Category Archives: Racing

Hats Off to the Horses 2020 Continues with the Slim Shadey Chapeau

Dagmar Steiner and Slim Shadey at Old Friends (Photo: Laura Battles)

GEORGETOWN, KY – APRIL 3, 2020 –  The annual “Hats Off to the Horses: The Road to the Derby” online fashion auction continues this week with a new Derby-style chapeau going on the virtual block to raise money for Old Friends, the Thoroughbred Retirement Facility in Georgetown, KY.

This is the 11th consecutive year that Old Friends has joined with acclaimed milliner Sally Faith Steinmann of the Massachusetts-based Maggie Mae Designs® to auction off four handcrafted Derby hats between January and April, each inspired by one of the non-profit organization’s 200-plus retired racehorses. To date this online fundraiser has garnered nearly $40,000 for Old Friends.

This new hat was inspired by graded stakes winner Slim Shadey, and it is showcased here by equine artist Dagmar Galleithner-Steiner.

The hat will be up for bid for 10 days only from 8 pm (EST) April 1st through 8 pm (EST) on April 11th. Interested bidders can go to the Old Friends website at www.oldfriendsequine.org and follow the link, or CLICK HERE to visit our eBay page.

To read more and to view additional images of the hat, CLICK HERE.

About the Horse

A two-time graded-stakes winner, Slim Shadey — by 2001 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Val Royal (FR) out of the Chief’s Crown mare Vino Veritas — was bred in Great Britain by Phil Cunningham and spent two seasons racing throughout England and Ireland. He made his U.S. debut for Cunningham and trainer Simon Callaghan in 2012 at Santa Anita, kicking off what was to become his banner season.

In February of 2012 Slim captured his first graded stakes, the Grade 2 San Marco at Santa Anita (a race he would capture again in 2013). Then, in September, Slim took the top spot in the Grade 2 John Henry Turf Championship, which served as a stepping stone to a run in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf where he finished 8th (a few lengths behind the winner, Old Friends retiree Little Mike). By 2014, the now 6-year-old Slim began a series of claims. In 2018 Slim was claimed by owner Michael Hui for trainer Mike Maker.  After a series of unsuccessful starts for his new connections, the time finally came for Slim to hang up his racing plates.

About the Hat

Since Slim raced for several different stables Steinmann used a combination of his pink, black, and white silks for the trimmings of this stunning Derby hat.

A large foundation was created using a base layer of soft pink dupioni silk. The brim was then trimmed with a single layer of pink silk organza ruffle, which allows the light to pass through the sheer fabric. A fancy black braiding was top stitched where the silk layer meets the brim edge. To further showcase racing silk colors, a large rose curl, created out of alternating layers of pink dupioni silk and white silk organza, adorns the front of the hat.

For the final touches, a medley of black and white silk organza “feathers” were added, a black satin sash encircles the crown, and a black pebble button edged in gold adorns the sash in the back.

The hat is stunning from every angle and measures approximately 21 inches end to end. The lining for the “Slim Shadey” was done is a soft pink satin to coordinate with the floral trim.

As a physical remembrance, several strands of Slim’s tail hair have been braided and woven into the trim.

Our thanks go out to artist Dagmar Steiner for helping with this year’s “Hats Off to the Horses” and also to Old Friends volunteer and photographer Laura Battles for her stunning images.

Bidding on the “Slim Shadey is open now.

For more information about Old Friends, see their website at www.oldfriendsequine.org or call the farm 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 be seen on her website at www.maggiemaedesigns.com.

MEDIA CONTACT: Cynthia Grisolia, (347) 423-7322, cindy@oldfriendsequine.org; Maggie Mae Designs (508) 430-1626, sally@maggiemae.com

Old Friends Debuts Virtual Tours

GEORGETOWN, KY – MARCH 30 2020 –  Old Friends, the Thoroughbred Retirement Facility in Kentucky, debuted the first in a series of Virtual Farm Tours that will enable fans to continue to access the non-profit organization’s 100-plus equine retirees at its Georgetown location during the COVID-19 quarantine.

