Category Archives: Racing

Hollywood Gold Cup Winner Early Pioneer Euthanized

Early Pioneer at Old Friends (Photo: Laura Battles)

GEORGETOWN, KY – JANUARY 15, 2018 – Early Pioneer, winner of the 2000 Hollywood Gold Cup (G1), was euthanized January 12th at Old Friends, the Thoroughbred Retirement sanctuary in Georgetown, KY, where he had been pensioned since 2009.

The 23-year-old son of Rahy and winner of over $1.1 million was experiencing complications of chronic laminitis and cancer was also suspected.  The results of a full necropsy are pending.

Prior to Early Pioneer’s Gold Cup win, he finished second in both the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap (G2) and the Californian (G2) after upsetting the San Bernardino Handicap (G2) at odds of 27-1. The flashy chestnut was bred by Mr. and Mrs. John C. Mabee and raced in their colors before being claimed for $62,500 in 1998.

Typecast as a sprinter, new trainer Vladimir Cerin gave Early Pioneer a shot at two turns, and it made all the difference. He was never finer than in the 2000 Gold Cup, where he bested favorite General Challenge at odds of 24-1.

Early Pioneer raced only twice after his Gold Cup win, and was retired. However, in 2007 he was discovered racing on the unofficial fair circuit. He was bought for $1,000 by Nevada horseman Shawn Davis who later worked with Arizona’s Second Call program and equine aftercare advocate Rhonda “Cass” Dewey to permanently retire the former champ.

Given his background, Dewey thought Early Pioneer was a good candidate for Old Friends and contacted founder Michael Blowen.

“Early Pioneer was one of four Hollywood Gold Cup winners that have been retired at Old Friends, and we were so proud to have him,” said Blowen. “He was a fan favorite and a farm favorite, and I know he will be missed by all.

“Special thanks to Cass Dewey and all those who helped him and helped him find his way to Old Friends,” Blowen added.  “Caring for him has been a privilege.”

Old Friends is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that cares for over 175 retired racehorses. Its Dream Chase Farm, located in Georgetown, KY, is open to tourists daily by appointment. Old Friends also has a satellite facility in Greenfield Center, New York, Old Friends at Cabin Creek: The Bobby Frankel Division, which is also open to visitors. For more information on tours or to make a donation, contact the main farm at (502) 863-1775 or see their website at www.oldfriendsequine.org.

MEDIA CONTACT: Cynthia Grisolia, (347) 423-7322, cindy@oldfriendsequine.org; Michael Blowen (502) 863-1775, michael@oldfriendsequine.org

Faugheen Heads to Cheltenham

Following his most recent run, Faugheen certainly has questions to answer but there is no doubting he is one of the greatest horses of recent times. Through his 15 starts he has only tasted defeat on two occasions this being his most recent run and to the ill-fated Nichols Canyon when he clearly badly needed the run. If Faugheen had not had his injury it would be likely we are talking about a three-time Champion hurdle winner to equal the likes of the Istabraq, who to many is the greatest champion hurdler in history.

Faugheen reached a peak RPR of 177 following his 2016 victory in the Irish Champion hurdle where he beat a top horse in stablemate Arctic Fire by 15 lengths with Nichols Canyon a further 13 lengths behind. When Faugheen was performing to this level would any horse have been able to defeat him? This is an unfortunate question that we will never get the answer to. With all this in question it was very unfortunate to see Faugheen be pulled up on his most recent start but no problems or answers have been found as to why this happened.

Faugheen will now head to Cheltenham looking vulnerable, but if he returns to the level he ran to on his comeback we are set for a fascinating clash between two Champion hurdle winners as Buveur D’air looks to defend his crown. The Cheltenham Festival 2018 odds on Paddy Power has the reigning champion as the clear favourite. Check this infographic out to see how Faugheen compares to the greatest Champion hurdlers throughout history.

2018 Cheltenham Festival

The Cheltenham festival 2018 is now just a few months away as anticipation continues to build for jumps racing premier fixture. The penultimate day is all about St Patrick’s Day as the Irish fans descend on Cheltenham to support the away side.  The main race on day three is the Stayers hurdle which this year looks to have a fairly open look to it. However, the underdog Sam Spinner will be looking to provide his small-time connections with success and he continues to improve on each ran. The latest Cheltenham 2018 Betfair odds has Sam at the head of the betting at 7/2.

There looks to be plenty of challengers that could include Apple’s Jade. She is likely to defend her crown in the Mares hurdle but if she took her chance would without a doubt head the betting as she continues to dominate. A key challenge as things stand looks to be Supasundae who looks a stayer to follow following a hard-fought defeat to the previously mentioned Apple’s Jade. Check out the infographic below to find out the key facts and horses in the main races come March.

