In a little more than a decade Old Friends, the Thoroughbred Retirement Facility in Georgetown, KY, has put a new face on the concept of equine aftercare. Founded in 2003 by former Boston Globe film critic Michael Blowen, the organization has grown from a leased paddock and one horse to a 136-acre farm, a herd of over 175 rescued and retired horses, and two satellite facilities: Old Friends at Cabin Creek in Greenfield Center, NY (Click here to learn more about Cabin Creek) and Old Friends at Kentucky Downs in Franklin, KY (click here to learn more about Kentucky Downs).
Blowen had long believed that horses past their prime could still be valuable – money-earning, even—if the venue was right. And so Old Friends tested the concept by opening its doors to the public, inviting fans to revisit their turf heroes. Now a “living-history museum of horse racing”, the farm attracts nearly 20,000 visitors annually who come to swoon over such American Grade 1 winners as Breeders’ Cup Champions Amazombie, Little Mike and Alphabet Soup, Belmont Stakes winners Sarava and Touch Gold, and three-time Santa Anita Handicap winner Game On Dude. The farm is also home to Kentucky Derby and Preakness champions Silver Charm and War Emblem, each repatriated from stud duties overseas.
And while such rock stars draw crowds, the revenue they raise supports hard-knockers like Swan’s Way, whose resume boast 81 starts and only eight wins, Easy Grades, a one-time Kentucky Derby contender who ended up struggling in 5K claimers at the age of nine and Mikethespike who toiled for 10 years and made 125 starts before injuries ended his career. But every horse at Old Friends has a story to tell, and visitors to the farms can hear them all. The farm is open to the public daily for guided walking tours (sorry, we do not permit unaccompanied touring, but click here for tour information).
In 2014 Old Friends was rewarded with a Special Eclipse Award honoring extraordinary service in the sport of Thoroughbred racing. But perhaps the greatest reward of all has been respect and support of the owners, trainers, and fans who not only donate to the cause of protecting these amazing athletes but come out to the farm often and visit with all of their old friends.
Our guests come to visit a few ex-racehorses, but they often leave having been touched by the heart of a Thoroughbred hero.
Our Board of Directors
Michael Blowen - President
William Van Den Dool - Vice President
Cynthia Grisolia, Chairman
Mark Otto, Treasurer
Barbara Fossum, Secretary
-The 501 (c) 3 was formed in 2003, propelled by news that Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand had died in a slaughterhouse.
-Old Friends at Cabin Creek: The Bobby Frankel Division, our first satellite facility, opened in Greenfield Center, NY in 2009. In 2015 we opened a second satellite: Old Friends at Kentucky Downs, perhaps the only Thoroughbred retirement farm to be found on a racetrack.
-We receive no government funding. We subsist on donations, grants, revenue from our tours, gift shop, and annual fundraisers.
-We have retired 11 Eclipse-Award champions, 10 Breeders’ Cup winners, two Hall of Fame inductees, one Dubai World Cup winner, and two Horses of the Year. We have more stakes winners than any farm in the Bluegrass.
-Old Friends has repatriated eight horses from Japan: Sunshine Forever, Creator, Fraise, Ogygian, Wallenda, Silver Charm, Charismatic, and War Emblem.
-Old Friends has repatriated one horse from Italy: Geri.
-All of our athletes combined, have earned more than $163 million on the track.
-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 over 5600 fans.
(click here to Like Little Silver Charm).