The series, dubbed “Monday Mornings with Michael”, is hosted by Old Friends founder Michael Blowen and will offer short visits with a few equine retirees each week. They will be posted on Old Friends social media platforms on Monday mornings and will also be available via their website and YouTube channel.

The first video showcases Old Friends’ oldest retires, multiple stakes winner Dinard, who is 32, and one-time claimer Archie’s Echo, who is 31.

You can see it on YouTube by CLICKING HERE.

For more information, visit www.oldfriendsequine.org.

MEDIA CONTACT: Cynthia Grisolia, (502) 863-1775, cindy@oldfriendsequine.org; or Barbara Fossum, (502) 863-1775, barbara@oldfriendsequine.org

Anticipation Building ahead of Return of Flat Season in Britain

We were in the middle of a memorable national hunt season, with the Cheltenham festival taking place, despite the issues rising due to the coronavirus pandemic. This led to the Grand National being cancelled, and there is now a wait to when horse racing and sport will return. All eyes are now on the upcoming flat season, with punters already looking at the Royal Ascot promotions and offers to support horses in the outright markets. The big question now is: will sport have returned by the start of what is the marquee event for many in the racing calendar?

The flat season in Britain has a number of key meetings upcoming that are also under threat. All will culminate with the Breeders’ Cup in America, which comes at the end of the season, with a large number of horses heading over to contest the meeting. This is taking place over two days.

The flat season was really set to kick off in the opening weekend of May, with the 1000 and 2000 Guineas. This takes place at Newmarket racecourse, with Pinatubo the horse everyone is looking forward to seeing. He is the short priced favourite for the race, and this is little surprise, considering just how impressive he was last year. If he returns in the same form, then it is his race to lose, as he is rated clear of his opposition.  He has won all six of his racecourse starts, with his key performance coming in Ireland at the Curragh. This saw the horse produce a stunning display to clear away from a classy field and win by nine lengths. A performance which put the horse as one of the highest rated two year olds in memory and even higher than the great Frankel. If he can continue his progression, then he could be another all-time great.

There are so many other meetings that punters and racing fans on a whole will be looking forward to. These include the Oaks and Derby in the early period of June. This takes place at Epsom racecourse and is one of the most prestigious meetings in racing and one that fans looking forward to each year around the world.

This will all lead on to the previously mentioned Royal Ascot meeting, in which Pinatubo would also be expected to race. The Breeders’ Cup would then be the great finish to the season, so let’s hope the action can resume in the near future, and we see an end to the coronavirus pandemic.

Old Friends Statement Regarding Death of War Emblem

War Emblem at Old Friends (Photo: Laura Battles)

GEORGETOWN, KY – MARCH 24, 2020 –  Michael Blowen, founder and President of Old Friends, the nonprofit Thoroughbred Retirement Farm based in Kentucky, released the findings of the necropsy report regarding the recent passing of 2002 Kentucky Derby – Preakness winner War Emblem.

War Emblem, 21, was found deceased at Old Friends on March 11, 2020 after what was initially perceived to be a fatal paddock accident. A full medical report was, at that time, pending.

The following statement was issued by Old Friends resident veterinarian, Dr. Bryan Waldridge of Park Equine Hospital in Versailles, KY:

“After War Emblem’s sudden death, a complete necropsy was performed at the University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. The cause of death was ruptured small intestine. The cause of the tear in his small intestine could not be determined by anatomic or microscopic examination. No strangulation or displacement of the small intestine was present. Rupture of the small intestine without a predisposing cause is an uncommon and, unfortunately, fatal injury.”

“We were very proud to be given the opportunity to repatriate War Emblem when his stallion career came to an end, and we were lucky enough to have him with us for nearly five years,” said Blowen. “His great speed, great beauty, intelligence, and distinct personality made him one of our most popular and beloved retirees, visited by hundreds of fans weekly, even in our off season.

“Our entire staff was devastated by his unexpected passing,” Blowen added. “We’ll all miss him terribly.”

For more information, please call (502) 863-1775 or visit the website at www.oldfriendsequine.org.

