Bourbon School

Bourbon School

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Being a Kentucky-bred, it’s only natural that I would have an affinity to two things – horses (and those of you who have read my blog over the years know that this is true of me) and bourbon. I’ve said before that I suspect that the first inoculation given at birth in Kentucky involves the development of love for horses and bourbon. While it seems that the love of the equine was immediate, the appreciation of bourbon took some time to acquire.

My heritage (as I have recently learned) is Scottish, and Scotch whiskey was the first brown liquor I developed a taste for. Part of my college education was in London, England where I learned to drink Scotch. It was an integral part of my education.

 displayBlanton’s Stoppers

It wasn’t until I was in my very early thirties that I decided it was time to learn more about bourbon. I was so incredibly lucky that my first foray into bourbon was on a recently-introduced, single-barrel bourbon called Blanton’s. Why was I drawn to this particular bourbon? Take a look at the bottle. Seriously! It was the horse and jockey.

Since both my husband and I have ties to Kentucky, we became very interested in the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. For those who haven’t previously heard of it, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail is a program of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association to promote the bourbon industry in Kentucky. (More about the Bourbon Trail – but keep it brief as it will be in a later post.)

limestone-landing-highly-recommended

In early April, Woodford Reserve in Versailles, Kentucky held its “Bourbon Academy.”

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The Official Bourbon of the Kentucky Derby

Master distiller, Chris Morris, was the professor and there were roughly 30 eager pupils.

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Master Distiller Chris Morris

First, we learned a little about the history of Woodford Reserve. It was originally known as Old Oscar Pepper Distillery, but they began distilling whiskey in 1780 on the banks of a glorious stream. The water is so clear and so pure due to the limestone, it was a natural location to start distilling. The distillery building was erected on site in 1838. It is actually the oldest of all the distilleries in the area, although it was closed for quite a while. Brown-Forman bought the property in 1993 and refurbished it to bring it back into operation. The Woodford Reserve brand was introduced to the market in 1996.

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THIS is the water that makes Kentucky Bourbon GREAT!

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Oldest Building on Woodford grounds – with the barrel delivery system

We started out, by learning about charring the barrels. The amount of char on the inside of new, American white oak barrels is critical to the taste and quality of the bourbon which comes out. We did our own “char” by building a fire inside a barrel. It was a little too windy, but the visual was sufficient to give a greater understanding of how many different levels there are in making a really top-notch bourbon.

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Young Mash – Tastes like Breakfast Cereal

We got to stick our fingers into the developing sour mash. It was amazing the difference in the tastes between the new mash (like a bland breakfast cereal) and the final vat (seriously getting sour and looking on top like someone’s pizza). We saw the gorgeous copper stills and learned about how the process of successive distillations makes the clearest, highest quality distillate. Notice, I didn’t call it bourbon yet. At the point where it comes out of the still, it is just alcohol – or “white dog.” It’s the aging in the oak barrels that turns pure alcohol into bourbon and gives it all those marvelous flavor notes.

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Aged Mash (almost ready for distillation)

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One of Woodford Reserve’s Famous Copper Stills

We learned all about the flavor wheel in an exercise, led by resident chef, Ouita Michel (a James Beard Award nominee). Who knew there were so many different flavors to discern in bourbon? We got to taste different nibbles of food paired with bourbon to see how the flavors changed. I had never thought about considering pairing food with bourbon and how different bourbons would go better with certain food items, but I sure learned a thing or two about that. I’m absolutely rethinking Thanksgiving dinner pairings. I think a good bourbon would pair beautifully with all the flavors in turkey and dressing. I absolutely know that bourbon and pecan pie are made for each other.

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The Woodford Reserve Flavor Wheel (Who knew?)

There was also an exercise about being able to recognize different scents in bourbon as well as taste. It was really nose-opening to smell a cotton ball in a glass with different esters on it and to try and discern what the smell was. One of the funniest responses was “my grandmother’s couch.”

We had an outstanding lunch and got to sample several different bourbons and Woodford’s bottled version of “white dog.” All of the bourbons were from Brown and Foreman’s stable of bourbons. Jim and I both favored Woodford’s Double Oaked – a relative newcomer to their offerings.

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All Related – Yet SO Different

Upon graduation, we each got our own bottles of Woodford’s flagship Reserve. These were very special bottles as they have our names and graduation dates etched right into the bottles. What a nice touch!

