March 27, 2009 | | Comments 0

Old Friends – Horse Rescue


Written by: Jan Hoadley

Horse racing gets a bad rap when it comes to “rescue.” When it was learned that Ferdinand had, like Exceller, died in a slaughter house those in the Thoroughbred community were hit hard. Not only disappointed by the loss of a champion tossed away, but facing condemnation of others in the horse community. Thoroughbred fans and owners took the blame for something not of their doing.

In March 2008 a Thoroughbred gelding was found in a feedlot in Washington state. Slated for the end of his career and life the gelding had passed through the ranks and landed as far down as a 10 year old gelding at the end of his racing life could go. The old boy had a name and while many knew it, it took one to put the name to him in those surroundings. Cappuccino Kid. He earned nearly a quarter of a million in his career, once being claimed for $50,000. He was a known name at Bay Meadows, Golden Gate and Hollywood Park. He was claimed for $10,000 in March 2007, raced three times for a partnership then started in a different name at Grants Pass Downs in southern Oregon.

A racing fan, Linda Madsen, fronted the $425 needed to get Cappuccino Kid out of the feedlot. SOS Equines, a Washington based organization, had contacted exercise rider Alex Brown when finding the gelding to set things in motion. Brown made a call to Kentucky to Old Friends, an equine retirement farm.

With Cappuccino Kid safely out of the feedlot donations came in to pay for his transport to Kentucky. During his time on the track the gelding had 44 starts with 10 wins, 7 second and 8 thirds. His half brother is a little more famous grade I winner Medaglia D’Oro now standing stud in Kentucky.

As a gelding nearing mandatory racing retirement Cappuccino Kid’s prospects were much more meager. There was no breeding career. He knew one thing racing. The work of many meant one bay gelding has a well deserved retirement.

This is not the first time Old Friends has taken horses from a distance. Sunshine Forever, a 1985 stallion was a stakes winner including the grade 1 Turf Classic at Belmont with a narrow miss in the 1988 Breeders Cup Turf, winning Eclipse honors as best Turf horse. He ended up, like Ferdinand, in Japan. Along with stablemate Creator they stood at the same farm Ferdinand did and are the first two stallions returned to the US from Japan.

Old Friends is also home to Bonnie’s Poker, dam of Silver Charm, himself now in Japan. Ogygian, the last son of Damascus, is in residence, returned from Japan in August 2005 and now 25 years old.

The horse many have seen on the big screen but few know his name lives here. He became famous as an actor breaking from the starting gate literally in “Seabiscuit.” On the racetrack he did earn 11 wins over six years, but far more saw him in his portrayal of Seabiscuit. Popcorn Deelites was one of six bay horses that appeared to bring the mighty Seabiscuit to life for modern audiences.

Perhaps the closest call is that of Williamstown, a chromed out dark son of Seattle Slew who set a track record in 1993 at Belmont carrying 13 pounds more than the horse that set the mark. He stood in Kentucky then moved to New York and finally Iowa in 2007. Due to infertility issues plans were underway to euthanize him until the insurance company holding the claim took possession of him and contacted Old Friends.

A less known resident is Riva Way. His sire is a son of the legendary Secretariat and his dam is sired by the other Meadow Stable star, Riva Ridge. Riva Way may bear physical good looks to his grandsire but after five years of claiming races the gelding had a record of 11 wins and in the money 19 times from 56 starts. He’s typical of the Thoroughbred seen and often forgotten and when injuries prevented his ability to start on the track he was retired to Old Friends.

Slated to retire at Old Friends is champion and fan favorite Lava Man. A very popular older gelding Lava Man had some questions surface in routine x-rays. The 7 year old has 7 grade 1 wins and just over $5.2million in earnings. He’ll have a permanent home at Old Friends and still be available for the public to see.

It’s all great to get the big horses say the critics. It isn’t just big horses at Old Friends. In fact one of them is quite small. He never started a race and has no lifetime earnings. $40 pulled him off the truck, some time spent cleaning him up at the track. The track had horses but “Brownie” had to go. Renamed Silver Charm due to his silver mane and charming personality, he was renamed again when people said he wasn’t the real Silver Charm. Now Little Silver Charm, a miniature horse stallion resides with the big horses.

Old Friends is funded by donations. There is a wish list posted on their website of items needed and anyone with racing memorabilia on the horses in residence can donate it to a planned racing museum. There are books available on the site that 15% goes to Old Friends. Tours are given of the farm with donations going to the horses. This is the only Thoroughbred retirement facility that takes stallions. They were a beneficiary of funds from Breyerfest 2008 and maintain an eBay store as well as accepting donations online. Additionally anyone who feeds Southern States or Triple Crown feeds that does not use the proof of purchase symbols from select bags of feed can send them to Old Friends, where they are collected and benefit the horses. There are also sponsors who assist and private donations given.

Old Friends is located at 1841 Paynes Depot Road, Georgetown Kentucky. 502-863-1775

While it’s true horses don’t live forever Old Friends gives these gallant old guys a place to just be a horse. Occasion died in April of 2008 at 27 years old and had her last years being cared for with dignity. These horses, despite what many think, are more than a checkbook expense. The unfortunate truth is it takes money to care for these horses. Send them a check or paypal today and help them be able to help another horse. Sometimes, like Cappuccino Kid or Williamstown, they don’t have much time left. Do it today so that they have the care they deserve and are able to help the next horse in need.

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