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

Royal Ascot Ante Post Betting

As you may have seen, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has announced (17th March) that racing will be suspended until the end of April due to the national coronavirus crisis. All ticket purchasers will be refunded for the relevant race meetings.

Royal Ascot ante post betting gives you an opportunity in advance to bet on this prestigious race with an odds on offer in the months and weeks leading up to the event.  The fan favorites and odds will be updated closer to Royal Ascot 2020 race meeting.  Ante-post betting allows you to place a bet on a horse race well in advance of the race being run.  Risks vs. rewards are that you get bigger odds betting so far in advance of the race, but if your horse fails to run in the race, you don’t get a refund.

The current favorite horses for ante-post betting are: Called to the Bar, Capri, Magic Circle, Stradivarius, Thomas Hobson, Cross Counter, Cypress Creek, Dee Ex Bee, and Flag of Honour.  The Ascot Gold Cup race has Stradivarius 3-1, Kew Gardens 5-1, and Dee Ex Bee 12-1. All are subject to change. Please check back as the race gets closer.

Using our tips and tricks for ante post betting will help you pick a winner.  Who knows if your horse will improve during his race season? The odds will get shorter nearer to the race. As the race draws closer, certain horses might not run, jockeys and trainers might be affected by the novel coronavirus, or other illness or injury.  This will affect the betting odds which may change in the months and weeks leading up to the race.

Ante post betting is popular year-around for the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree Grand National, but for ante-post betting on the Royal Ascot, you’ll have to wait until closer to the event.

The Royal Ascot meeting has 30 great races including the very best Group 1 action. The key races that feature each day are the St James’s Palace Stakes and Queen Anne Stakes on day 1; day 2 sees the Prince of Wales Stakes and Royal Hunt Cup. Day 3 which is Royal Ascot Ladies’ Day has the Royal Ascot Gold Cup, and day 4 has the Coronation Stakes. The final day has three great spectacles in the Golden Jubilee Stakes, the Wokingham Stakes, and the Queen Alexandra Stakes.

Ascot Racecourse was founded in 1711 by Queen Anne. The first race, “Her Majesty’s Plate”, with a purse of 100 guineas, was held on 11 August 1711. Seven horses competed. This first race comprised three separate four-mile (6437 m) heats. Handicap races started at Ascot, the first one being the Oatlands Handicap in 1791.

In 1813 Parliament passed an Act to ensure that the grounds would remain a public racecourse. A new grandstand was opened in 1839 at a cost of £10000.  A further Act of Parliament of 1913 establishing the Ascot Authority which manages the racecourse to this day. From its creation until 1945, the only racing that took place at Ascot was the Royal Meeting, a four-day event. Since that date, more fixtures have been introduced to the grounds, notably National Hunt racing in 1965. The National Hunt course was established using turf from Hurst Park Racecourse, which closed in 1962.

Royal Ascot 2020

The five-day British Royal Ascot horse racing festival, due to start on June 16, attracts over 300,000 spectators. As you may have seen, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) announced on March 17th that racing will be suspended until the end of April due to the national coronavirus crisis.  At this stage we ask for everyone’s patience with regards to updates relating to Royal Ascot.

The shutting down of racing until the end of April by the BHA places a considerable degree of uncertainty on some of Britain’s biggest Flat meetings, for example the June jewels of Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby.  But know that you have come to the right place for the latest info in the Ascot betting guide. Go to this guide to understand the types of betting available to you, e.g., win, place bets, each-way bets, and futures. Futures bets can be place in advance of the race months, weeks, or days ahead of a race with fixed and generous odds.

Make your predictions for the finishers to get the trifecta, one of the most popular Royal Ascot bets.  Even more type of bets and tips are available, so be sure to study this guide before the race in June. As the race date gets near, there will be even more types and offers of betting. On top of that, you can watch the race online here.

The Royal Ascot race stretches over five days, with six races each day. The Ascot Racecourse located in Ascot, Berkshire, England is one of the leading racecourses in the United Kingdom, hosting 13 of Britain’s 36 annual Group 1 horse races.  The Royal Ascot is the centerpiece of Ascot’s year and it dates back to 1911 when the week of races in the third week of June became a Royal Week.