If you ever consider taking the one-day course, I would emphatically tell you to go for it.

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Such a Beautiful Place to Go to Class

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Getting “Social” in Lexington

Getting “Social” in Lexington

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!)

Most of y’all know that I’m a born Kentuckian. I like to say that I was inoculated at birth with a love of horses and bourbon. I think that may be a requisite vaccination for all newborns in the Commonwealth, at least it appears that way. All I can tell you is that I have loved horses as long as I can remember, and acquiring a taste for brown, corn liquor came mighty easy.

Every year for my birthday, if at all possible, I sweet-talk my dear husband into a trip to the Bluegrass. That’s not a difficult task as he spent many, many summers in the state visiting his grandmother. Some of his happiest times were spent in my birth-state.

Earlier this year, we had visited and completed the Bourbon Trail (which I will write about in an upcoming blog), so this time it was totally about visiting horses, eating and drinking excellent food and bourbon, and visiting Wallins Creek (where Jim spent his summers) to take photos and gather information for his upcoming model train layout. (Can you see that there will be many different posts on all kinds of subjects in the offing?)

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Sunset in the Bluegrass

Our base of operations was Lexington. I never tire of Lexington. The area around Lexington is some of the most beautiful country anywhere in the world. Yes, I may be more than a bit biased, but I have been lucky to travel quite a bit and this is where I choose to come as often as humanly possible. Lexington is surrounded by farms housing the finest thoroughbred horses in the world and the very best distilleries are within a very short drive.

We arrived on my birthday, so we had made dinner reservations at Tonys of Lexington. We had lots of time before our reservation, so we wanted to enjoy a bourbon (or two) in a local bourbon bar. We’d heard about Bluegrass Tavern (with their 450 bourbons), and decided that we’d join the locals and see what 450 different bourbons even looked like. We arrived around 4:30 p.m., but they were inexplicably closed. Hmmm! What to do? Then we turned around and found Parlay Social on the corner right behind us. We decided to go in and cool off and see if they could fill the bourbon bill. (August is more than a little warm in Kentucky.)

“Social” is a great name for this place. We were greeted and made to feel right at home by the cutest bartender. Her name is Kristin, and she’s as nice, social, and informative as she is sweet. We had landed in just the exact right place to try out some bourbons that are, quite frankly, impossible to get in Michigan bars or restaurants.

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Kristin – Bartender Extraordinaire – Parlay Social (Check the bottle in foreground!)

Kristin handed us a list of all the options available and it just about made my head swim. There weren’t 450 listed, but there were enough fine options that we didn’t feel as though we missed a thing. They had options to try one or two ounces of some of the best and most sought-after bourbons in the world. Prices (as you can see) were anywhere from $5 all the way up to $112 for one single ounce of liquor. Extravagant? Darn tootin’! It was my birthday, though, so we decided to taste some of them. We shared, so each ounce became half-ounces each. (Wouldn’t want y’all to think we overdid it or anything!)

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Side #1 – Parlay Social Bourbon List

Our favorites were Eagle Rare 17-year and Pappy Van Winkle 15-year. I have to say, that if I had to choose one bourbon to drink (and cost was no factor) it would be the Pappy 15-year. It was, without a doubt, the best, most palatable, smoothest sipping bourbon I’ve ever had. Lord knows if the 20- and 23-year are any better, because we sure don’t. One day, I plan to save up so I can find out; but the leap between the 10-year (Old RIP Van Winkle) and the 15-year (Pappy Van Winkle) was like jumping to light speed in the Millennium Falcon.

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Side #2 – Parlay Social Bourbon List

As we were tasting some of these beautiful, brown liquors, the shift manager, Oliver, came out to see how we were doing. Again, we were made to feel right at home. Both he and Kristin gave us some suggestions as to places to visit in Lexington. When we told them we had reservations at Tonys, they both nodded and told us we would really enjoy our meals. In a later post, I’ll tell you more about Tonys and the wonderful dinner we enjoyed.

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Oliver – Shift Manager at Parlay Social

We actually went back to Parlay Social a couple of afternoons later to tell them what a wonderful meal we’d had, and to try out a couple more bourbons. It was like visiting with old friends. Funny, I know that they get all kinds of visitors and regulars on a daily basis, but we were remembered. That goes a very long way in making one feel welcome.

