In the fresh air of Bluegrass Country, the Horse Magazine tour group was treated to a beautiful lunch and the company of several notable celebrities. No we didn’t see Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan but we did get up close and personal with Awad, a 1993 Secretariat Stakes and 1995 Arlington Million winner.
Awad earned more than $3.2 million in prize money throughout his career. Now he spends his days getting doted upon by the four hundred or so tourists who come to visit Old Friends, a retirement and rescue facility for pensioned Thoroughbreds, each week.
Michael Blowen, a former movie critic for the Boston Globe, is the founder of Old Friends: “My wife was a columnist and I was a critic and we lived in Boston and people were like, ‘How did you end up in Kentucky?’ I don’t know, I still don’t know.”
References from his time as a movie critic often pop into conversation and keep us all entertained: “It was a bit like Alice in Wonderland falling down the rabbit hole. When I was in Boston I had some horses that were running and I saw at the end of the day, when they were broken down, the slaughter trucks would just show up and off they’d go to the slaughter house. It was brutal.”
Michael said progress for the racehorse refuge was slow in the beginning but when news broke of the Kentucky Derby winner, Ferdinand, being killed in a Japanese slaughterhouse, people wanted to help.
Old Friends in Kentucky is now home to more than 100 retired racehorses given the chance to enjoy their last years: “I think this is so much fun. People say you’re going to go to heaven for doing all this stuff and I say, ‘Well I’m already there. It’s not going to get better than this.’”
One of the stars we were able to meet didn’t have a hugely successful racing career but he was a film star: “His name is Popcorn Deelites he was one of the eight horses to play Seabiscuit in the movie.”
“The day they were going to do the racing scene he wasn’t scheduled to perform because they had seven other Seabiscuit horses to do that. But what happened on the day of the big race is the war admiral horse that was supposed to lose the race kept winning. They were saying, ‘Darn it these things can’t even win a fixed race!’”
“So they went down and they finally got our horse Popcorn Deelites and brought him up because he was the only who wasn’t tired and he finally won the race.”
When you visit Old Friends you won’t pay any admissions, they won’t even usher you into the gift shop. Michael says they don’t ask people for money, they leave it up to them.
It costs around half a million dollars a year to operate the facility, with a cost of $100 a day for the upkeep of each retiree. It keeps turning purely on the generosity of horse supporters around the world.
They sell $100 shares in horses, calendars, hand sketched portraits by various artists as well as various Kentucky wares and produce. There are many ways you can help if you choose to.
Whether making a gesture as grand as donating a retired superstar, helping transport one to their facility, or funding a new paddock. To making a small donation or even shopping on their ebay store. Visit their website for further details http://www.oldfriendsequine.org/