A Visit To Old Friends & Other TB After Care Facilities

This thread was created to share photos taken during my visit to Michael Blowen's Old Friends. But after my review, this thread will be left open for others to also share their personal photo stories of visits to this wonderful"Venue" and similar facilites elsewhere in the US and the World. Note: Photos are to be your very own and not obtained from other websites or social media that is not yours. Please be sure to give yourself photo credits! An exception is allowed if it is a reference to pedigree lineage or race records (ie race videos), but please notate your source of info under each photo/video.

If you do not know how to post images in the forum, please check with those that have the ability...we will be more than willing to help you share your story!


  • Paniolo_GalPaniolo_Gal Member
    edited August 2015
    Once again, and I cannot express enough, my appreciation to @lauraj_cincinnati on guiding me to visit this wonderful facility! She has also helped identify the many horses that I could not recognize from my collection of photos as well! Many thanks to others who have also helped identify these wonderful race warriors too!


    imageThe Little Yellow House-The Old Friends Office... On the front door was a new white sign notating that no cash is kept on the premises.

    Old Friends is a non-profit Thoroughbred Retirement Center located in Georgetown, Kentucky. It was founded in 2003 by former Boston Globe film critic, Michael Blowen on his Dream Chase Farm. Today, Old Friends now cares for more than 150 horses whose racing and breeding careers have come to an end. It is a wonderful "Living History Museum Of Horse Racing".

    The creation of Old Friends kicked into high gear when in 2002, word got out that Kentucky Derby winner, Ferdinand had perished in a slaughterhouse in Japan. And, earlier in April 1997, Exceller was also sent to the slaughterhouse in Sweden when his usefulness as a stud had ended. Says Blowen: "We knew such deaths should never happen again!...So the plan was to bring at risk racehorses...to Old Friends...to provide them the dignified retirement they deserve!".

    Old Friends is the only Thoroughbred rescue/retirement facility that specializes in accepting stallions. These retired stallions live along side famous geldings (and a few mares) as well as horses who never earned much more than our love and respect. What a wonderful haven created by Michael Blowen indeed!

    imageThe Old Friends Logo prominently shown at the front facade of the Little Yellow House with Exceller & Ferdinand as their mantras.

    Old Friends attracts over 20,000 tourists annually who can get up close and personal with many racing history champions: Silver Charm, Game On Dude, Gulch, Amazombie, Rail Trip, Sarava and most recently, the first son of Genuine Risk...On 6/27/15, Genuine Reward was posted on Craigslist for sale for only $500! He is now at Old Friends, safe, sound and in good health!

    imageA close--up of the Old Friends sign.

    imageOld Friends Hall of Fame Cemetery for champions located at the front of the property just right of the Yellow House. Champions like Noor, Precisionist and Skip Away are buried here.

    imageA shot of one of the headstones...Skip Away.
    Skip Away's Pedigree & click on the "i" for background info: http://www.pedigreequery.com/skip+away

    image The headstone of Noor.
    Noor's Pedigree & click on the "i" for background info: http://www.pedigreequery.com/noor

    imageA view of the sprawling property of Old Friends at Blowen's Dream Chase Farm

    On 5/28/2015, while inside the office to sign in for our 3:00p appointment, I noticed that they had already gotten the new flat screen TV donated by Lanes End. A little over a week before we arrived (5/15/15), someone had broken into the office, stole a TV, ransacked the office and took $300 which were meant for the horses. It was so sad and frustrating to hear of this break-in. Thank goodness all the horses were unharmed.

    image Shortly after, Michael Blowen walked in the office
    and we took a photo of him. Michael would later join us
    on our tour of his wonderful facility!

    Our Old Friends guide today, was Charlie Brown! :oD He was a real fun guy to have a tour with. He was surprised to find out that I knew about the background of the recent break-in at Old Friends (thanks to our forum) and that the new flat screen TV was donated by Lanes End. He asked Mike Blowen when we were still in the office. Mike confirmed that I was correct. Charlie Brown said: "Gee...word takes awhile to get to him sometimes." LOL!

    imageA side view of the Old Friends Office which looks like a small residential cottage along Paynes Depot Road.