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Back bar at Parlay Social – Check out just SOME of the Bourbons

It’s a given that we will be back to Lexington in the very near future. It’s also a given that we will be visiting Parlay Social again, too.

 

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You CAN Go Home Again – Part 2

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Unconquered!

Unconquered!

On day 2 of our trip to Tallahassee and my very belated true “homecoming,” we headed back to the stadium to get a better look at the marvel that now occupies the space where the structure I knew used to stand. I must say that this building is marvelous. There are wonderful statues around the exterior. I’ve already talked about the Bobby Bowden statue, but even more recognizable to the public (and deeply meaningful to those of us who went to school here) is the “Unconquered” statue of Osceola on Renegade. You’ll notice, I never fail to recognize Renegade in the same breath – he is, after all, a horse. During the day it is remarkable. At night, it’s an amazing sight to behold!

Unconquered at Night
From there we walked the entire circumference of the stadium. Immediately adjacent is the Dick Howser baseball facility. We stopped to admire the statues that are outside. One depicts a family of Native American Seminoles. It’s really beautiful. I love that my university never forgets who originally owned the land and who have graciously allowed us to use their tribal name.

Indigenous People (the Seminole)

Indigenous People (the Seminole)

Another of the wonderful statues is “Sportsmanship.” I can truly believe that Coach Bowden had some input as to that one. In his day, Coach was always sure to impress upon his team that while winning was exceedingly important, good sportsmanship was paramount.

Sportsmanship

Sportsmanship

Sportsmanship Statue - Close-up

Sportsmanship Statue – Close-up

There was a mandatory stop to photograph our Championship Wall. Wish we’d gone into the “sod cemetery,” but that will have to wait until my next homecoming trip. The photo below was taken by my friend, Julie Bauman, who I was thrilled to finally meet at the game. More on that in the next post.

Championship Wall

Championship Wall

Sod Cemetery Plaque Commemorating our 2013 Championship (Photo Credit to Julie Bauman)

Sod Cemetery Plaque Commemorating our 2013 Championship
(Photo Credit to Julie Bauman)

Our next stop was a visit to the Hall of Fame. As you walk through the doors, the first thing one sees are the three National Championship trophies – three gleaming crystal footballs. I have to say that, as a true-garnet Nole, the sight simultaneously brought tears to my eyes and a huge lump in my throat. They are a source of great pride for all alumni and fans. There are also banners showing achievements of those associated with Florida State University in all college athletic programs. Most notably there was a banner highlighting Jameis Winston’s Heisman Trophy award. (Unfortunately, the trophy, itself, was not on site.)

1993 National Championship #1

1993
National Championship #1

1999 National Championship #2

1999
National Championship #2

2013 National Championship #3

2013
National Championship #3

Jameis Winston's Heisman Trophy Win Banner

Jameis Winston’s Heisman Trophy Win Banner

As I stood in the middle of the hall, a familiar flash rushed by. My husband, Jim, saw him better than I. I only caught his flaming hair flying through the doors into one of the “off limits” areas. Red Lightning! Red is the now famous “ball boy.” Red has taken the job of ball boy to a whole new level. He is beloved by the whole team for his enthusiasm and dedication to the team. During games, you can see Red dashing up and down the sidelines. He performs his duties with such gusto and aplomb that he has become a celebrity of sorts. Red has also been known to wade into the fray to protect his players should difficulties break out. It seems that no Seminole or member of the opposition wants to tangle with our intrepid ball boy, so they back off. Seeing Red was an unexpected pleasure.

Red Lighting as He's Normally Seen

Red Lighting as He’s Normally Seen

Red with Jameis and the Heisman Trophy

Red with Jameis and the Heisman Trophy

We then walked through the athletics museum that is part of the Hall. I recognized members of the Hall of Fame. One I especially recognized was Ron Sellers (aka “Jingle Joints) who was until this year the FSU career record holder as a receiver. His accomplishments are even more spectacular considering he was limited to only 30 games due to the rules in place at the time. I had the pleasure of meeting Ron when he was a client of a firm I used to work for. What a fine gentleman.

Ron Sellers (aka Jingle Joints)

Ron Sellers
(aka Jingle Joints)

One of the displays that really meant a whole lot to me was the case that discussed the legacy of Osceola and Renegade. In the case are Renegade #1’s blanket and bridle along with Osceola’s boots. During my time at the University, that tradition had not yet started. I’m exceedingly glad that it’s part of the fabric of FSU football and life now.