Cheltenham Festival Racing 2018

The 2018 Cheltenham Festival will take place in March at Cheltenham Racecourse in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK. The Festival 2018 will take place over 4 days from Tuesday March 13th with the Cheltenham Gold Cup taking place on Friday March 18th. The date of the horse races usually coincides with Saint Patrick’s Day which makes it popular for Irish visitors.

With 2018 here, the Cheltenham Festival gossip is starting to take shape now with Native River, Sizing John and Samcro all being hotly discussed ahead of next year.

Cheltenham free bets 2018 will keep you updated with the festival in every way imaginable, making sure we don’t just bring you the best Cheltenham betting offers, but the finest free bets, tips, enhanced odds and predictions from across the web.

The festival is all about big betting with 600 million pounds expected to change hands during the 28 Cheltenham Festival Races. The feature horse race will now be the fourth race on the card each day supported with grade one races and handicaps. In September 2017 it was announced that all races will have 48-hour declarations. This is great news for punters and racegoers who will now have more time to study the runners, riders and race form.

The first day of the Cheltenham Festival features the Champion Hurdle and is the main race on day one. The other major races on the first day include the Arkle Trophy and the Supreme Novices Hurdle. There are also some very good handicaps to take in including the Festival Handicap Chase which is always competitive and the Novices Handicap Chase which gives the first season chasers a shot at glory.

Day 2 of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival is on the 14th March with the feature race being the Queen Mother Champion Chase. The Queen Mother Champion Chase is another favorite within the Freebets.com camp, and we’ll be sure to bring you the best odds when we get them.

Another top race on day 2 is the Neptune Novices Hurdle which is the long-distance hurdle for future Stayers’ Hurdle candidates. Run on a distance of around three miles on the new course, it’s a big race for punters, with plenty of money going on last year’s winner Nichols Canyon.

The Ryanair Chase is another of Thursday’s finest and has seen a Willie Mullins horse win for the last two years. Will he make it three in a row in 2018?

The highlight of the final day of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival will be the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Gold Cup day is one of the biggest in the horse racing calendar and the bookies will be begging you to use their Gold Cup free bets and promotions.

With a prize pot of over £500,000, it’s one of the most lucrative races in the sport and is run over three miles, taking in 22 fences. Last year was won by Sizing John, a 7/1 shot ridden by Robbie Power. He’s among the Cheltenham Festival favorites again with bookies already backing him at 6/1. However, there’s still a way to go and the race is well worth studying the form for.

The Triumph Hurdle kicks off day 4 and the Grand Annual is the last race on the card. The Foxhunters also get their chance on the Friday of the Festival.

“Hats Off to the Horses: The Road to the Derby” Online Auction Launches with the Awesome Gem

Proceeds from this fashion sale to benefit Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Facility

GEORGETOWN, KY – JANUARY 5, 2018 – The online fashion auction “Hats Off to the Horses: The Road to the Derby” kicked off this week with another beautiful handcrafted Derby chapeau going on the virtual block to raise money for Old Friends, the Thoroughbred Retirement Facility in Georgetown, KY.

This is the ninth year that Old Friends has joined with acclaimed milliner Sally Faith Steinmann of the Massachusetts-based Maggie Mae Designs® to auction off exclusive Derby hats online, each inspired by one of the non-profit organization’s retired racehorses. The fashion fundraiser has raised over $32,000 to date.

This new hat was inspired by Old Friends retiree Awesome Gem. The now 15-year-old gelding, once campaigned by West Point Thoroughbreds, is a multiple graded-stakes winner and counts among his victories the 2010 GR 1 Hollywood Gold Cup.

For this launch, the beautiful chapeau was modeled by Krystal Court accompanied by her husband, leading jockey Jon Court, and their daughter, Aubrey.

Bidding on “The Awesome Gem” can be done between January 1st, 2018 and January 11, 2018 by visiting the Old Friends website at www.oldfriendsequine.org and following the link, or by CLICKING HERE and follow the “click to bid” button.

This new design showcases Awesome Gem’s chestnut coat along with his familiar West Point Thoroughbreds black-and-yellow racing silks.

The hat’s wide, 20-inch, flat-brim design was created out of deep yellow dupioni silk with a black lace overlay and a black taffeta edge. Adornments include a single yellow rose, fashioned out of swirling layers of deep yellow dupioni silk and soft lemon organza, which pays homage to the horse’s Gold Cup win, and a large shimmering button, made of chocolate, crystal, and platinum beads, which adds a final finishing touch.