  • When I visit I also met Michael. He is wonderful to talk to and interacts with us "regular folks" just like we were rich patrons.
  • Forgot to mention that they need to find Seabiscuit and get him in the grave yard at Old Friends.

    imageWaiting for us at the fence was Sarava...He knows he's getting a treat of carrots!

    Charlie Brown mentioned that they currently have approximately 150 horses. Old Friends started with just 15 retired racehorses back in 2003 of which 12 or 13 were stallions. As we approached the first retiree on our tour, Charlie Brown mentioned that this was Sarava. I was sitting next to him in the golf cart and quietly said: "Oh! I know about Sarava!" Charlie then quickly said..."Shhh! Don't tell everyone else about Sarava...I need you to keep it a secret otherwise I won't have anything to talk about. LOL!"

    imageCharlie Brown provides background stats as Sarava looks to the camera and poses!

    imageSarava again poses for a conformation photo...too bad the fence was in the way!

    Sarava (1999c) was a 70 to 1 long shot who won the 2002 Belmont Stakes! He Is the biggest longshot in the history of the Belmont Stakes. Sarava was donated to Old Friends in September, 2012 after retiring from stud duties with Cloverleaf Farms in Florida and Kentucky, which spanned from 2005 through 2012. His race earnings: $773,832 (17 starts: 3 wins, 3 places, 0 shows).

    imageA close-up headshot of Sarava.

    imageOur trusty golf cart which would take us weak-kneed visitors around the sprawling property at Old Friends. Here Charlie Brown discusses Sarava's race background as we admire Sarava's good looks even at age 16 and partly covered in mud.

    imageHere is another headshot..."Don't you think I have a handsome face?"

    imageHere Charlie Brown tickles Sarava's muzzle to flip his upper lip to show us his tattoo.

    Old Friends link to Sarava's background:
    Sarava's Pedigree:

    Sarava (post position 12) winning the 2002 Belmont Stakes:
    From Vintage North American Horse Racing via YouTube.

  • Paniolo_GalPaniolo_Gal Member
    edited August 2015
    When I visit I also met Michael. He is wonderful to talk to and interacts with us "regular folks" just like we were rich patrons.
    Yes @shirlee! Michael is a truly genuine and down-to-earth guy. He was excited to personally show us Silver Charm so he later met us and brought Little Silver Charm with him (for size comparison of course! :oD) and allowed us to take photos and love on both these wonderful horses. He even chauffeured some of us back down to the office in another covered golf cart when a thunderstorm arrived in the mist of the tour. He's a Gem of a person! :oD

    Here's another good example about Michael Blowen:
    Background: While trying to ID the photos of horses at Old Friends, one of the volunteers gave me Michael's personal email address so he could help me. Glad I kept his address too!

    Thanks to Rachel's early notification, I sent Michael an email alert about Genuine Reward on sale in Craigslist (attaching the ad). I'm sure other people got a hold of him already, but I was surprised that he responded to my email using his personal cellphone, immediately after I sent it. It was on a Saturday afternoon too! Me? An unknown nobody, yet he responded quickly & graciously...assuring me that they will take immediate action for Genuine Reward's plight! I have very high regards for Michael indeed! Thank God we have him as a guardian for these wonderful retired race warriors! :oD

    imageUp a short distance away, we spied upon a silhouette of a handsome horse who still had a good strong looking top line and a wasp waist...it was 31-year old Gulch! He still looks very good given his age!

    As our group approached his paddock, Gulch walked over from his shady spot and greeted all of us! We got to love on him and Charlie Brown gave me some carrot shavings to feed him. He has such a friendly, mellow personality and enjoyed the attention we were giving him.

    imageHere is Gulch meeting his fans and enjoying all the attention!

    Gulch (1984) was an outstanding race warrior, winning the Met Mile twice in 1987 & 1988, and the Breeders' Cup Sprint in 1988 at age 4. That same year, he was awarded the 1988 Eclipse Champion Sprinter award. But as a stud, Gulch also shined as well! He had over 70 stakes winners, including 1995 Kentucky Derby & Belmont Stakes winner-Thunder Gulch (1992)! His other outstanding progeny included: Nayef, The Cliff's Edge, Harayir, Great Navigator, Esteemed Friend, Nasty Storm, Golden Gear, Scrimshaw and his latest standout-Court Vision. But best of all, is his beloved son Wallenda who also resides at Old Friends. Gulch had a long breeding career and stood at Lane's End up through 2009 at age 25! He was retired to Old Friends through the generosity of Lane's End president, Bill Farish.

    image Mmmm! Carrots...I'll have 10 more servings please.

    image Hey can someone remove these two flies by my eye...they're bugging the heck out of me right now!

    imageI got a chance to give Gulch some loving pets on his head which he seemed to enjoy receiving from his fans.

    imageI couldn't get a better conformation photo but this frontal view will have to do.

    imageHey...where are you all going?