Osceola and Renegade Display

Osceola and Renegade Display

The Story of Osceola & Renegade

The Story of Osceola & Renegade

As we were leaving the Hall, we were told that one of the campus buses (the Osceola bus) was free and would drive all around campus. We could get on or off at any stop and wander then jump back on. We thought that was a great idea and rode around for a while. It was so interesting to see how little the campus had changed in some ways and how beautifully it had been improved in others. I must add that every student we came upon was polite and friendly. I had to wonder if we had been that welcoming in our day. It was so nice to feel as though the students were pleased to see us “old timers” visiting. The buses stopped running in time for the Homecoming Parade to take over the streets.

Garnet & Gold Guys 2014 Version

Garnet & Gold Guys
2014 Version

While I was in school, I don’t remember attending a single Homecoming Parade. We made up for it this year. We were down by the Florida Capitol and saw that the parade was beginning on a nearby street. We walked over to that street and joined the group of local residents who were watching. What fun! We just missed Osceola and Renegade (our timing was just off and I was really disappointed), but we did get to enjoy the remainder of the parade and it was terrific being a part of the community for it. It was such fun seeing the “Garnet and Gold Guys” in person. Yes, they’re the latest iteration of the crazy guys that are always shown on television when an FSU game is broadcast.

Garnet & Gold Guys Homecoming Parade

Garnet & Gold Guys
Homecoming Parade

After an extremely full day, we headed off to dinner. I will be devoting a whole post to the restaurants and B&B at a later time.

Remember, I really love to hear your comments. Just click on the “Comments” link and let me know what you think. Also, let me know if there’s something you’d like to hear more about.

 

Looking Forward to “Seeing” You Here Next Time on Colmel’s Blog!

Cider Mills! Never Knew What I Was Missin’

Just the other day, I was asked about cider mills. As I have a new bunch of readers (THANK YOU VERY MUCH! Welcome! Please feel free to comment), I thought I’d reblog this post from 2011. Hard to believe it’s been three years since I first posted this.

Colmel's Blog

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!)

 

Ahhhhhh, Autumn! What is it about the first leaf turning that sends me into a frenzy? Maybe it’s because I had such a deprived childhood. Okay, by deprived I mean that, while growing up in Florida sounds like heaven to so many, the only colored leaves we ever saw were in photographs or cut from construction paper. So the change in the air, the change in the sound and the vision of a colored leaf just sets off all my happiness whistles.

 

Apple time! The other bell…

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Michigan Maple – Syrup That Is

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Michigan is known for many things – the Great Lakes, the automobile, cherries, apples, wine, beer, and other spirits – but did you know that some of the finest maple syrup comes from Michigan? It does. There are sugar houses in virtually every county in Michigan.

Like fine wines, every year is different when it comes to the quality and quantity of syrup. The main determining factor is weather. Here are some interesting factoids about Michigan Maple Syrup (from the Michigan Maple Syrup Association website)

  • Michigan ranks 5th in maple syrup production in the United States.
  • Average maple syrup production in Michigan is about 90,000 gallons per year.
  • There are an estimated 500 commercial maple syrup producers in Michigan with some 2,000 additional hobby or home use producers.
  • The production of pure maple syrup is the oldest agricultural enterprise in the United States.
  • Maple syrup is one of the few agricultural crops in which demand exceeds supply.
  • Only about 1 percent of Michigan’s maple forest resource is used in maple syrup production.
  • In an average year, each tap-hole will produce about 10 gallons of maple sap, enough for about a quart of pure Michigan maple syrup.
  • It takes approximately 40 gallons of maple sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup.
  • Maple syrup is the first farm crop to be harvested in Michigan each year.
  • A maple tree needs to be about 40 years old and have a diameter of 10 inches before tapping is recommended.
  • The maple season in Michigan starts in February in the southern counties and runs well into April in the Upper Peninsula.
  • Warm sunny days and freezing nights determine the length of the maple season.
  • The budding of maple trees makes the maple syrup taste bitter. Thus, production ceases.
  • Freezing and thawing temperatures create pressure and force the sap out of the tree.
  • A very rapid rise in temperature (25 to 45 degrees) will enhance the sap flow.
  • While the sugaring season may last 6 to 10 weeks, but during this period, the heavy sap may run only 10-20 days.
  • Maple sap is boiled to remove the water and concentrate the sugars in a process called evaporation.
  • Maple sap becomes maple syrup when boiled to 219 degrees Fahrenheit, or 7 degrees above the boiling point of water.
  • Pure Michigan maple syrup has 50 calories per tablespoon and is fat-free. It has no additives, no added coloring and no preservatives.
  • Maple syrup has may minerals per tablespoon: 20 milligrams of calcium, 2 milligrams of phosphorus, 0.2 milligrams of iron, 2 milligrams of sodium, 35 milligrams of potassium.
  • Maple syrup is classified as one of nature’s most healthful foods.