Every year Royal Ascot is attended by Elizabeth II and other members of the British Royal Family such as The Prince of Wales, arriving each day in a horse-drawn carriage with the Royal procession taking place at the start of each race day and the raising of the Royal Standard and the playing of the National Anthem. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge also attend, as well as the Earl and Countess of Wessex, and other Royals.

What to wear in the Royal Enclosure if the race is still on in June?  The Royal Enclosure is synonymous with sartorial elegance. This is upheld by a formal Dress Code, which guests are invited to embrace with their own individual style and thus contribute to an occasion heralded internationally as a major fashion event.

Ladies are required to wear formal daywear, including a hat with a solid base of 4 inches or more. Gentlemen are required to wear black, grey, or navy morning dress and top hat.

What will your day be like at Royal Ascot? Gates open at 10:30am with the Royal Ascot Greencoats greeting you at the gate. At 2pm each day, the Royal Procession begins with the Royal Landaus or carriages approaching down the famous Straight Mile.  It is a short but spectacular jaunt that has happened since 1825 which signals the start of the Royal Meeting event.

After the Royal Procession passes throughout the parade ring, the first race begins at 2:30.  The last of the 6 Flat races is at 5:35pm.

At 6pm, there is singing around the bandstand to the Royal Welsh Guards choir for songs old and new.  The day draws to a close at 8pm in the Royal, Queen Anne, and Windsor Enclosures, but on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, the Village Enclosure continues its party until 9pm.

Old Friends Welcomes Pollard’s Vision

GEORGETOWN, KY – MARCH 16, 2020 – Old Friends, the Thoroughbred Retirement Facility in Georgetown, KY, has welcomed new retiree Pollard’s Vision.

The multiple graded stakes winner and one-time Kentucky Derby hopeful, who is now 19, arrived from Mighty Acres in Pryor, OK, where he has stood since 2015.

Blind in his right eye since birth, Pollard’s Vision was named after Seabiscuit jockey Red Pollard.

Bred in Kentucky by Charles A. Smith, Pollard’s Vision (Carson City – Etats Unis, by Dixieland Band) was campaigned by owner Edgewood farm and trainer Todd Pletcher. A consistent performer throughout his career, the dark bay colt broke his maiden as a 2-year-old at Saratoga in only his second start. At three, he captured his first stakes and punched his ticket to the Churchill Downs starting gate on the First Saturday in May by winning the Grade 2 Illinois Derby in a wire-to-wire victory.

His 2004 Kentucky Derby run resulted in a 17th place finish, but Pollard’s Vision went on that year to capture the Grade 3 Lone Star Derby, the Grade 3 Leonard Richards Stakes, and, as a 4-year-old, the Grade 3 National Jockey Club Handicap.

He suffered a career ending injury in 2005 in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga and was retired.

Pollard’s Vision began his stud career at Wintergreen farm in Kentucky. He relocated to Waldorf Farm in NY in 2013 and to Mighty Acres in 2015.

He is the sire of six-time Grade 1 winner, Eclipse Champion, and 2020 Hall of Fame nominee Blind Luck as well as Grade 1 placed Twentytwentyvision, among other stakes winners.

“We’re very grateful to everyone at Mighty Acres, especially Randy Blair, for allowing Old Friends to care for Pollard’s Vision in his golden years,” said Old Friends founder and President Michael Blowen. “I remember him so well when he was racing and I’m thrilled that, now, I’ll be able to see him every day.”

(Please note: Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, Old Friends remains closed to public tours until further notice.)

For more information, please call (502) 863-1775 or visit the website at www.oldfriendsequine.org.

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

GEORGETOWN, KY – MARCH 16, 2020 – Old Friends, the Thoroughbred Retirement Facility in Georgetown, KY, has welcomed new retiree Pollard’s Vision.

The multiple graded stakes winner and one-time Kentucky Derby hopeful, who is now 19, arrived from Mighty Acres in Pryor, OK, where he has stood since 2015.

