Old Friends at Old Friends – Part 2 – The Grand Geldings

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When I last left off, I had told you about several of the wonderful horses I got to be reacquainted with at “Old Friends – A Kentucky Facility for Retired Thoroughbreds” (www.oldfriendsequine.org ).

Popcorn Deelights and Special Ring

Popcorn Deelights and
Special Ring

The next residents I want to talk about are Popcorn Deelights and Special Ring. These two geldings are buddies and put on quite a show. Although Old Friends was initially begun as a retirement home for thoroughbred stallions, Michael Blowen and the folks at Old Friends have, over the years, become the caregivers for geldings (like the four in this post) and mares, as well as their stallion contingent.

Pops! (aka Seabiscuit)

Pops!
(aka Seabiscuit)

Popcorn Deelights? Name doesn’t ring a bell? No, not a Kentucky Derby winner or any race you might ever of heard of. Why is he here? I’ll just bet you either saw or heard about the movie, “Seabiscuit.” The Laura Hillenbrand best-seller became a terrific movie which told the story of a crooked-legged horse who ran into history and the hearts of millions of Americans during the Great Depression. His match race with the Triple Crown-winner, War Admiral (son of the great Man O’War) is the stuff of legend. Well, Popcorn Deelights played Seabiscuit in the movie! That was Pops breaking from the gate in various races, and that was him in the penultimate scene where Seabiscuit beats War Admiral.

Special Ring and Pops

Special Ring
and Pops

Pop’s buddy, Special Ring, is quite a different story. This gorgeous son of top sire, Nureyev, won nearly a million dollars in his career. As with most Nureyevs, he excelled on the turf. Special Ring’s best distances were a mile to nine furlongs. Most of his earnings were in top California races including two winnings of the Grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar.

Another Nureyev that many remember (as both a runner and a sire) is Theatrical who won the Breeders’ Cup Turf at 1.5 miles in 1987. Why am I bringing up Theatrical (who passed away at age 30 in 2012)? Because I had the great pleasure to meet Theatrical when he first went to stud at Allen Paulson’s Brookside Farm in Versailles, Kentucky. I became thoroughly charmed by this large son of Nureyev. Why? Because one of the first things he did when I met him was to stick his tongue out to be pulled. Then he threw his top lip back and showed off his tattoo.

Special Ring with Pops

Special Ring
with Pops

Any of you who have been to Old Friends and/or know Special Ring are re-reading that last sentence. It must be genetic! The first time I met Ring, the very first thing HE did was throw back that top lip and show off his tattoo! I was flabbergasted. I was told that this is his normal habit and that he does it for guests quite often. I couldn’t stop tears from welling up in my eyes. I was thrilled to see that, on our visit this past August, he is still showing off.

Special Ring About to Show His Tattoo

Special Ring
About to Show His Tattoo

I guess you might be able to tell, Special Ring is a particular favorite of mine. Over the years, sons of Nureyev have been especially gregarious and friendly with me. I never met a Nureyev I didn’t like, and Ring is no exception. One more thing I find particularly charming about this grand gelding is his ability to shed his halter. I’ve never visited (nor seen too many photos) when he was wearing his halter. I don’t know if he has a special arrangement with Pops, but that halter somehow disappears – sometimes without a trace. Perhaps he’s a little bit Houdini.

Flick and Danthebluegrassman

Flick and
Danthebluegrassman
(Grumpy Old Men?)

The other two geldings I’m going to tell you about today are Flick and Danthebluegrassman. These two paddock buddies are both friendly and love visitors. I have to say that Dan seems to think he’s all that – and more (even though Flick won more money). Both of these geldings did most of their running on the west coast.

Flick

Flick

Flick was foaled in England and got his start there, but came to the US to do most of his racing and winning. He won several stakes races in California and placed in several more. This grand fellow raced successfully through age 10 when his owner decided that he had more than earned a happy retirement.

Flick is one of the lucky horses who had an owner that truly cared that her boy got the best care throughout his life. When time came for him to retire, she knew the best place for him was at Old Friends. That’s really lucky for all of us. Flick is one of the sweetest-tempered and long-suffering horses I’ve ever met. He seems to truly enjoy all of his visitors.

Danthebluegrassman

Danthebluegrassman
Going to Tell Me Your Story?

Danthebluegrassman! What a name! Dan was named after a friend of the owner. This character showed real ability as a youngster, and won several races. Dan actually was entered in the Kentucky Derby, but was scratched from the race the day before.

Dan Telling a Stpry?