Every year, on the last weekend in April, the town of Vermontville hosts the original, the “granddaddy” of Michigan syrup festivals.

As is typical in Michigan, some years are gorgeous, shirt-sleeve weather and some are bitingly cold. This is important to keep in mind as you are preparing to go to the festival because you will be outside most of the time.

Naturally, the day starts out with pancake breakfasts. Lines are very long, so be prepared to wait. These breakfasts are a main form of revenue for charitable causes in the area. The pancakes and sausage are good, but the syrup is heavenly.

The Vermontville festival is great for all age groups. There are always games and contests for the little guys, and there are craft booths, car shows and sales of all things maple. My personal favorite (next to syrup, of course) is maple sugar candy. If you’ve never tried it, you’re really missing out. It’s very rich though but easy to make, so buy lots of extra syrup to make candy with.

Here are a couple of photos of the early crowds. Notice the long line for pancake breakfast.

Early morning - Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival

Early morning – Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival

 

Crowds Lining Up for Pancake Breakfast

Crowds Lining Up for Pancake Breakfast

Here are the instructional exhibit and the coop sales buildings.

Instructional Building (Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival)

Instructional Building
(Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival)

 

Maple Cooperative - Buy All Things Maple Here

Maple Cooperative – Buy All Things Maple Here

The local mounted patrol came by to check things out.

Local Mounted Police Unit

Local Mounted Police Unit

Some of the terrific cars at the car show

Pretty in Pink (50's era Ford Thunderbird)

Pretty in Pink (50’s era Ford Thunderbird)

 

Early Ford Mustang Convertible

Early Ford Mustang Convertible

 

Gotta Have Fuzzy Dice

Gotta Have Fuzzy Dice

One of the craftsmen is a chainsaw carver. His specialty was bears (naturally, a favorite of mine), but he also had some other cute “critters.” Two of his bear carvings made it home with us.

Bear, Bears, and More Bears (Plus a Few Others)

Bear, Bears, and More Bears (Plus a Few Others)

 

Bears and Other Critters (Check the Bear with Beer Sign)

Bears and Other Critters (Check the Bear with Beer Sign)

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This One Had To Come Home With Me

This artist made useful items from found materials. There were all manner of benches, chairs, cabinets, and bookshelves made from discarded items.

This bench was made from old farm implements (pitchforks) and discarded doors.

Bench from Pitchforks and Found Door

Bench from Pitchforks and Found Door

This corner cabinet (which I bought) really grabbed my attention. It is made from an old window, old shutters, and an old door.

 

Nifty Corner Cabinet (from found/discarded materials)

Nifty Corner Cabinet (from found/discarded materials)

Made from Old Window, Shutters, and Door

Made from Old Window, Shutters, and Door

These are just a few of the activities that go on during the Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival. Other activities include rides, fireworks, bands, a parade, a 5k walk/run, a petting zoo, a flea market, and several dinner, fundraisers – lots to do for the whole family.

So mark your calendars, now, for the last weekend in April. Plan to visit the Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival. I might see you there!

Here is a link to the festival’s website.

http://www.vermontvillemaplesyrupfestival.org/schedule.htm

 

Up Next: Autumn comes to Michigan

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Old Friends at Old Friends – A Visit to Great-Grandpa’s Grave

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!)

Great-Grandpa is buried at Old Friends? Yes. Our very first mare’s name was Permanent Cut. (If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll undoubtedly recognize the name.) She was bred by Dan Lasater in Florida. Her sire (dad) was a son of the great European champion, Ribot. Her dam (mom) was by the very good Nasrullah son, Jaipur. Even more interesting was that her grand-dam (grandmother) was by the great son of Nasrullah, Noor. Noor is buried at Old Friends.

