March 4, 2015 – Farewell Creator!

Creator was so amazing. Words cannot express the depth of his character. I am sharing Old Friends’ (bless you, Beth) obituary as the photos, story, and links need to be shared. I have added a few of my own photos of Creator. Run free, beautiful boy! I’m sure that Sunshine was waiting for you to show you to the evergreen pastures.

Creator in August 2013

Creator in August 2013

Creator  Summer 2013

Summer 2013

The Great Creator Old Friends - August 2013

The Great Creator
Old Friends – August 2013

Old Friends Blog

For three days I’ve waited for the words for a fitting tribute to Creator. They haven’t come. No words can begin to describe him, or the loss of him.

Creator, Feb. 2010, by Laura Battles. Creator, Feb. 2010, by Laura Battles.

Few who saw Creator at Old Friends saw him race, but in the summer of 1990 he was the best horse running in Europe, a superlative athlete worthy of his great lineage: Nasrullah, Never Bend, Mill Reef. He was already a character. Later, one of his grooms in trainer André Fabre’s barn would tell Michael how they called Creator “Houdini” because no matter how meticulously they’d fasten on his blanket, the next time they checked on him they’d find the blanket on the stall floor. Creator’s easy victory over In the Wings in the Prix Ganay was especially celebrated. To this day, Creator is remembered in Great Britain. Here is his obituary in England’s Racing…

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Sad News

From Old Friends:  American Derby Winner The Name’s Jimmy
Euthanized at Old Friends

The following is directly from the Press Release from Old Friends. We didn’t get to visit Jimmy when we were there in August. We had been lucky to see him at earlier visits, and he was a wonderful fella! This is such sad news for everyone at Old Friends and for the legion of “The Name’s Jimmy” fans. An additional personal observation: The Name’s Jimmy was born the same year as our first homebred – Untarnished. This hits home, too.

The Name's Jimmy (1989 - 2004)

The Name’s Jimmy
(1989 – 2004)


– 1992 American Derby record setter The Name’s Jimmy died March 7 at Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Center in Georgetown, Kentucky. The 25 year old son of Encino out of the Grey Dawn mare Dancing at Dawn was undergoing treatment for mobility issues. Due to their increased severity, Dr. Joan Gariboldi of Hagyard Equine Medical Institute and Old Friends president Michael Blowen determined that humane euthanization was in the horse’s best interest. The Name’s Jimmy had resided at Old Friends since 2007.
Bloodstock agent Chuck Calvin recommended the colt, bred in Illinois by Triple D Stable, to Brian and Jan Burns of Mount Joy Stables, Inc. The Burns purchased the two year old in training as their first racing prospect. Brian Burns and his father, Jimmy Burns, had long shared the dream of owning a race horse, but Jimmy Burns did not live to see that dream realized. His son raced The Name’s Jimmy in his memory.
The Name’s Jimmy won the 1992 Will Rogers Handicap (G3) under trainer Charles Stutts. In his American Derby (G2) win he set a stakes record of 1:59.41 for 1 3/16 miles on the Arlington Park turf with Pat Day up. In 1994 the colt nearly succumbed to an infection. “He spiked a fever of 106 degrees,” Burns recalled. “Just as the authorization to euthanize arrived his fever broke. He went on to a second in the Fort Harrod Stakes at Keeneland.” The Name’s Jimmy earned $404,090 during his 1991-1994 racing career.
The multiple graded stakes winner entered stud in 1995 at Pope McLean’s Crestwood Farm in Kentucky. He later stood at Hill ‘N Dale near Barrington, Illinois and Elite Thoroughbreds in Folsom, Louisiana. “When Hurricane Katrina came through, Jimmy was lost. He stayed out in the bayou for two days before Pope McLean, Jr. found him,” Burns said. “It’s a wonder he wasn’t eaten by an alligator or bitten by a snake. After that, Pope and I called him The Survivor.”
The Name’s Jimmy sired four stakes winners and five stakes-placed winners. He sired earners of nearly $6 million. Brian and Jan Burns retired the stallion to Old Friends in July 2007. “If it doesn’t get through to people what Old Friends does for these horses it’s a crying shame,” remarked Burns.
“The Name’s Jimmy was blessed to have owners like Brian and Jan Burns and we were lucky to have Jimmy at Old Friends,” Blowen said. “It’s always difficult to euthanize one of our great retirees but Jimmy made it easy. The look in his eye spoke volumes and we were able to help him in his final hour. We’re very grateful for all he gave us.”
For more information about Old Friends see their website at  or call the farm at (502) 863-1775.
Old Friends is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that cares for more than 125 retired racehorses. It’s Dream Chase Farm, located in Georgetown, KY, is open to tourists daily by appointment. Old Friends also has a satellite facility in Greenfield Center, N.Y., Old Friends at Cabin Creek: The Bobby Frankel Division. For more information on tours or to make a donation, contact the main farm at (502) 863-1775 or see their website at

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” ( ).

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)

(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
(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 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.


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?

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.


