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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Space Invasion: Lexington

The Space Shuttle touched down in Lexington on Wednesday night after a long drive down Lake Erie then due south from Cleveland through Columbus and Cincinnati before hitting Bluegrass Country. Little did I know that the highlight of our trip would occur on the first day before we even hit Keeneland and Churchill Downs. I know Kentucky Derby hype is starting to hit a fever pitch, but I truly was touched by what my eyes saw today.

We arrived at Old Friends this morning for our tour and was looking forward to seeing some of the retired Thoroughbred champions (three former Eclipse winners are here) and enjoy the sunshine walking the paddocks with the Space Gal and Space Kid. I know other bloggers have been here and written great stories and I wasn’t even planning on writing more than a paragraph on our visit. And then they told us that one of Ernie Paragallo’s malnourished horses was arriving within the half hour. I didn’t know whether to be excited or scared. I had read on the Paulick Report website about the police raid and subsequent reports on how bad it was at the Paragallo farm. The van arrived and there were only a few of us huddled around awaiting the arrival of the unnamed five year old gelding. My heart was literally in my stomach. I explained the happenings to the Space Gal and told her to brace herself. The gelding, ribs exposed stepped down the walkway and you could tell right away he was in a better place. Executive Director Michael Blowen, a wonderful man dedicated to maintaining this retirement oasis for retired thoroughbreds, led him out and walked him in a circle. He was beaming and the horse is most definitely with some terrific caretakers.

Here are his first few steps on the grounds of Old Friends! A better look at the former Paragallo gelding (unnamed). The folks at Old Friends are planning a special naming contest, keep an eye on their website.

After the relief of seeing the horse and knowing he was in such tremendous good hands, our tour guide, Mercer (great name) continued showing us some of the great champions that now call this wondrous place home.

Here’s Fortunate Prospect, grandsire of Derby hopeful Musket Man. He won about a dozen stakes races, including the San Vicente, but his strength was in the breeding shed, where his 632 runners have won more than $38 million on the track.

This is Wallace Station (which is also the name of the place where we had the best lunch ever) named after said restaurant, who was a talented race horse who was just retired this year.

Space Gal’s favorite Special Ring with Popcorn Deelites (who co-starred in the Seabiscuit movie) enjoy a carrot or three.

My favorite horse of the day was Awad, a former turf champion who won the Arlington Million, the Manhatten Handicap and the Secretariat Stakes. He also set the track record in winning the Sword Dancer in 1997. Me, I enjoyed the fact he could balance three carrots on a pole then slurp them up. Now that’s talent. Supposedly, former trainer David Donk’s answering machine states, “Hello you reached the house that Awad built.” High comedy indeed. He was awesome.

The Wicked North, 1994 Eclipse Award winner was stabled due to a bad ankle, was probably the sweetest horse we encountered in our visit.

It was truly a special day at Old Friends, and as a member of the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance, I was very proud that our dues, makes us a supporter of the farm and all of the good things they are doing. It shouldn’t be surprising that they stepped up to take on the Paragallo gelding. I am glad to be a small part of it.

Tomorrow’s invasion: Keeneland.

(Space Gal Post Script: I just want to thank Mercer again for a truly wonderful tour. I don’t know nearly as much about horses/horse racing as my husband, and he entertained all of my questions. THANK YOU! He also gave us the special “extended” tour up to see the mares. What a wonderful experience. The Space Kid slept through the entire tour, but I’m sure he’ll hear tales of his visit when he’s a little older. I highly encourage everyone reading this blog to donate to Old Friends. Throw a $100 on Special Ring or The Wicked North! They’re sweeties. Or even Creator… he’s “the man” and knows it)

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing those photos. I've never been there, but I think what they do at Old Friends is phenomenal! So glad that one of the horses who had been neglected has found such a wonderful home.


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