Noor (Stallion photo)

Noor
(Stallion photo)

Here’s Permanent Cut’s pedigree

PERMANENT CUT (USA) b. F, 1981 {16} DP = 7-4-7-0-4 (22) DI = 1.93   CD = 0.45

  Permian (USA) 1971 Ribot (GB) 1952 Tenerani (ITY) 1944
 
  Romanella (ITY) 1943
 
  Pontivy (USA) 1959 Battlefield (USA) 1948
 
  Mahari (USA) 1954
Permanent Cut
(USA) 1981 Jaidan (USA) 1969 Jaipur (USA) 1959 Nasrullah (GB) 1940
 
  Rare Perfume (USA) 1947
 
  Dawn Fleet (USA) 1953 Noor (GB) 1945
 
  Monsoon (USA) 1942
 
Permanent Cut in 1989

Permanent Cut in 1989

 

Permanent Cut Noor's Great Granddaughter

Permanent Cut
Noor’s Great Granddaughter

Noor was born in 1945 in Ireland. The black son of Nasrullah was bred by the Aga Khan III. He was first raced by his breeder but purchased as a two-year-old by Charles S. Howard. If the name Howard rings a bell, you probably either read the story of Seabiscuit or saw the movie. While Noor won on the turf in Britain, he excelled on the dirt in the U.S.A.

Noor (Photo from Charlotte Farmer)

Noor
(Photo from Charlotte Farmer)

Even those who don’t follow horse racing closely probably recognize the name “Citation.” Citation was one of Calumet Farms’ triple-crown winners from the 1940s. He also had the longest unbeaten (16 straight) streak in thoroughbred racing for almost 50 years. He could beat almost every horse on any track – that was until he met Noor.

Noor's 1950 Hollywood Gold Cup (photos from "Noor: In Memory of a Champion" Facebook Page

Noor’s 1950 Hollywood Gold Cup
(photos from “Noor: In Memory of a Champion” Facebook Page

Noor (whose regular jockey was the famous Johnny Longden) defeated Citation four times, in the Santa Anita Handicap at 1¼ miles, the San Juan Capistrano Handicap at 1¾ miles in world record time, the Forty Niners Handicap at 1⅛ miles in track record time, and the Golden Gate Handicap. In the latter event, Noor conceded weight to Citation and set a world record of 1:58 which stood as an American record on a dirt track until Spectacular Bid broke it 30 years later. Citation’s times in these races would have also been records, but Noor ran faster than any horse in history up to that point.

Noor & Johnny Longden American Handicap

Noor & Johnny Longden
American Handicap

Noor - Johnny Longden up (Photo from Devora Berliner, creator of Noor Facebook page)

Noor – Johnny Longden up
(Photo from Devora Berliner, creator of Noor Facebook page)

On his way to being named 1950 U.S. Champion Handicap Male Horse, Noor beat not only Citation, but he also beat Horse of the Year Hill Prince, Derby winner Ponder, and twice overtook another Triple Crown winner, Assault. This made Noor the only horse in American racing history to defeat two Triple Crown winners. Sadly, Charles Howard died in June of 1950 and never saw his horse crowned champion.

Noor Battles Citation 1950 San Juan Capistrano)

Noor Battles Citation
1950 San Juan Capistrano)

 

Noor Wins By A Nose (1950 San Juan Capistrano)

Noor Wins By A Nose
(1950 San Juan Capistrano)

After his championship year, Noor was retired to the breeding shed. He first went to Kentucky (where he sired our mare’s grand-dam, Dawn Fleet, who was born in 1953 – the same year as I). He sired 13 stakes winners, but Dawn Fleet went on to become a very important mare and she and her dam, Monsoon, went on to be foundation mares for many, many stakes winners (not including my dear old Permanent Cut) and can be seen in the pedigrees of many top horses.

Noor on His Way to Kentucky with Trainer Burley Parke

Noor on His Way to Kentucky
with Trainer Burley Parke

Noor Arrives in Kentucky

Noor Arrives in Kentucky

Noor (What a Beautiful Head!)

Noor
(What a Beautiful Head!)

After 1954, Noor returned to the sight of his greatest achievements, California.

Noor with Trainer Burley Parke

Noor with Trainer Burley Parke

Noor was an imposing individual with terrific balance. He was very tall – over 17 hands (one hand equals 4 inches) at the withers. He was very much the same size as the amazing Zenyatta Unlike his sire, Noor was known to have a very pleasant disposition until the age of 29 when he developed equine dementia. Even Zenyatta’s trainer, John Shirreffs, became a fan of Noor. As a very young man, Shirreffs would tack a 19-year-old Noor up during the winter and ride him around the back arena at Loma Rica Ranch.