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

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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Rapid Redux

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A funny thing happened on the way to blog post “Of Snowshoes & Faceplants.” Who could have ever expected that it would get to be January 5, and there not be any snow in our part of Michigan? Actually, there’s so little snow all over Michigan that several planned events (including one mushing event) have had to be rescheduled. So, until we all get the snow we need, that post will have to wait.

Photo by Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club

I’m just as happy, though, as there’s something happening that is remarkable. That something is a horse called Rapid Redux!

Photo by Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club

Rapid Redux (RR) is a nicely-bred gelding who has just won his 22nd race – IN A ROW! For a horse to win 22 times in a lifetime is special enough, but to do it in a row, especially in today’s racing, is nothing short of miraculous. Even the superhorse, Zenyatta, didn’t accomplish this feat. Before anyone starts saying, “Yes, but…” let me state – unequivocally – that RR is no Zenyatta. And, when you really consider it, that may make his accomplishment even more astonishing.

Photo by Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club

You see, RR was claimed for $6250 in October of 2010. He has raced at seven different tracks and won at distances from five furlongs to 1 1/8 miles, mostly in starter allowance races for horses that had started for a claiming price of $5,000 or less. In other words, he’s “everyman’s horse.” He’s the kind of horse that the backbone of thoroughbred racing dreams of.


Photo by Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club

I can talk about this because, as most of you know, we were in the thoroughbred business for a number of years. We were the small, mom-and-pop breeders who bred to race. We didn’t (and still don’t) have the deep pockets required to breed to the top stallions in the world (although we DID – twice – but it was before anyone else knew the kind of sire Dynaformer would turn out to be). My passion was figuring out which new stallions, who stood for moderate prices, would turn out to be very successful and get some good runners. Stallions I “discovered” including Strawberry Road, Notebook, and Dynaformer. Big “D” was – by a LONG shot – my best sure-thing.

Photo courtesy Charlestown

We were lucky enough to breed horses that, at least, won. None of them were stakes quality, but we did manage to get winners. Funny thing, though, the costs were far more than the winnings. That’s why RR has totally captivated me. Rapid Redux is a horse that runs in allowance company and just refuses to lose. A huge amount of credit should go to his owner and his trainer. His owner (Robert Coles, Jr.) should be congratulated for allowing his trainer to take the lead in which races RR should run in. The trainer (David Welles) has kept the horse happy and healthy and put him into the right races. That, in itself, is quite an accomplishment; but, to put the horse in spots where he can win 22 straight, that’s nothing short of genius.

Zenyatta - from The Blood Horse

The incomparable Zenyatta was blessed with owners and a trainer who realized how wonderful their mare was/is. They allowed and continue to allow amazing access to a horse whose style, beauty, and grit in the top ranks captivated the racing world (and millions who had never before – or since Secretariat – gotten involved with a racehorse). Zenyatta’s first foal is eagerly awaited by the public.

Rachel Alexandra @Churchill Downs

Similarly, the folks involved with the super-filly, Rachel Alexandra, realized the love people had developed for their horse. They, too, have kept the world informed on Rachel’s life. She, also, is expecting her first foal this year.

Photo by Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club

Rapid Redux is a blue-collar horse. He is the miracle that every small-time operation dreams of. I congratulate the Eclipse Award committee for recognizing that this horse has accomplished something astounding and voted to give him a Special Eclipse Award. (For those of you who don’t follow horse racing, the Eclipse Award is given to the very best performances in horse racing each year.) That a horse that runs in the ranks of the vast majority of races in the sport has realized such heights, may be one of the “shots in the arm” that horse racing needs. RR has captured the imaginations of so many – in racing and out. He’s the horse racing version of Rocky Balboa!

Photo from Charlestown

I recently read that RR’s owner was exploring locations for retirement for his grand horse. I think that’s incredibly wise. I know how hard it is to retire a horse when he’s winning. The costs associated with running a horse can quickly eat up any winnings. This should be the exception. Rapid Redux has accomplished something that, I firmly believe, will never again be approached. In addition, he will be getting the Special Eclipse Award. He’s earned his retirement.

Photo from Mountaineer Race Track

For that retirement, I’d, personally, like to see RR go to Old Friends in Georgetown, Kentucky! Old Friends is the home of some of racing’s most spectacular former stars. Among their ranks are horses that were superior runners and stallions whose age or health has dictated that they should no longer go to the breeding shed. They also have many excellent geldings and older or infertile mares who have “earned” a quiet life where they are loved – not only by the staff, but by the large numbers of the public who visit every year. It has been said that Rapid Redux is a people-horse. If that’s so, it would be in everyone’s best interest for him to be retired to a facility where his fans are able to come to visit him. I can think of no place better for a horse of his stature than Old Friends. Michael Blowen and the whole staff take remarkable care of their horses. They get the love and respect they are due. Rapid Redux would flourish under their care.

Photo by JJ Zamaiko

No matter what is next for Rapid Redux, his accomplishment and the excitement he’s engendered have been a very bright spot for horse racing and its fans. I eagerly await news of what’s next for him. My wish is that he will be retired to some place where we fans can come visit him and thank him, in person, for bringing so much joy.

Up Next: ???????

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