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

Creator
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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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

 

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Remembering a Friend and Gentleman

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It’s Triple Crown time. The Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont have always been part of my year – even before I was in the thoroughbred business. I can remember, from the time I was a small child, picking my favorites then “riding” them home, whooping and hollering the entire way. Funny, I still do that. Some time down the road, I’ll scan my photos of me with the best racehorse to look through a bridle (in my humble opinion) and tell of my visits with Secretariat. That will probably have to wait until next year – the 40th anniversary of his amazing triple crown.

However this post is a tribute to a gentleman who taught me almost everything I know about thoroughbred horses and the thoroughbred industry – D. Mark Yother!

I loved Mark. He saw the horse-lover, breeder, owner in me that I wanted to be. It’s through his mentorship that I became twice president of Georgia TOBA (Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders Association). He helped us buy our very first mare (and, incidentally, NOT to buy the first one we came across). He allowed me to help him foal our very first thoroughbred homebred (foaled and raised at Mark’s Farm – M&A Acres – in Cherokee County, Georgia in 1989). As a matter of fact, he saved Untarnished’s life as she got stuck part of the way in the foaling process. He cut through the sack and gave her mouth to snout respiration. It saved her life. Later in Untarnished’s life, Mark’s wife, Adelaide, saved her life by getting a vet out to the farm when she colicked badly. She was only 6 weeks old. Believe it or not, Untarnished lived to race, win, and foal a beautiful, race-winning, and award-winning, conformation filly.

Sadly, Untarnished colicked again at age 5 while carrying another foal. She couldn’t be saved that time. There will be more on my own horses in a later blog, too.

Mark taught me so very much. We spent so many hours pouring over stallion directories and discussing bloodlines. I actually saw one of his all-time favorite thoroughbred stallions – Sunshine Forever – at Old Friends Equine Retirement Home inGeorgetown, Kentucky. I said hello just for Mark.

Sunshine Forever at Old Friends Equine Retirement

The pond at M&A (GIGANTIC Bluegill)

Although I now live in Michigan, my heart still goes back to M&A often. We fished on Mark’s pond, rode Rocko (one of Mark’s wonderful quarter horses) on the trails, and spent endless hours walking and rounding up horses in his pastures. I bathed so many horses and put them on the hot-walker… In other words,  a large part of my soul is still there.

Idyllic M&A

Mark passed away a few years ago, but I am so very pleased to know the farm lives on. It’ is now called UCF Stables, and it’s a boarding/training facility for horses and their people. Mark would have wanted that. I hope some day to go back for a visit. I’m older, much grayer, and much sadder, but a visit there would bring me a whole lot of joy – as well as more than a few tears for all that have gone home and for those long-ago days.

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