March 6, 2017


Isn’t Sun King handsome?

Old Friends and Sun King’s racing owner, Tracy Farmer, had been talking for months about retiring this best son of Charismatic to our Georgetown farm. After several years at stud, Sun King’s fertility declined. When treatment at Auburn University’s equine fertility clinic couldn’t return Sun King to stud, he came to live with us as arranged. Old Friends extends grateful thanks to Mr. Farmer for facilitating Sun King’s retirement.

In a way, it was hard hanging around the barn waiting Sun King to arrive, just as we’d done so short a time ago for his sire, and yes Sun King’s color is different, semi-sweet chocolate, but there’s a strong resemblance. But in another way the timing couldn’t have been better. Sun King arrived home already someone special, to people who already love him.


Sun King arrives. Tim leads him to his quarantine quarters – a stall and small paddock.


Sun King gets a first look at his new home.

Some of you knew him as a race horse. He was among the best of his time. But his debut actually came much earlier, when the colt yet to be named Sun King appeared in the Blood-Horse‘s “Foal Watch,” a photo gallery of Thoroughbred baby pix guarenteed to bring smiles. Then he was just “Charismatic – Clever But Costly” (his parents’ names). He sure was one good looking kid, but what are any foal’s chances of becoming a graded stakes winner and running in the Kentucky Derby?


If you’re an aspiring race horse, it helps a lot if you’re in Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito’s barn. Sun King had talent and Mr. Zito quickly helped him develop it. Sun King went from his maiden special weight win straight into the Champagne Stakes at Belmont, a confident move that proved justified when the colt scored a nice third. As a fan with an eye on him, I hoped he’d win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He came close (third). At three, he was hot on the Derby Trail with a Tampa Bay Derby win and a good race in the Blue Grass Stakes. But Derby day wasn’t his day. It was Giacomo’s. But hey, Sun King’s a Derby winner – the Tampa Bay Derby and the Pennsylvania Derby!

Some people remember Sun King as the horse who ran to more impressive second place finishes in top races than any of his generation – the Haskell, the Met Mile, the Whitney – this horse hardly ever finished worse than third in the best races in America. But I’ll always remember his Commonwealth Stakes. The race was 7 furlongs on the old Keeneland dirt track, and the competition was strong. Instead of rushing toward the front as he’d usually done, Sun King ran farther back in the field. Was it just that he’d gotten off to a slow start? I didn’t think so at the time, and I still don’t. I think some of that Zito genius was at work. I saw a horse who could work with what he was given, who trusted Corey Nakatani to get him there and when asked on the turn, roared to the front like a Damascus or an Awad, winning with beautiful confidence. And this was the old Keeneland dirt at a meet where nothing was moving up but speed. And Sun King.


I guess every racing fan’s got some two dozen races they’ll never forget, and Sun King’s Commonwealth is one of mine.

So, now that we’re getting to know him, what is he like? One thing’s obvious. This horse is smart. He’ll be in quarantine for a couple of weeks yet, a routine precaution for all newcomers to Old Friends, just to make sure they don’t introduce any viruses or bugs into our population, but even though visitors aren’t feeding him carrots yet, he’s got his eye on everything that happens, and it took him no time at all to figure out what was going on. If he’s in his paddock and sees a tour coming, he often calls us over. He knows what’s in that bucket. Now that he’s settling in, he’s showing us friendliness too, often coming over to the side of his paddock nearest where people are, showing us curiosity and good will. I think Sun King is already a great Old Friends resident. He’s got the knack. I hope you’ll come visit him soon!


photos by Laura, who took most of them yesterday and stayed
up last night editing and uploading them – she’s our hero!



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February 28, 2017

As you may know, Charismatic’s best son, Sun King, arrived at the farm last Saturday. Sun King’s retirement with us has been in the works for some months, and I wish his welcome hadn’t been so bittersweet. He deserves his own post and it’ll follow within a couple of days. Today, it being the last day of the month, I want to share some photos and a 14 second video of Charismatic taken by Julia Ray on her visit to the farm. Julia has kindly given me permission to share them here.

Play video. “Carrots, or else!”

For all of you who missed the chance to visit Charismatic, these are a good record of what visiting with him was like.








I’d like to mention that Old Friends plans a special monument for Charismatic. His ashes will be laid to rest in the front cemetery at the Georgetown farm. Our social media will keep you posted about that.

Sometimes it’s difficult to accept what happens and find closure, and I don’t think that’s happened yet on the farm or for those of you who didn’t have the good fortune to spend time with him but loved him as much as if you had. I hope this “virtual tour” helps.

Charismatic vido and photos by Julia Ray


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February 22, 2017

Wherever you are, your presence and caring have been felt by all of us here at the farm. As the shock of losing Charismatic so unexpectedly went from feeling unreal to all too real, as the necropsy results came in and Old Friends vets Dr. Waldridge and Dr. Bell helped us all understand them better via Natalie Voss’s informative article in the Paulick Report, and as so many of you have sent your kind words and tokens of sympathy, your caring is strongly felt.

Ms. Voss’s article with Dr. Waldridge’s and Dr. Bell’s information, important for understanding what happened to Charismatic, can be found here.

For whatever comfort it may be, I too saw Charismatic’s remains Sunday morning. His position was peaceful and his bedding showed no sign of struggle or distress.

You may have seen this photo, the last one ever taken of him. There’s a little story that goes with it.


On Saturday, Charismatic and the other residents played host to a good number of visitors. Over his two and a half months with us, he came to enjoy these visits. What started as wanting the carrots but wondering what all those people were there for, had relaxed into a routine he liked, for the attention and admiration as well as the carrots. Charismatic impressed us with his dignity, his intelligence, his professional attitude, and his kindness. We looked forward to the long, fascinating journey of forming ever-deepening bonds with him.

That night, after the farm closed, Laura and I golf carted up to the “back 40” for Laura to spend quality time with her favorite girl, Bint Marscay. It takes a lot of carrots to get to the back 40. The horses in back of the main tour route all come to the fence for their due. It’s amazing how many carrots disappear on the way, and the rest disappear quickly as Laura grooms and treats Binty and I noodle around with the others in the back. But we were careful to save some carrots for the two visits I wanted to make before leaving. Half of those carrots were for Charismatic and the other half for Afternoon Deelites.

We stopped by the barn first. Charismatic was, as always, enthusiastic about his carrot dessert. He made short work of all his carrots while Laura took a few more photos of him, though the light was going and she knew they’d be underexposed. Charismatic was so beautiful it was always impossible not to take a few more photos.

But photos were definitely not his concern. Charismatic let us know, in no uncertain terms, that only one thing mattered: I’d stepped away, but I still had carrots.

He could see them plainly. There they were. So why was I not giving them to him? I explained they were for Afternoon Deelites. That didn’t wash. I had carrots. Charismatic wanted them.

This is what’s happening in that photo. His very alert attention is on those carrots.

I sighed. Well, after all, Afternoon Deelites was outdoors in his paddock and wouldn’t know about it. I gave in. Charismatic got to eat every last one of those carrots. I’ll always be glad he did.

And I’ll always be a little comforted that my last words to him were “I love you.”

Though the voice he heard saying the words happened to be mine, I respect and honor that I spoke them to him for each and every one of you who loved him.

photo by Laura


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February 14, 2017



A Contest? Whee! Rapid Redux (R) and Amazombie (L)

Here they come running! They can’t wait to try their hooves at drawing a design for Old Friends’ official silks!

If you win, what do you get? Fame! Glory! and a seriously beautiful Prize!


or use the SILKS CONTEST menu tab at top of this page

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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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