As always, Steinmann included a physical remembrance of the horse, with strands of Awesome Gem’s tail hair woven into the trim.

Special thanks to EquiSport Photo for the images and video and to the Bella Rose Boutique of Lexington, KY for supplying the beautiful ensembles.

For additional information, contact the Old Friends office at (502) 863-1775.

Maggie Mae Designs® Custom Millinery offers magnificent hats for all occasions – from glamorous racing events such as the Kentucky Derby and the Royal Ascot to stunning bridal wear and handsome cocktail fashions. Every hat is carefully handcrafted by milliner Sally Faith Steinmann from her home base in South Harwich, MA. Salons of her fashions can been seen on her website at www.maggiemaedesigns.com.

Old Friends is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that cares for 175 retired racehorses. Its Dream Chase Farm, located in Georgetown, KY, is open to tourists daily by appointment. Old Friends also has a satellite facility in Greenfield Center, New York, Old Friends at Cabin Creek: The Bobby Frankel Division, which is also open to visitors. For more information on tours or to make a donation, contact the main farm at (502) 863-1775 or see their website at www.oldfriendsequine.org.

Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints Lend Old Friends a Helping Hand

Photo: Retired race mare Misszoey Belle and equine surgeon Dr. Chris Johnson at Old Friends.

GEORGETOWN, KY – JANUARY 5, 2018 – Old Friends, the Thoroughbred Retirement facility based in Georgetown, KY, owes a big debt to the NFL this week — specifically New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

Thanks to the Big Ten record-holder — who will kick off against the Carolina Panthers in the first NFL Wild Card Round this Sunday — one of Old Friends’s retired mares was able to have a life-saving operation.

Old Friends is a non-profit sanctuary for more than 175 retired race horses, including two Kentucky Derby winners and numerous other champions. When one of its residents, Misszoey Belle, a now 13-year-old mare, showed sudden and severe signs of a gastrointestinal disorder in mid-December, it was quickly determined that surgery was her only chance for survival.

A hard-knocker on the track, Misszoey Belle had 74 starts and 7 wins, earning only $70,000 in her career and racing until she was eight. After he final start she was bought back by her breeder, John C. Oxley (whose Classic Empire won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in 2016), and retired to Old Friends.

The mare was rushed to Lexington, KY’s Park Equine Clinic, which usually provides Old Friends with cost-free veterinary care. But an equine surgeon was not available. So the clinic called in Dr. Christopher Johnson, whose Equine Surgical Services is located in nearby Versailles, KY.

She underwent surgery to repair a very serious intestinal obstruction known as an epiploic foramen entrapment. Her life spared, Misszoey Belle returned to Old Friends a few days later and is now recovering well with an excellent prognosis.

Discovering that the mare was an Old Friends retiree, Dr. Johnson offered to waive his fee. But knowing that he was a huge Saints fan, Old Friends resident veterinarian Dr. Bryan Waldridge offered Johnson a concession: How about an autographed football?

“I went to high school in New Orleans, so I have been a Saints fan as long as I’ve been alive,” says Johnson.

Luckily, New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson is also a well-known racehorse owner, and one of his former runners, Saint Aloysius, was retired to Old Friends after suffering a career-ending injury last year.

Old Friends founder and President Michael Blowen made a call to the Saints’ office and Brees was kind enough to help out.

“We always love helping Old Friends and Michael,” said Greg Bensel, who manages GMB Racing for the Bensons and is also the Sr. Vice President of Communications for the Saints. “After all, he was there for us when we needed a good home for Saint Aloysius.

“Drew is so kind and giving with his time that when we need a signed ball he’s always available,” Bensel continued. “And to be honest, he loves the horse-racing industry and he loves that the horses at Old Friends get great care. So while he is busy planning for the Panthers game, I know he feels great about this.”

“It’s really great to see professional athletes such as Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints helping our professional athletes like Misszoey Belle when they need us most,” said Blowen. “We can’t thank the team and Dr. Johnson enough.”

Old Friends is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that cares for 175 retired racehorses. Its Dream Chase Farm, located in Georgetown, KY, is open to tourists daily by appointment. Old Friends also has a satellite facility in Greenfield Center, New York, Old Friends at Cabin Creek: The Bobby Frankel Division, which is also open to visitors. For more information on tours or to make a donation, contact the main farm at (502) 863-1775 or see their website at www.oldfriendsequine.org.