Blind in his right eye since birth, Pollard’s Vision was named after Seabiscuit jockey Red Pollard.

Bred in Kentucky by Charles A. Smith, Pollard’s Vision (Carson City – Etats Unis, by Dixieland Band) was campaigned by owner Edgewood farm and trainer Todd Pletcher. A consistent performer throughout his career, the dark bay colt broke his maiden as a 2-year-old at Saratoga in only his second start. At three, he captured his first stakes and punched his ticket to the Churchill Downs starting gate on the First Saturday in May by winning the Grade 2 Illinois Derby in a wire-to-wire victory.

His 2004 Kentucky Derby run resulted in a 17th place finish, but Pollard’s Vision went on that year to capture the Grade 3 Lone Star Derby, the Grade 3 Leonard Richards Stakes, and, as a 4-year-old, the Grade 3 National Jockey Club Handicap.

He suffered a career ending injury in 2005 in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga and was retired.

Pollard’s Vision began his stud career at Wintergreen farm in Kentucky. He relocated to Waldorf Farm in NY in 2013 and to Mighty Acres in 2015.

He is the sire of six-time Grade 1 winner, Eclipse Champion, and 2020 Hall of Fame nominee Blind Luck as well as Grade 1 placed Twentytwentyvision, among other stakes winners.

“We’re very grateful to everyone at Mighty Acres, especially Randy Blair, for allowing Old Friends to care for Pollard’s Vision in his golden years,” said Old Friends founder and President Michael Blowen. “I remember him so well when he was racing and I’m thrilled that, now, I’ll be able to see him every day.”

(Please note: Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, Old Friends remains closed to public tours until further notice.)

For more information, please call (502) 863-1775 or visit the website at www.oldfriendsequine.org.

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

Grand National 2020: How to Watch

In an uncertain world, don’t miss the three days of the Grand National Festival from Thursday 2nd to Saturday 4th April 2020.  The iconic Grand National will be held at Aintree Racecourse on Saturday, April 4th at 5:15pm.  For your safety and convenience and on how to watch the “National”, watch online using this link for Grand National live streaming.  Please know that the BHA announced that all race meetings in Britain from Tuesday until at least the end of March will take place behind closed doors.

The prize fund for the Grand National is £1,000,000 which makes it the most valuable jump race in Europe. 600 million people will watch the race in over 140 countries.

Sponsored by Randox Health, the Grand National UK handicap steeplechase is over 4 miles 514 yards with horses jumping 30 fences over two laps. Enjoy a relaxed raceday experience with a mix of high-quality racing and easy-going entertainment.

The Grand National Day is the most iconic of all handicapped horseracing events in the world. 40 horses and their jockeys will present in the ultimate test in British horse racing. The Grand National course has much larger fences than normal. The Chair, Valentine’s Brook, Foinavon, Becher’s Brook, and the Canal Turn are just some of the famous fences that runners and rider need to navigate in the race.

Even after Tiger Roll’s recent second place at Cheltenham in the March 11th Glenfarclas Cross Country race, this traditional prep run moved him from 5-1 to 8-1 betting odds.  Tiger Roll is still heading the market for the big race. Even though he has been purposely trained for this race, check out the rest of the race contenders to see what value is elsewhere.

Kimberlite Candy won the McCoy Contractors Classic Chase by 10 lengths which makes him a leading Randox Health Grand National contender. He traveled well and jumped the National fences very nicely. He is sure to be a popular horse on the big day.

Magic of Light nearly spoiled the Tiger Roll party in 2019 but had to settle for second place at massive odds of 66-1. At her current 2020 rating of 16-1, she was the only mare to run in the 2019 race at odds of 125-1.  She is already on back-to-back wins this season.

Burrows Saint at 12-1 is another class runner who gave trainer Willie Mullins his first Irish Grand National win in 2019.  He also had a recent win at Punchestown which increased his outlook, but he will only be 7 years old for the 2020 Grand National, so he may still be too young.