Noor Obituary (Photo from Horseandman)

Noor Obituary
(Photo from Horseandman)

He lived at Loma Rica until his death in 1974. Upon his death, Noor was buried in an unmarked grave (which was common in that era) the infield of the half-mile training track at Loma Rica. He was gone and almost forgotten by many. In 1999, however, Blood-Horse Magazine released their list of the 100 top champion thoroughbred racehorses of the 20th Century. Noor was listed at number 69. Then, in 2002 (any far later than one would think), Noor was inducted into the Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame at Saratoga in New York.

 

That was not to be the end of his story. Loma Rica Ranch was sold and a business park and residential development were planned for the land. That is when racing enthusiast, Charlotte Farmer, got involved. Not willing to see the beautiful champion remain buried under what would become a parking lot, Ms. Farmer went to work and got the wheels in motion to have Noor disinterred and brought to Old Friends in Georgetown, Kentucky. 

Charlotte Farmer (Noor's Greatest Fan)

Charlotte Farmer
(Noor’s Greatest Fan)

In March of 2010, using ground penetrating radar, Noor’s remains were located. On August 26, 2011, the bones of the great racehorse were very carefully exhumed from the earth and reverently placed in a wooden coffin. The long trek across country began. On August 31, 2011, Noor was buried with a fitting funeral/memorial at Old Friends. Ms. Farmer completed her mission of love by attending the service and seeing that Noor had a fitting headstone. I’d like to take this moment to, personally, thank Ms. Farmer for her dedication to making sure that Noor finally got the respect and resting place he so richly deserves.

 

Great Grandpa's Grave (the Amazing Noor at Rest at Old Friends)

Great Grandpa’s Grave
(the Amazing Noor at Rest at Old Friends)

This past summer (almost exactly two years later), I finally got to pay my respects to a grand champion and the great-grandpa of my beloved mare. I couldn’t help but shed tears for Noor and for my old girl. I wish I’d known Noor. He embodied all the things in a horse I’d grown up loving. He was big, black, could run like the wind, and – by most accounts – had a very pleasant personality for a stallion. He was, in all ways, a Champion.

Noor's Headstone (With Utmost Thanks to Ms. Charlotte Famer)

Noor’s Headstone
(With Utmost Thanks to Ms. Charlotte Famer)

This is the final post in my current series on Old Friends. I want to particularly thank Lorraine Jackson for her article on Noor, and Devora Berliner, creator of the Noor Facebook webpage “Noor: In Memory of a Champion.” I want to send special thanks to the amazing Charlotte Farmer for sharing her photos and research, and for her fortitude and persistence in not allowing this magnificent horse to be forgotten. As always, a huge “thank you” goes to all the wonderful people at Old Friends for finding a special burial plot where many can come to pay their respects and learn about this worthy champion.

Noor's Headstone (epitaph by Ms. Charlotte Famer)

Noor’s Headstone
(epitaph by Ms. Charlotte Famer)

Remember, it takes a great deal of money to support all the horses at Old Friends. They give the horses the kind of life they so richly deserve. Old Friends gratefully accepts donations (which are tax-deductible) and has some terrific items for purchase (some on Ebay). All of the profits 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.

 

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Old Friends at Old Friends – The Superstars

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In the last post, I talked about some of the wonderful horses (the “Grand Geldings”) I got to be reacquainted with at “Old Friends – A Kentucky Facility for Retired Thoroughbreds” (www.oldfriendsequine.org ).

 

I’m grouping these two horses together – the superstars – because they both had amazing records, have legions of fans, and have been together for quite a long time.

 

Creator and Sunshine Forever. Sunshine Forever and Creator. Either way you say it, they belong together. They were the first two stallions to ever be returned from Japan to the U.S. for retirement. 

Creator A European Superstar

Creator
A European Superstar

Creator was foaled on June 1, 1986 in England. He was purchased and raced by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, a member of the ruling family in Dubai. One of the final foals by the great Mill Reef, he did not disappoint. Creator raced primarily in Europe – England and France, but his last race was in the United States where he finished third in the Budweiser International.