Dan
Telling a Story?

An amusing story was told about the friend who was the namesake of Danthebluegrassman. Apparently, Dan’s owner had made arrangements for the human Dan to come to Louisville for the Derby and had made all kinds of arrangements for a special party and room at Churchill in honor of his friend. Well, I guess none of that mattered because the human Dan sold his tickets and never showed. Ironic as Dan the horse didn’t make it to the starting gate either.

Danthebluegrassman

Danthebluegrassman
Former Kentucky Derby Entrant

I tell this story because, after getting the opportunity to spend some time with Danthebluegrassman, that kind of story fits with his personality. He’s a showman! He loves the attention of the humans who come to visit. He’s quite a character. He loves to eat the carrots offered, but I think he enjoys the attention even more.

Danthebluegrassman Showing Off

Danthebluegrassman
Showing Off

Dan is a great-looking horse. His story is one of the all too common, riches-to-rags stories in racing. This former entrant in the Kentucky Derby ended up in the claiming ranks. A couple of gentlemen decided that Dan had done enough and hated to see this former star racing at that level. They made arrangements for Dan to come to Old Friends.

 

All the horses at Old Friends have terrific stories. No two are the same. Again, I highly recommend that you visit Old Friends’ website. Even better, make plans to visit them in Georgetown, Kentucky. I’m absolutely certain that you, too, will meet a favorite or two – or three. When you DO find your favorite(s) (notice I said “when” not “if”), Old Friends makes it possible for us to sponsor them for a year. For a donation of $100, sponsors get a gorgeous 8 by 10 inch glossy photo and a certificate. Better than that, you get the knowledge that you are helping Old Friends provide the unparalleled care they are renowned for.

 

Up Next: Old Friends at Old Friends – The Superstars

 

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Old Friends at Old Friends – Part 1

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

To celebrate my birthday this year, I wanted to go to “Old Friends – A Kentucky Facility for Retired Thoroughbreds”  (http://www.oldfriendsequine.org/). It is one of my favorite places on the planet. Our appointment was for the 10:00 a.m. tour on August 23.

Having been born in Kentucky, and since we were in the thoroughbred breeding and racing business for a number of years, it always concerned me as to what happened to horses after their racing and/or breeding careers were over. This is a situation I am still uneasy about for most horses. One place I am completely at peace with is Old Friends in Georgetown, Kentucky.

 

Bonnie's Poker (Looks Like She'd Enjoyed a Roll!)

Bonnie’s Poker
(Looks Like She’d Enjoyed a Roll!)
Old Friends – Spring 2009

Our first trip to Old Friends was in 2009. My main focus at that time was to see Bonnie’s Poker – the dam (mother) of dual-Classics winner, Silver Charm. Bonnie belonged to Jack Dudley in Florida. Our first mare, Permanent Cut, had belonged to Mr. Dudley, and was purchased through the Ocala Breeders’ sale in January of 1989. She was carrying a Silver Buck foal. I always felt as though Bonnie and P.C. might have known each other.

Let me take a moment to HIGHLY recommend taking a tour of Old Friends! The moment you walk through the office door, you are greeted like a family member – one that people are happy to see. It’s as though you walk into a place where you are totally welcome. It’s hard to appropriately explain the feeling of complete belonging I feel once I arrive at Old Friends. People who have never been there before, or ever even been around horses, report the same feeling of tranquility. It’s almost as though the rush-around world of day-to-day temporarily ceases to exist.

Our group assembled and we headed out to see some of the amazing residents. Not all the horses at Old Friends are former champions – many are. Those who are here are the lucky ones. Someone – or some group – cared enough about these former racers to ensure that their lives after their careers are spent in complete contentment.

You can read all about the residents of Old Friends on their website. I’m going to limit this blog post to my personal memories of the horses we visited.

One of the first residents we met was Gulch, the 1988 Eclipse Award-winning Sprinter.

Gulch Lane's End - 1989

Gulch
Lane’s End – 1989

I had met Gulch many years ago just after he and a superior class of runners had been retired to stud at Lane’s End. Their stallion directory was an amazing “Who’s Who” of recently retired runners (as it still is today). New stallions at the time were Alysheba, Bet Twice, Steinlen, and Gulch. I had grown an immediate attachment to Gulch. Whereas Alysheba was regal, extraordinarily friendly, and spotless, Gulch was irascible and completely covered with mud. Something about his devil-may-care attitude completely captivated me. He’d already proven all he needed to on the track. He would go on to prove himself many times over as an amazingly successful sire.

