About Old Friends
At Old Friends, the non-profit Thoroughbred Retirement Center in Georgetown, KY, the horses may not be racing anymore, but they are winners every day. Founded in 2003 by former Boston Globe film critic Michael Blowen, Old Friends now cares for more than 130 horses across three states, most of them stallions whose racing and breeding careers came to an end. A “living history museum of horse racing”, the farm attracts nearly 20,000 tourists annually that get up close and personal with such stars of the turf as Breeders’ Cup Champion Gulch, Eclipse-Award winner Sunshine Forever, Whitney Handicap Winner Commentator, millionaire gelding Arson Squad, and…the losingest horse in the history of racing, Zippy Chippy.
The formation of Old Friends kicked into high gear when the news broke that Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand had perished in a slaughterhouse in 2002 (learn more about Ferdinand here). That discovery gave the organization even more impetus. "We went from getting five emails a day to hundreds," notes Blowen. We knew such a death should never happen again, and so the plan became to bring at-risk racehorses--those whose racing and breeding careers had come to an end--to Old Friends, provide them with the dignified retirement they deserve, and invite the public to visit. By promoting these one-time celebrated horses through a campaign of education and tourism, we draw attention to all retired Thoroughbreds and all equines in need.
We are the only thoroughbred rescue / retirement facility that specializes in accepting stallions and so we take exceptional pride in our pensioned champions, among them one of the last great son of Damascus, Ogygian, Kiri's Clown, and stakes winner You and I. These champions live alongside retirees like Swan's Way and Escapedfromnewyork, horses who never earned much more than our love and respect. Old Friends is also home to many deserving mares and geldings.
But every horse at Old Friends has a story to tell, and visitors to the farms can hear them all while learning about racing and ways to help with Thoroughbred aftercare (click here for tour information). Racing fans in New York can also visit some Old Friends champs. Our first satellite division, Old Friends at Cabin Creek: The Bobby Frankel Division, is just a short drive from the Saratoga racecourse and is home to biggest loser Zippy, Travers Stakes winners Thunder Rumble and Will’s Way, GR1 winner Crusader Sword, and many others. (Click here to learn more about Cabin Creek).
Our guests come to visit a few ex-racehorses, but they often leave having been touched by the heart of a Thoroughbred hero.
Some other interesting stats about Old Friends:
--The 501 (c) 3 was formed in 2003, propelled by news that Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand had died in a slaughterhouse. We started with one leased paddock and two horses. By 2012 we have grown into a 92-acre owned farm, an additional 120 leased acres, and a satellite facility in NY. In all, Old Friends supports 120 rescued and retired Thoroughbreds.
--Old Friends at Cabin Creek: The Bobby Frankel Division is our first satellite facility. Cabin Creek is run by Joann and Mark Pepper and they began accepting horses in November 2009.
--We receive no government funding. We subsist on donations, grants, revenue from our gift shop, and private support.
--We have retired six Eclipse-winning champions, 22 Breeders’ Cup starters, a Hall of Fame horse, and a Horse of the Year. We have more stakes winners than any farm in the Bluegrass.
--Old Friends has repatriated five horses from Japan: Sunshine Forever, Creator, Fraise, Ogygian and Wallenda.
--Our athletes, collectively, have earned more than $90 million on the track.
--Old Friends has been the subject of an enviable amount of publicity. Articles have appeared in The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Southern Living, People, The Blood-Horse, and The New York Times, among many others. We are seen regularly on HRTV and we have also been featured in segments on the CBS Evening News With Katie Couric, KET's Louisville Life, and ESPN’s Outside the Lines (click here to read more of our news archives).
--In high season (April-October) up to 1000 fans and tourists take tours weekly.
--Our mascot, Little Silver Charm, is the only non-Thoroughbred on the property. He has his own Facebook page with nearly 1,900 fans. (click here to Like Little Silver Charm).
Board of Directors
- Michael Blowen - President
- William Van Den Dool - Vice President
- Diane White - Secretary
- Rosie Napravnik
- Clark Nyberg
- Cindy Grisolia
- Cathy Riccio
- Suzanne Mundy
- Carol Nyren
- Dennis Brida
- Jeremy Patches
- please click here for more info