    Read more about Gulch from Old Friends Website:
    Here is Gulch's pedigree: http://www.pedigreequery.com/gulch

    Here is Gulch winning the 1988 Met Mile (post no. 1A)
    By fightsnraces via YouTube

  • You may have already mentioned this and if so I apologize - but do you know what the colored tags on the stallions halters mean?
  • PG can correct me if I'm wrong, but I suspect it's so they can find the halters out in the paddocks if/when the horses take them off. They've had quite few disappear over the years. Some of the horses, notably Popcorn Deelites and Special Ring, are very fond of taking off each other's halters. The brown leather is easily lost in a muddy paddock.
  • Paniolo_GalPaniolo_Gal Member
    edited August 2015
    You may have already mentioned this and if so I apologize - but do you know what the colored tags on the stallions halters mean?
    Sorry, @PlainBays...I don't know the reason for the usage of the bright orange tags. It might perhaps be a notation for medical treatments that were done like vaccinations, etc or a special diet identifier. I did a blow-up of a photo and there is no writing on the tags that Gulch wears.

    Perhaps @lauraj_cincinnati might know off hand. If not, I could check later with Old Friends. Unless someone else on the forum knows. :oD
  • I'd bet it's because they're easily lost in the paddock too. Leather halters become incredibly hard to find when they're in the mud, so a little orange flag would help them stand out.
  • Paniolo_GalPaniolo_Gal Member
    edited August 2015
    Oh Wow! I just called Old Friends and Michael Blowen picked up the phone himself!
    He told me that these orange tags on the halters are for the flies. It contains citronella which is a deterrent to these pests.

    Talk about a hands-on person...Amazing!
  • Very interesting.
  • Huh, interesting! I never would have guessed that.

    imageHey! Were you the one that saw my son Thunder Gulch & my lady, Line of Thunder?

    Prior to my trip, I had set up going to certain breeding farms as well as Old Friends so I could meet up close and personal, Thunder Gulch's Sire (Gulch) and his dam (Line Of Thunder) as well as recently retired Thunder Gulch himself as a Pedigree Triad. On this Old Friends visit, my primary mission was finally fulfilled! Gulch was already 31 years old so this was the best chance of seeing the sire, dam and offspring before it was too late to see them all in person. :oD

    GULCH (1984) AT OLD FRIENDS (May 28, 2015)
    imageGulch's headshot at age 31.

    imageA frontal view of Gulch

    imageThis is the best I have to show Gulch's side view conformation profile through the fence.

    LINE OF THUNDER (1987) AT BRANDYWINE (May 28, 2015)
    imageLine Of Thunder's headshot.

    imageLine Of Thunder at age 28.

    imageThunder Gulch's headshot at age 23.

    imageThunder Gulch newly retired in 2015.


    imageHere is Catlaunch looking behind to be sure his paddock mate, Rail Trip was somewhere else.

    CATLAUNCH (2001 gelding)
    Pedigree: Noble Cat (1995 dark bay) x Skilaunch (1989 grey) by Relaunch (1976 grey)
    Background: Race earnings: $1,122,309 (107 starts, 40 wins, 22 places, 15 shows).

    Catlaunch is truly a hard knocking race warrior! Owned by Scioto Farms, Catlaunch started racing from age 2 (2003) and was still winning in his last year of racing at age 12! He won at distances ranging from 6 furlongs to 1-1/4 miles. Catlaunch was named Ohio's 2006 accredited male as well as 2007 and 2009 Handicap Horse. He was also named Ohio Horse Of The Year in 2008 and 2011. He is the ultimate working man's champion race warrior! They even have a stakes race named after him at Thistle Down Racino. Catlaunch was retired in April, 2013 and arrived at Old Friends in January 2014. Catlaunch is considered the "Greatest Ohio bred in history!"

