Everyone’s A Star At Old Friends: Charity Spotlight Presented By Avion Law - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Everyone’s A Star At Old Friends: Charity Spotlight Presented By Avion Law

Old Friends founder Michael Blowen, with resident Kentucky Derby winner Silver Charm

When the infamous Runhappy van pulls into Old Friends Farm in Georgetown, Ky., you might think another big superstar is onboard, ready for his new life of leisure.

Instead, a mare rescued from a dangerous situation and lacking the luster in her coat steps off, soon to regain that shine and learn to enjoy life again at the retirement facility. Podcast was bred by James McIngvale and last raced in a claimer at Evangeline Downs. McIngvale made the call to bring her to her new home in Kentucky and made sure she was handled like royalty.

So, maybe she wasn't a multi-millionaire, but she deserves the peace just as much as notable residents Silver Charm and Birdstone.

“We try to balance it out,” said Michael Blowen, founder of Old Friends. “For every superstar horse we get who has won a lot of money and is well-known, we try to take one or two that aren't and just need a place.”

Because of this mentality, Old Friends has expanded far beyond its Georgetown roots. New facilities are opening, with more in the works, each with the same goal: Give the retired racehorse a place to be a horse again.

“We don't retrain the horses, of course,” Blowen points out. “There are so many really good operations that do that. I'm completely inept at doing that kind of thing. But I tell people all the time, all their lives these horses have been trained to do something—trained for the races, trained for breeding, trained for aftercare. They are told what to do. And when they come here, our staff figures out what the horses want, and we let the horse train us. It's a total reversal, and that's why with these old stallions that we're warned will bite people, their whole behavior and whole attitude changes as soon as they realize they're in charge. They can finally just be horses again, eat grass and get the bald headed guy to come feed them carrots. It works alright.”

Old Friends at Cabin Creek near Saratoga Race Course, will be joined by a second Saratoga Springs, N.Y., location. Working alongside Jack Knowlton of Sackatoga Stable, Ed and Lisa Mitzen and other community members, an additional location will be opened on the Mitzens' farm just 12 minutes away from the racetrack. The group is also working with the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame to organize tours between the two Old Friends locations, the museum and the track.

“We have all these great New York-bred horses here, we have all these huge New York horses that are huge heroes in New York, but here they play second banana to horses like Silver Charm and Touch Gold,” said Blowen. “So, we're trying to expand up there to expand tourism and expand the operation to have more room for more horses.”

The cornerstone of Old Friends, Dream Chase Farm in Georgetown, has expanded to two subsidiary farms built on the green space in the Winding Oaks subdivision down the road from the farm and one built at Ashton Grove, a high-end senior citizen facility in Georgetown that'll allow the residents to interact with the horses daily.

“There's something about the outside of the horse that's good for the inside of man,” said Blowen. “They're fabulous pals. And they deserve everything we're giving them for sure.”

Hogy at Old Friends

One last, and rather large development for Old Friends is the expansion into Japan. For the past two years, representatives from the Japan Racing Association and Japan Bloodhorse Breeders' Association (JBBA) have visited the Georgetown farm and met with Blowen to formulate a plan for an Old Friends in Japan. The facility opened ten months ago to the delight of Blowen.

“It's unbelievable,” he said. “They essentially copied us and did a fabulous job. They send me information on each new horse. It's created a whole new relationship with Japan racing that we've been working on the past two decades. They realized the number of tourists we were getting, and they wanted to improve tourism and get the visitors involved with the horses. They understood it's a great thing to do not only for the horses but also for the local economy.”

Because of this new relationship, Blowen has allowed his focus to change to bringing home American stars from Korea, such as Colonel John and Any Given Saturday once their breeding careers have ended.

“We just want to keep showing that these horses are really useful even though they're not professional athletes anymore, they're just retired,” said Blowen. “No matter their earnings.”

To learn more about Old Friends, visit http://oldfriendsequine.org

To learn more about Old Friends Japan, visit http://oldfriendsjapan.com

The Charity Spotlight is presented by Richard Pearson's Avion Law, a California-based firm specializing on the aviation industry. Avion Law has a “giving back” program supporting awareness campaigns and donating to charitable organizations in and outside of horse racing. For more information on Avion Law, click here.

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