Horse Racing's Living History Museum
Since 2003, Old Friends has put a new face on the concept of equine aftercare. Founded by former Boston Globe film critic Michael Blowen, the organization has grown from one horse to a 136-acre farm and two satellite facilities and over 165 rescued and retired horses. The farm attracts over 20,000 visitors annually, who come to see such stars as 3-time Santa Anita Handicap winner Game On Dude, and Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners Silver Charm and War Emblem (both repatriated from overseas stallion duties), as well as Breeders' Cup Champions like Alphabet Soup, Little Mike, Amazombie, and Eldaafer.
While it's the stars that draw the crowds, the farm is home to less-successful hard-knockers, many of whom never won a race.
Beth and I visited Old Friends in August 2018. Ironically, we met an old friend of Beth's there who lives nearby. Beth and Martha have not seen each other for nearly 10 years, but have kept in close touch via email, phone, and Facebook. Very appropriate place to meet!
The office at Old Friends.
View from the entrance.
Another view of the farm.
Such a peaceful setting.
And one more peaceful view.
Yes, that is a cemetery in the foreground, one of two on the grounds. More on that later.
Martha (L) and Beth (R) before the tour.
Catching up on nearly 10 years of news.
*** PLEASE NOTE ***
With each horse, I have included a link to his bio on the Old Friends website.
Be sure to view all of the photos on each bio - several have old race photos!
As our tour group of about a dozen people walks out, the first horse knows it's time for treats!
Our tour guide, Ellen, knows each of the horses and their personalities.
The first horse we visited was Nicanor.
He ran 18 races: 4 wins, 2 second place, and 2 third place.
Our tour guide, Ellen, with Nicanor.
A little farther up the lane, we visited with Little Mike. Very gentle and friendly.
30 Races: 14 Wins! Total winnings - $3,543,392.00
Little Mike patiently waiting for a carrot treat.
Beth feeding Little Mike a carrot.
Beth and Little Mike - instant friends.
Next on the tour are Rapid Redux (L) and Amazombie (R)
Being a successful race horse usually means the horse is high-energy, "Alpha Male" type personality.
This means it is sometimes difficult to find two that get along well enough to be in the same paddock.
Rapid Redux and Amazombie hit it off and are good friends. Here, Amazombie is clowning around.
Rapid Redux holds the record for 22 consecutive victories! He started 42 races and won 28 of them!
Amazombie started 29 races: 12 Wins, 5 Second Place, 6 Third Place. Total winnings: $1,920,378.00
In the next paddock was War Emblem. He is one of the "stars" here at Old Friends.
He won the 2002 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, only to be denied the Triple Crown at Belmont
by future Old Friends fellow retiree Sarava.
Started 13 races - won 7. Total winnings: $3,491,000.00
He can still be feisty, so we were not allowed to get close to pet or feed him.
War Emblem - Majestic pose.
Beth making friends with Eye Of The Tiger, one of the new retirees at Old Friends.
Inside the barn, Alphabet Soup was waiting to greet us.
Winner of the 1996 Breeders' Classic.
Started 24 Races: 10 Wins, 3 Second Place, 6 Third Place. Total winnings: $2,990,270.00
Silver Charm is another "Star" resident at Old Friends.
Winner of the 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness races.
Edged out of the 1997 Triple Crown at Belmont by Touch Gold, who lives just 100 yards away in another paddock.
Started 24 Races: 12 Wins, 7 Second Place, and 2 Third Place. Total winnings: $6,944,369.00
Silver Charm with Old Friends' owner Michael Blowen having a friendly chat.
Mike and Beth with Silver Charm. He loves to pose for the cameras!
Just a short walk up the lane is Touch Gold,
the horse that beat Silver Charm at Belmont in 1997 and cost him the Triple Crown.
Apparently, the two horses have met here on occasion and get along. Forgive and move on!
Maybe us humans could learn a thing or two from horses.
Touch Gold was busy eating lunch, so I didn't want to get any closer and bother him.
1997 Belmont Stakes winner. (Denied Silver Charm the Triple Crown that year!)
Started 15 Races: 6 Wins, 3 Second Place, 1 Third Place. Total winnings: $1,679,907.00
Our next horse on the tour is perhaps one of the most famous and recognizable.
Not because he won lots of races - he only won about $60,000 in his lifetime.
However, Popcorn Deelites was a mirror image of Seabiscuit, and played him in the 2003 movie.
Popcorn Deelites started 58 races and won 11. (Not including the movie win)
Popcorn Deelites: http://www.oldfriendsequine.org/horses/popcorn-deelites-25.html
He likes to pose for the cameras. (He is a movie star, remember?)
Out tour guide, Ellen, joking around with one of the other horses.
Some wear a screen mask to keep flies out of their eyes.
Beth making another friend at Old Friends.
More retirees enjoying the beautiful day at Old Friends.
Martha (L) and Beth (R). Old friends along with a new Old Friend.
Another multi-millionaire winner - Sun King. (Total winnings - $2,240,008 with 6 wins)
At the beginning of this page, there was a photo of a horse grazing out past a cemetery.
That cemetery (shown below) is one of two on the farm. Since this is a "retirement home" for horses to spend their senior days,
it is to be expected that there will be horses passing on. The farm deals with this matter with much respect.
A few early horses were buried, but it soon became evident that there would not be enough space.
Now, most horses are cremated.
Nicanor grazing next to the cemetery near the entrance.
Charismatic won the 1999 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and was favored to win Belmont and
become a Triple Crown winner. However, Charismatic broke a leg bone near the end of the race
and still finished third. He won over $2 Million Dollars in his lifetime.
The other cemetery is located up on the hill near the barn.
The cremated remains of dozens of horses who once faced each other competitively on the racetrack
now rest together in peace under the shade trees.
A local Boy Scout troop made this memorial for Winston, the miniature horse who was the
Goodwill Ambassador for the Kentucky Derby Museum for many years.
The Old Friends farm added the very fitting metal sculpture.
We would highly recommend stopping by the Old Friends farm and taking a tour when you are near
Georgetown, Kentucky (just north of Lexington). We learned a lot about horses and enjoyed our time there.
The staff at the farm and very patient about answering questions, and seem to really respect the horses.
If I was a horse, this is where I would want to "retire".
After the tour, Kevin and Martha took us down to the town of Midway for lunch at Darlin' Jeans.
Midway looks like a very interesting town with lots of shops. We will have to go back another time!
Mike and Beth at lunch in Midway, KY.
Lunch is served!
(From L-R) Kevin, Martha, Beth, Mike
Hope you enjoyed the day. We did!