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This is the next-to-last installment about our visit this past summer to “Old Friends – A Kentucky Facility for Retired Thoroughbreds” (www.oldfriendsequine.org ).
Those of you who have been following my blog for a while know that we were in the thoroughbred breeding and racing business for a few years. That business brought me some of the highest highs and the lowest lows in my life. Helping with the birth of a foal, getting her through serious illness, and then into the winner’s circle is one of the greatest achievements in my life.
Our first mare was Permanent Cut. You’ve heard about her before, and you will again in this and the next post. P.C. was a half-sister to Cut Away, who ran third in the 1982 Preakness. P.C. was a grand-daughter of the great Ribot and her female family was (and still is) one of the top-producing female lines in the country. She was an easy-going girl who I loved, dearly. I hated to part with her; but, unfortunately, the horse business can be very difficult. After some serious financial and emotional set-backs (including losing our first foal – who we had foaled, raised and raced – to colic), it became clear to us that we needed to sell our horses and leave the business. It was a heart-wrenching decision, but a necessary one.
Luckily, we had kept our mares with a terrific horseman in Kentucky. He understood our plight and agreed with us that the thoroughbred business had become a losing proposition for us. He helped us find an excellent home for our girls – Permanent Cut and her yearling filly. I was very happy that the new owner kept us apprised of what was going on with the girls. Imagine my joy when I found out that he bred Permanent Cut to a son of Secretariat named Tinners Way.
Tinners Way had become a favorite of mine the very first time I saw him. I quickly recognized him as being very much like his sire in looks. Secretariat had several sons who had his brilliant chestnut coloring, but most of his sons and daughters that I had met had looked more like their dams (e.g., Lady’s Secret – the brilliant race mare – was gray, Risen Star was virtually black). I had also met Academy Award (better known as “Oscar” – a past/passed Old Friends alum) when Permanent Cut was bred to him at Claiborne farm. “Oscar” had Big Red’s coloring, but he was a slighter/smaller version. Tinners is more like his sire in stature, and – as you can see from photos – in his markings.
Tinners Way was a foal of 1990. His sire, and arguably the best horse to ever look through a bridle, had passed away in the previous fall. Tinners was a late foal. Thoroughbred horses become “yearlings” the January 1st following their birthday, no matter what month they happen to be born in. Since Tinners was born in late May (the 25th), he would have been at a great disadvantage racing in the Triple Crown races. His owners/breeders, Juddmonte Farms, instead sent the colt to Europe.
In Europe, Tinners only had one start as a 2-year-old. That was a win on the turf. He had four more races in Europe which were all stakes races and in which he won two and came in third in the others. After that, he came to the United States where he ended up in the care of the amazing, Bobby Frankel. Tinners Way won the Pacific Classic (Grade 1) at Del Mar in 1994. In 1995, he won the Pacific Class yet again. Another stand-out race for him in 1995 was a second in a graded stakes race to the great Cigar. His last Grade 1 win was in the Californian at Hollywood Park in 1996. Unfortunately, in his attempt to win back-to-back-to-back runnings of the Pacific Classic, Tinners Way was injured. He was retired to stud.
I had been looking forward to meeting Tinners Way since the moment he went to stud in Kentucky. However, that was at the time that we were getting out of the horse business, and my heart just wasn’t in seeing reminders that we were no longer breeding and racing horses. I always hoped, however, that one day I would meet this son of Secretariat that looked so much like his sire. As you will see in an upcoming post, I had been lucky enough to get to know the great, red horse and had visited with him several times. I’d met several of Secretariat’s sons and daughters, but had only found his “spark” sizzling in Lady’s Secret. I wondered if Tinners Way had gotten any of that undefinable quality. I really hoped he had.
On August 23 I got the best birthday present ever. I got to spend time at Old Friends with the wonderful people and horses. I had told them about my desire to see Tinners Way (he wasn’t on the regular tour at the time). The staff gave us permission and told us where to find him. It wasn’t far, but there had been so much rain that the way was excessively muddy. I wasn’t to be dissuaded. They also told me that Tinners could be a bit stand-offish. They warned me not to be disappointed if he stood up in the corner of his paddock and didn’t come down to visit. I told them I understood, but still wanted to at least see him from a distance.
They shouldn’t have worried. I called out to Tinners when we were walking up to his paddock. He lifted his head, turned, and started trotting down to the fence. He was wearing a fly mask, but I could see through it that he was, indeed, his father’s son. There was a look of welcome there. Certainly, a large part of his welcome was for someone bringing carrots, but I really felt as though he could tell that I was someone who appreciated him. I immediately got tears in my eyes because his gentleness and self-awareness was much like the way his sire was with me, years ago. He doesn’t have the amazing “presence” Secretariat had – doubt another will – but he did have a calm acceptance that was endearing. I could have stayed there at the fence and talked to him all day. Unfortunately, time to head home came much too soon. I made a promise to myself that I would be back for another visit before too long.
We went back up to the Old Friends office where I immediately bought a “share” in Tinners Way. A share is a $100 donation that helps Old Friends pay for the marvelous upkeep of their horses. Shares are available for all of Old Friends’ wonderful equine guests. I had purchased a share in Bonnie’s Poker a few years back, and intend to make it a yearly donation for Tinners Way. It’s a tangible way to be involved with the horses. Old Friends later sent me a beautiful certificate and photo along with his information page. I also saw that Old Friends had bracelets made from the manes of several of their horses available for purchase. I asked that they call or email me when they had one made from Tinners Way’s mane. I am proud to say that I now have two bracelets.
Let me emphasize, again, what an amazing job everyone at Old Friends does. From their beginnings with only a few stallions, Old Friends has grown into the best place on the planet for horses to go when they retire from either the breeding shed (in the case of stallions and mares) or the racetrack (in the case of the geldings). It takes a great deal of money to support all these horses and give them the kind of life they so richly deserve. Old Friends gratefully accepts donations (and they are a tax-deductible charity) and has some terrific items for purchase (some on Ebay) which all go to help the horses. Please check out their website (www.oldfriendsequine.org ) and see if you, too, might want to be one who helps Old Friends and their tremendous mission.
Up Next: Old Friends at Old Friends – A Visit to Great-Grandpa’s Grave
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