MEDIA CONTACT: Cynthia Grisolia, (347) 423-7322, cindy@oldfriendsequine.org; Michael Blowen, (502) 863-1775, michael@oldfriendsequine.org

Top Horses That Closed 2017 in Style

As the year comes to an end, horseracing provided us with some great action that will remain in our hearts and in our minds for many years to come. We saw some hot favourites justifying their tags while some underdogs emerged from deep down to create remarkable upsets that were as entertaining to watch, as they were gruelling to digest for many punters who had bet online against them.

Before we turn to a new chapter in 2018, we want you to remember 2017’s best horseracing moments and below we have listed the horses that gave us some heart-stopping performances during this year.

One for Arthur

In April during the Grand National Aintree showpiece, there were two names fans and punters were looking forward to seeing competing tight up to the tail end of the race that is Blacklion, Definatelyred, Saint Are and Cause of Causes. However, one horse came to spoil the party in the process raising the Scottish flag high while making many punters lose a few hundred dollars in wagers. This particular horse is One for Arthur. One for Arthur, as he did show us all the way to the end of 2017, was not just a one-event wonder.

Buveur D’Air

In 2016, Buveur D’Air had already started to show the world flashes of brilliance. It was not really a surprise when he went on to win the Stan James Championship Hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival, but what struck many people was the ease with which he won that race. Considering that the race included powerhouses such as Racing Post Aikle and Labaik, Buveur D’Air’s stunning display just stamped 2017 as Buveur’s best year so far on the track.

Special Tiara

We don’t know what owner, David Young, had seen when he prefixed this horse’s name with ‘special’ but whatever it is, he must have teleported to the future because Special Tiara was all about breaking records in 2017. She broke the duck for British horses winning the Novices Chase at Cheltenham Festival. She also broke Douvan’s unbeaten record during the Queen Mother Champion Chase, a race she won though she was the clear underdog according to several bookmakers.

Sizing John

Whether a seasoned horse with plenty of experience or a first-timer, any horse that manages to win the competitive and highly lucrative Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup deserves a place on the list of outstanding horses in a calendar year and as a result, Sizing John finds his place on our list. Besides the Gold Cup, Sizing John also won the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown.

Racing Warrior Midnight Secret Euthanized

Midnight Secret at Cabin Creek (Photo: Connie Bush)

GREENFIELD CENTER, N.Y. – NOVEMBER 17, 2016 – Racing warrior Midnight Secret was euthanized November 16 due to injuries sustained in a paddock accident.

The 20-year-old gelding was pensioned at Old Friends at Cabin Creek, the Thoroughbred Retirement Farm based in Greenfield Center, NY, an official satellite to the Old Friends Farm in Georgetown, KY.

Bred in New York by Flying Z Stables, Midnight Secret (Key Contender – Flannel Sheets, Triocala) raced almost exclusively at Finger Lakes and earned $212,749.  In 111 starts the game gelding had 14 wins and hit the boards and additional 51 times.

Debuting as a 2-year-old under trainer David Donk, Midnight Secret moved to Gregory Martin, then as a 4-year-old entered the barn of Oscar S. Barrera, Jr., who trained him for the rest of his career. Barrera transferred him to Finger Lakes, which was to remain his home track. There, he had a rivalry with fellow Old Friends at Cabin Creek resident Karakorum Patriot – from several square-offs, they scored about even. But few can beat Midnight Secret’s hardihood.

Barrera retired the horse at Cabin Creek in 2009.

As Barrera once noted: “You never read stories about horses like this, but they’ve got something special in their heart. For a 12-year-old, he was like a 2-year-old. I walked him every day and he’d be prancing.”

“He may not have been a stakes winner, but he was a champ to us,” said Cabin Creek farm manager Joann Pepper.  “He will be deeply missed.”

Old Friends is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that cares for 175 retired racehorses. Its Dream Chase Farm, located in Georgetown, KY, is open to tourists daily by appointment. Old Friends also has a satellite facility in Greenfield Center, New York, Old Friends at Cabin Creek: The Bobby Frankel Division, which is also open to visitors. For more information on tours or to make a donation, contact the main farm at (502) 863-1775 or see their website at www.oldfriendsequine.org.

MEDIA CONTACT: Cynthia Grisolia, (347) 423-7322, cindy@oldfriendsequine.org; Joann Pepper, (518) 698-2377, cabincreek4@hotmail.com

Fall Happenings at Old Friends – Breeders’ Cup and More

1996 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Alphabet Soup (Photo © Laura Battles)

The Breeders’ Cup always brings back great memories, whether it’s Black Tie Affair and Alphabet Soup winning the Classic or our four Sprint winners: Precisionist, Gulch, Amazombie, and Cajun Beat. The greatest day in American racing brings the best to run against the best every year. Now, I always look at the entries for both handicapping information and, more importantly, speculating on who might be a future Old Friends resident once their racing and breeding careers are complete.

