle tone. “He looks exactly the same,” he kept saying happily.


A long awaited reunion – Charismatic and D. Wayne Lukas. Photo by Laura Battles.

Mr. Lukas also delivered the Charismatic’s Inner Circle certificates he has generously autographed–all 300 of them, and recounted stories of Charismatic’s racing days. While he and Charismatic spent some time together I found myself standing next to Dr. Waldridge, who said he’s pleased with the preliminary exam. In the next few days these will be followed up by the full exams and recommendations that all Old Friends’ new retirees receive. The barn staff reports that Charismatic has been drinking a good amount of water–important after travels for maintaining a horse’s health.

For more (and better) pictures, see @oldfriendsfarm on Twitter and check out Barbara Livingston’s gorgeous photo of that extended trot on Facebook. Now there’s a photo that does that trot of his justice!



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