    More information about Catlaunch from Old Friends and other websites:
    Catlaunch's Pedigree: http://www.pedigreequery.com/catlaunch

    imageCatlaunch has a very nice profile with soft kind eyes!

    imageCatlaunch has a real sweet persona and loved the attention he was getting from the group.

    imageCatlaunch was a good sized horse, this is the best full body shot I could get of him.

    Poor Catlaunch, his paddock buddy, Rail Trip was a carrot hog and tended to not share any treats with Catlaunch. So when Catlaunch saw us coming up in the golf cart, he was already waiting for us. Here Charlie talked about his racing background and fed him carrots. Charlie said he'd have to be quick at getting treats to Catlaunch before Rail Trip sees us...Rail Trip is known to shoo Catlaunch away to get all the carrots! It was too bad as Catlaunch is a very smart, good looking and sweet natured horse that everyone enjoys at Old Friends. Perhaps it's his kind personality that lets him get pushed around by Rail Trip. :o(

    imageCharlie poses with Catlaunch while feeding him a handful of carrots. You can see Rail Trip walking up over Charlie's left shoulder.

    imageAs Charlie talks about Catlaunch, one of the tour members sees Rail Trip approaching directly behind Charlie. Rail Trip is hidden behind Charlie right now...Oh Oh! Rail Trip, the paddock Divo is coming!

  • I have one of Catlaunch's halters. I bought it on an Old Friends eBay auction. It hangs in my office. It is worn and a little dirty--very authentic.

    Poor Catlaunch. He does best getting carrots if someone is available to feed Rail Trip at the same time, preferably a few feet down the fence line.

    imageRail Trip now pushes Catlaunch away so he could get all the carrot treats. What a "Carrot Hog"! Rail Trip doesn't share the treats.

    imageRail Trip takes command of the audience as poor Catlaunch stands in the background in this photo.

    RAIL TRIP (2005 gelding)
    Pedigree: Jump Start (1999 dark bay) x Sweet Trip (2000 chestnut) by Carson City (a 1987 chestnut chef de course sire).
    Background: Race record: $1,516,520 (27 starts: 9 wins, 7 places, 1 show). He won the 2009 Hollywood Gold Cup and came in 3rd in the 2009 Pacific Classic Stakes. In 2012, he came in 2nd in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. In 2009, Rail Trip set an NTR for 10 furlongs in 2:00.75 at Hollywood Park. Rail Trip was retired to Old Friends in January 2014...the same month as Catlaunch.

    imageRail Trip's profile. You can see Gulch (I think) walking around his paddock in the background.

    imageRail Trip now gets to enjoy all the attention and carrots from Charlie.

    More information about Rail Trip from Old Friends website:
    Rail Trip's Pedigree: http://www.pedigreequery.com/rail+trip

    2009 Hollywood Gold Cup Race won by Rail Trip (Post position 8)
    From YouTube


    Another tour member and I walked over to Catlaunch to keep him company and I brought out my stash of baby carrots and gave him these treats he deserved just as much as Rail Trip. We started loving on him with kind words, carrots with scratches & pets which he enjoyed. He is such a sweet horse. I wish he had another paddock buddy that was more willing to share in the attention and treats. :o(

    imageThe rest of the group gathered around Rail Trip, but we walked over to keep Catlaunch company, giving him lots of attention and loving pets.

    imageCatlaunch now gets a handful of baby carrots and is enjoying the treats and our company.

    imageHere is a very sweet cover page photo of Catlaunch.

    image You can see the eyes of contentment knowing that we showed Catlaunch he was just as important as Rail Trip!

  • I have one of Catlaunch's halters. I bought it on an Old Friends eBay auction. It hangs in my office. It is worn and a little dirty--very authentic.

    Poor Catlaunch. He does best getting carrots if someone is available to feed Rail Trip at the same time, preferably a few feet down the fence line.
    Oh @lauraj_cincinnati...since you visited Old Friends on many occassions when you are in the area, you must have some very interesting stories to tell us about the retirees at Old Friends. I hope later on you can share more stories with some of your photos if you have time. :oD

    imageUp from the hill in his paddock, Game On Dude sees us and starts walking down. You can see Game On Dude's buddy, the grey Yankee Fourtune near the back fence taking a nap.

    imageAs he gets closer, you can see how handsome and large he is.