Alysheba & Me Lane's End - 1989

Alysheba & Me
Lane’s End – 1989

 

Alysheba & Me Lane's End - 1989

Alysheba & Me
Lane’s End – 1989

Gulch Old Friends - August 2013

Gulch
Old Friends – August 2013

 

I had not been back to Old Friends since Gulch was pensioned. I was delighted to see that he really hadn’t changed all that much. He looked fantastic! His flesh and muscle-tone were good. He had aged well. And true to form, he was still largely unimpressed by his visitors, and (as evidenced by his halter) a fan of mud.

Sarava

Sarava
Old Friends – August 2013

  

Sarava Old Friends - August 2013

Sarava
Old Friends – August 2013

Up next was Sarava. I had not previously met Sarava. I remembered him as a huge upset winner of the Belmont Stakes and knew that he was a son of Wild Again (one of the most beautiful stallions I’d ever seen), but had no idea that Sarava was such a beauty!

Bull Inthe Heather

Bull Inthe Heather
Old Friends – August 2013

 

Bull Gets a Carrot

Bull Gets a Carrot
Old Friends – August 2013

Bull Inthe Heather was his normal gregarious self. He stood, not so patiently awaiting his “due” attention and carrots. Bull is a son of the great, much-missed Ferdinand.

I'm Charasmatic

I’m Charasmatic

Another new-to-me resident was I’m Charismatic. This lucky gelding was sired by the beautiful Charismatic who won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes and was saved from certain destruction by the late Chris Antley in the Belmont Stakes. I’ll always remember Chris jumping off Charismatic, his dual-Classics winner, mid-stretch, and cradling his left, front leg and somehow keeping him calm until help could arrive. It is an enduring, indelible image.

I'm Charismatic He Gets a Carrot Too

I’m Charismatic
He Gets a Carrot Too

It seems that I’m Charismatic got lucky, too. Even though he had the bloodlines, I’m Charismatic didn’t have the same trip through life as his sire. I’m Charismatic is a terrific example of the lot of most thoroughbred horses. They are bred to race. When they don’t show the talent to be top racers, they are dropped lower and lower in class. Unlike too many, who are sold to meat buyers from Canada or break down, I’m Charismatic had owners who cared enough to find him a retirement home. He must have been born under a lucky star, because he’s found Heaven on earth. I think he knows this, because he is a completely sweet and affectionate boy.

The last horse I’m going to tell you about in this installment is Ogygion. Ogygion is another stallion I met for the first time many, many years ago. The year was 1987, and this beautiful son of Damascus had just gone to stud at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky.

Ogygion Old Friends - August 2013

Ogygion
Old Friends – August 2013

After many years in the breeding shed in Kentucky, Ogygion was bought by breeding interests in Japan. When his fertility started declining, Ogygion was sent back to the United States where he was welcomed to his forever home at Old Friends. This (now 31-year-old) boy still is an amazing presence. Like his sire, it seems as though Ogygion has inherited the longevity gene. I was amazed to see him saunter up to the fence to receive his visitors looking many, many years younger than his years.

Ogygion Old Friends - August 2013

Ogygion
Old Friends – August 2013

In my next post, I will share photos and remembrances about many of the other wonderful horses that I was blessed to be able to spend time with at Old Friends in August. Among these are some of my very favorites – Special Ring, Danthebluegrassman, and the late (and much-loved) Sunshine Forever.

I also got to have a very special visit with Tinner’s Way.

Please take a few minutes to visit Old Friends’ website (http://www.oldfriendsequine.org/). I can’t stress strongly enough the amazing work they do and the care they give. Keeping all these wonderful horses properly cared for is no easy feat. It’s also very, very expensive. While the folks at Old Friends usually don’t stress how much money it takes to care for these special creatures, I am more than willing to remind everyone who reads my blog how much it takes. If you are tempted to help, please do! I take no remuneration from my blog or from any source about whom I write. I, usually, don’t request readers to support any cause. I’m making an exception here because I’ve seen, first hand, the fine care given to the horses at Old Friends, and I also know how much it takes to feed, house, and care for just a few horses – let alone over 100.

Would you like to subscribe to my blog? (Oh, yes, it’s free!) Hopefully, you have already clicked on the title and are now directly in my blog page. If you have not gotten to the blog page, click on the title of the Posting and it will take you to the blog. From there, click on “Follow.” I hope you will. You will be notified of each new posting. I also hope you will jump in and comment on my posts.

Looking forward to seeing you here on Colmel’s Blog!