Any Second Now won the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival.  He fell in the 2019 Irish National but he was running well at the time. He is rated at 12-1.

Definitely Red at 14-1 has a good overall record at the track, and with his proven ability to handle the fences, looks an interesting runner.

As for little Tiger Roll, it would be gutting if he loses his chance to make racing history.

The 172nd Grand National will go down in Aintree folklore as the one when Tiger Roll, racing’s rockstar, was admitted to one of the most exclusive clubs in sport: a two-time winner of the world’s greatest race.

He warmed up with a solid second at Cheltenham 2020 and Gordon Elliott wants decent ground for him at Aintree — if it’s on.

Tiger is owned by Gigginstown stud and boss Eddie O’Leary is appealing for common sense about the National. He wants the great race to be run behind closed doors if necessary.

As the weights for the 2020 Randox Health Grand National are set to be revealed on Tuesday afternoon, victory at Aintree on the first Saturday in April would see Tiger Roll emulate Red Rum in becoming only the second horse to win three Grand Nationals. He would become the first to win three in a row.

Owners Michael and Eddie O’Leary of Gigginstown House Stud will reconsider running the ten-year-old Tiger Roll if the rating he is allowed to run off by the BHA handicapper is not compressed to what they believe is an acceptable level. They’ve compressed the race by 8lb on average for the past ten years.

On the Thursday before the Grand National – April 2 – the final 40-runner field (plus four reserves) will be confirmed.

British Racing is in close communication with the Government about current public health matters in the UK and the advice is to continue the business of the country as usual, while adhering to the latest public health advice.

Dual Classic Winner War Emblem Dies at 21

War Emblem at Old Friends (Photo: Laura Battles)

GEORGETOWN, KY – MARCH 11, 2020 – 2002 Kentucky Derby and Preakness champion War Emblem has died. The dual classic winner had been pensioned at Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Center in Georgetown, KY since 2015.

The cause of death is perceived to be a fatal paddock accident, but exact details are unknown. However, a full necropsy report is pending. He was 21.

In 2015 Old Friends re-repatriated War Emblem from the Yoshida family’s Shadai Stallion Farm in Japan. He was the second Kentucky Derby winner returned to the Bluegrass by Old Friends from overseas. Silver Charm, 1997 winner, arrived in 2014.

War Emblem (Our Emblem – Sweetest Lady, Lord at War) was bred by Charles Nuckols Jr. & Sons of Midway, KY and originally campaigned by Russell Reineman and trainer Frank Springer. The near black stallion was sold to Prince Ahmed bin Salman’s Thoroughbred Corp. and transferred to Bob Baffert’s barn after he captured the Illinois Derby in an impressive gate-to-wire victory.

Three weeks later War Emblem captured the 128th running of the Kentucky Derby for his new connections.

Following an equally impressive win in the Preakness, War Emblem became a serious contender to capture history’s 12th Triple Crown, but he stumbled badly at the start of the Belmont Stakes and ended up beaten by long-shot Sarava, who is also a retiree at Old Friends.

War Emblem went on to capture the Haskell Invitational for a third Grade 1 win that year and retired with 13 starts, 7 wins, and earnings of $3,491,000.

In the fall of 2002, War Emblem was sold to the Yoshida family for $17 million to stand at their renowned Shadai Stallion Station in Hokkaido, which also stood the great Sunday Silence. War Emblem proved a difficult but talented stallion, having sired fewer than 200 foals in his career but many of them talented runners, including Japan’s champion 2-year-old filly Robe Tissage.

When War Emblem retired from stud duty, the Yoshida family generously agreed to donate the stallion to Old Friends. Negotiations were coordinated by Narvick International’s Emmanual de Seroux.

“We’re very grateful to Mr. Yoshida and all of the fans who helped get War Emblem to Old Friends nearly five years ago,” said Old Friends founder and President Michael Blowen. “I know we’re supposed to appreciate all of our retirees the same but he was one of the very special ones. He was tough, narcissistic, bold, and handsome. I adored him.