 

Creator Welcomes His Guests

Creator Welcomes His Guests

In Europe, he was a bona fide star at ages 3 and 4. He raced on both dirt and turf, winning seven times and bankrolling over $500,000. His greatest wins were Group 1 and 2 races including, the Prix Ganay (G1) (which his sire also won), the Prix d’Ispahan (G1), the Prix d’Harcourt (G2), and the Ciga Prix Dollar (G2).

Creator Reading for a Carrot

Creator
Reaching for a Carrot

While Creator was best known for racing in Europe, his stud career took him to Japan where he and Sunshine Forever stood at Nitta Farm. He has become quite a favorite at Old Friends where his regal presence makes you forget that you are looking at a 25-year-old (now 26) stallion.

 

Creator Holds Court

Creator Holds Court

As you can see from the photos, he’s a magnificent-looking individual. He is one of those bright, coppery red horses with a white star that seems to “dribble” a little down his nose. Except for the bit of white in his face, he looks like a much younger horse. You’d better believe he “knows” that he’s still a beauty, too. He carries himself in a regal way and has an amazingly intelligent eye. He still has “presence.” He’s still a horse that commands respect.

 

Sunshine Forever Forever in My Heart

Sunshine Forever
Forever in My Heart

I absolutely adored Sunshine Forever. As I write this, I still can’t bring myself to believe he is gone. I’m so glad I got to see him in August. He was hale and hearty then. If you are a long-time reader of my blog, you might remember me talking about Sunshine Forever in an earlier post. He was a favorite of my “mentor” and dear friend, Mark Yother. I initially went to see him at Old Friends as a sort of homage to my late friend. I ended up appreciating him for his wonderful personality and great story.

Sunshine 4

Sunshine Forever was foaled March 14, 1985 at Darby Dan Farm. This dark bay colt with the irregular white blaze was absolutely bred to do great things on the turf. A son John Galbreath’s great Roberto out of the Graustark mare, Outward Sunshine, Sunshine Forever was a prince in-waiting from the day he was born.

 

Sunshine & Me

Sunshine & Me

The Eclipse Awards got it right when they awarded Sunshine Forever the 1988 Turf Championship. He amassed over $2-million in earnings while winning or placing in eleven graded stakes races. Among those were wins in the Grade 1, Man O’War Stakes, the Grade 1 Turf Classic, and the Grade 1 Budweiser International. My very first Breeders Cup was in 1988 at Churchill Downs. I was screaming and virtually riding Sunshine Forever in the B.C. Turf. He ran well, but was narrowly defeated by Great Communicator. That was the same year that Old Friends’ resident Gulch won the B.C. Sprint and Personal Ensign capped off her undefeated career in one of the most amazing races of all time in the B.C. Distaff.

 

Sunshine Forever Greeting the Group

Sunshine Forever
Greeting the Group

Sunshine Forever went to stud and, eventually, lived at Nikka Stud in Japan. In 2004, Sunshine returned home to the US. This was a completely unique situation. Not only was Sunshine the very first horse to be returned to the United States for his retirement, but this amazing animal was also to become the very first stallion to a new concept in the bluegrass. The concept was called “Old Friends – A Kentucky Facility for Retired Thoroughbreds.” Little did anyone involved with Old Friends at the time realize that within 10 short years Old Friends would have two locations (the original in Kentucky and Cabin Creek in New York), be home to over 100 retired racehorses, and be a “bucket list” destination for thousands of horse-lovers from around the world.

Sunshine Forever Saying Hello Again

Sunshine Forever
Saying Hello Again

The first time I met Sunshine “in person,” I marveled at how good he looked and what a supremely pleasant horse he was to be around – especially for a stallion. He showed no aggression at all, and seemed to thoroughly enjoy the attention he received from the visitors to Old Friends. It was almost as though he knew he was a champion and all the attention was simply his “due.”

Sunshine Forever Allowed Me to Pull His Tongue

Sunshine Forever
Allowed Me to Pull His Tongue

In August (2013), I got to visit him again. This time, he allowed me the supreme pleasure of pulling his tongue. He was in a very mellow mood – even for him. Everyone on the group got to take photos with him and he was perfectly content to stand by the fence and receive carrots and adoration from all of us. Not even once did he pin an ear or appear to be even the slightest bit annoyed by all of us fussing around him.

 

Ah, Sunshine, you were always a class act.

 

Up Next: Old Friends at Old Friends – The MOST Anticipated Visit

 

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!