Special thanks to Hall of Famers — trainer Bill Mott and jockey Jerry Bailey — for signing the limited-edition, commemorative Maker’s Mark/Breeders’ Cup Champions for Charity “Cigar” bottle.

A few are still available and information about ordering can be found HERE.

All the money will be shared by Old Friends and The Edwin J. Gregson Foundation. For those who have already purchased one, we thank you for your support!

(PS: You don’t have to be at Breeders’ Cup to collect your bottle — other options are available.)

Keeneland’s 5th Annual Sporting Auction will be held Sunday November 19th at 2 pm at the Keeneland Sales Pavilion, and an item in the catalog will benefit Old Friends. “Sheep in a Meadow,” a 36″ x 57″ oil on board by German artist August Friedrich Albrecht Schenk, has been consigned by our friend Jim Smith, and proceeds from the sale will help the horses. You can see the catalog and register to bid online by CLICKING HERE.

For more information on any of our Fall happenings, call us at the office: (502) 863-1775.

Old Friends is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that cares for 175 retired racehorses. Its Dream Chase Farm, located in Georgetown, KY, is open to tourists daily by appointment. Old Friends also has a satellite facility in Greenfield Center, New York, Old Friends at Cabin Creek: The Bobby Frankel Division, which is also open to visitors. For more information on tours or to make a donation, contact the main farm at (502) 863-1775 or see their website at www.oldfriendsequine.org.

MEDIA CONTACT: Cynthia Grisolia, (347) 423-7322, cindy@oldfriendsequine.org; Michael Blowen, (502) 863-1775, michael@oldfriendsequine.org

Mikimoto a Strong Contender for Western Australian Guineas

Photo: AusHorse_TBA via Twitter.

The Western Australian Guineas will offer a chance for the Group 2 selection of horses to make their mark for the 2017-18 flat season. The site of the race Ascot Racecourse in Perth adds prestige to the contest, sharing a name with its famous namesake in England.

Variation won the contest last season and there are a number of strong competitors that will be vying for the crown this term. As a result, punters will be looking to track the best odds by comparing the value online with ChampionBets, with Mikimoto certainly worthy of attention for the meet.

The three-year-old won the opening race of her career with a strong performance at Bunbury. In a small field, the bay filly was able to rise to the top to deliver a convincing victory to claim her maiden placing in the winners’ circle. Mikimoto followed that outing with another winning display at Belmont. Grant Williams’ charge dominated the rest of the field to secure the victory by over two lengths, building off her initial success.

The stakes were raised at Amelia Park Lamb Handicap and William Pike in the saddle produced a solid ride to guide the bay filly to the win. The horse struggled to pull clear of the field through the early stages of the race and was in second place with 400m remaining in the meet.

However, Mikimoto made a strong surge down the final throes of the contest to secure her third win on the bounce. The three-year-old made her debut at Ascot with Pike once again in the saddle, with the horse being considered the leading contender for the victory.

Source: CSBlackwell69 via Twitter

However, on this occasion the bay filly got off to a poor start, dropping towards the back of the field through the first 400m. Mikimoto managed to gradually move her way through the field to close on to the heels of the leaders within sight of the finish line. She ended the race with a powerful drive for the line, beating out Medom by a length to notch her fourth victory on the bounce.

Williams’ charge has known nothing but success in her fledgling career, but will face a greater challenge at the meet at the end of November. Another horse trained by Williams could be on course to battle his stable-mate as Arcadia Prince is also poised to compete at Ascot.

The bay gelding has quality, although he has not quite enjoyed the unrelenting success of Mikimoto. Pike has manned the Australian horse for all five of its meets, with the three-year-old finding his form over the last two outings. Arcadia Prince had a slow start to his race at York in the WA Country Builders Maiden, but came through the field to win the event by a comfortable margin.

In his last outing at the Crown Bar Sports Plate at Ascot, the bay gelding was not on form through the opening two thirds of the race. Williams’ charge struggled at the back of the field in sixth place at the 800m-mark, but Pike rallied the horse for a strong finish to clinch the win by 0.2 lengths ahead of Necklet.

Williams’ charges could be set for an enticing duel at Ascot, with the winner perhaps earning the favour of their trainer for the rest of the 2017-18 flat season.