    GAME ON DUDE! (2007 gelding)
    Pedigree: Awesome Again-CAN (a bay 1994 chef de race sire) x Worldly Pleasure (2000 dark bay) by Devil His Due (1989 black)
    Background: Race earnings: 6,498,893 (34 starts: 16 wins, 7 places, 1 show). Won the Santa Anita three times in 2011, 2013, and 2014. Game On Dude also won the Hollywood Gold Cup twice in 2012 and 2013. In 2013, as a 6-year old, he captured all 3 of California's most coveted G1 stakes: The Big Cap (Santa Anita Handicap), the Hollywood Gold Cup and the Pacific Classic..thus winning the "California Triple Crown" in a single year. (Note: Lava Man was the first to achieve this California TC feat). GOD earned a 113 Beyer Speed Figure for his win in the 2013 Pacific Classic, a race with a disputed race time. (Del Mar's official time was 2:00.69 and Trakus time was 1:59.26). Game On Dude is owned by Diamond Price, Lanni Family Trust, Mercedes Stable LLC and Bernard Schiappa and through the efforts of Bob & Jill Baffert, Old Friends was able to provide Game On Dude a wonderful place for his retirement.
    Reference: Wikipedia

    More Information from Old Friends website:

    Game On Dude's Pedigree: http://www.pedigreequery.com/game+on+dude

    Game On Dude is another sweet gentleman. He loved interacting with us and enjoyed all the carrot treats we were offering him. His best friend and pasture buddy, Yankee Fourtune did not come down to visit with us however, he was resting way back on the uphill portion of the paddock and continued sleeping when we dropped by.

    imageHere I am...Do any of you have any questions for me?

    imageHmmm, who was my toughest opponent in a winning race? I guess it would be Will Take Charge in the 2014 Santa Anita Handicap.

    image"Hmmm, what was my best race? It would be winning the 2013 Pacific Classic, I smashed my opponents by 8.5 lengths...not too shabby eh? But I just heard a filly named Beholder came close to my winning margin!"

    image"What was my greatest regret?"...Not winning the Breeders' Cup Classic.

    image A close-up of Game On Due!

    Game On Dude (7) in the 2014 Santa Anita Handicap winning for the 3rd time:
    Exciting race with Will Take Charge (1), Blingo (3) and Mucho Macho Man (2)!
    From America's Best Racing via YouTube

    The 2013 Pacific Classic: Game On Dude (11)
    From Horse Racing via YouTube

  • Paniolo_GalPaniolo_Gal Member
    edited August 2015

    A song about social freedom...The Big Picture!
    (From the album dedicated to Gianni Versace who was murdered a few months before the album's release.)
    With our discussion in Off Topics...Thought I'd add this iconic...yet ironic song. With our political and social issues...the trappings of expectation and predetermined ideals, animals on the other hand, live in the present, free of the past or the future! Ironic...because most horses still live behind fences.

    If you'd like to sing the chorus with Game On Dude...
    Live Like Horses by Elton John & Luciano Pavarotti
    From MusicEvolution via YouTube
    Complete lyrics: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/eltonjohn/livelikehorses.html

    image"Someday we'll live...like horses..."

    image"Free rein...from your old iron fences"

    image"There's more ways than one...to regain your senses"

    image"Break out the stalls...and we'll LIVE LIKE HORSES...SOMEDAY"

    image"liberi dai ricenti di ferro" (free from iron fences)...

  • G-P, thank you for the video - it was wonderful. I have The Three Tenors CD in my car and play it often. Nessun Dorma (Pavarotti) always get me no matter how many times I listen to it. In view of one of my favorite classical pieces I thought if I ever had a racehorse I would name him Vincero (I will be victorious) or Splendara (to shine), if it was a filly. :-)
  • KMMKMM Member
    Is this Spanish or Italian?:)
  • Does Game on Dude crib? A couple of these photos look like he does and am surprised he's not wearing a collar.
  • KMMKMM Member
    With Pavorotti, must be Italian.:)
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