“I proudly count among a very meager number of accomplishments the day he allowed me to put his halter on without biting me,” Blowen added. “He trusted me. What more could I ask for? The farm will recover from his loss over time, but it’ll never be the same.”

For more information, please call (502) 863-1775 or visit the website at www.oldfriendsequine.org.

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

Cheltenham’s Greatest Moments

The Cheltenham Festival is the most important meeting in the entire National Hunt calendar, and it has delivered countless exhilarating races during its 160-year history. However, a handful of key moments stand out as the greatest of all time.

A Hat-Trick for Best Mate

Prestbury Park was rocking when the legendary Best Mate clinched a third consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cup triumph in 2004. Henrietta Knight’s superstar battled to a narrow victory ahead of Commanche in 2002 and then finished 17 lengths clear of the chasing pack the following year. He went off as the 8/11 favourite in 2004, but he was nine years old by that point and some commentators wrote off his chances of success.

Best Mate looked in trouble with a few fences to go, but he hit the front approaching the final fence and then charged up the hill in front of his screaming fans. Sir Rembrandt and Harbour Pilot both gave chase and it led to a pulsating finish, but Best Mate held them off and completed his hat-trick. He joined Golden Miller, Cottage Rake, and Arkle in achieving the feat, but few thought it would be possible in the modern era. Best Mate made a mockery of such projections. “Just listen to them!” said Knight as the crowd roared. “I thought we were beat coming to the last, but he’s tough, too. He was brilliantly ridden.”

Norton’s Coin Stuns the World

The Gold Cup is the biggest race of the year and it serves as the main event on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival. All the leading lights from across the UK, Ireland, and further afield gather to compete for the ultimate glory, and it often boils down to a thrilling battle between some of the famous, short-priced superstars. In 1990, the legendary Desert Orchid was the biggest icon in the business. He had won the race the previous year, and he was the odds-on favourite to defend his crown, although some experts though Bonanza Bay and Toby Tobias could give him a run for his money.

To say Norton’s Coin flew under the radar in the build-up to the race would be an understatement. He was in dreadful form, and owner Sirrell described him as an “ugly, plain chestnut”. He only took part in the Gold Cup due to a mix-up. Griffiths wanted him to run in the Carthcart instead, only to realise he was ineligible. His owner reluctantly sent him into battle and prayed he would finish in the top six so he could recoup the £1,000 entry fee, but most viewers thought he was simply making up the numbers.

He went off as the 100/1 underdog, and he was expected to flop. Yet Norton’s Coin left his poor form in the rear-view mirror. He was sitting comfortably in fourth at the third last, behind Desert Orchid, Ten of Spades, and Toby. He drew gasps as he soared past Desert Orchid at the penultimate fence. Ten of Spades fell, leaving Norton’s Coin locked in a thrilling battle with Toby Tobias. He pulled up alongside the frontrunner at the final fence and then won the prolonged struggle to finish three-quarters of a length clear of his rival, with the fastest winning time in 47 years.

Paisley Park Lands Stayers’ Hurdle

There was barely a dry eye in the house when the unlikely duo of Paisley Park and owner Andrew Gemmell earned a fairy-tale success in the Stayers’ Hurdle in 2019. Gemmell was born blind, but he spent many years listening to horseraces on the radio and developed a love of National Hunt racing. He then began building up his own stable of runners. His success was modest and he never expected to secure a winner at Cheltenham, but Paisley Park began to gather strong momentum throughout 2019.

He ended up going off as the heavily backed 11/8 favourite to win the Stayers’ Hurdle and the scenes were incredible as he outpaced his rivals to win the race. “I can’t believe it’s happened,” said an emotional Gemmell after the race. “It’s fantastic. I’m in tears. Wow. I couldn’t see the race, but that roar is incredible.”

Kauto Star Regains the Gold Cup

Kauto Star cemented his status as a titan of the National Hunt scene when he surged to victory in the 2007 Gold Cup. He was the 10/11 favourite to defend his crown the following year, but he ended up finishing second, seven lengths behind talented stablemate Denman. The excitement was palpable when the duo lined up alongside one another for the 2009 renewal of jumps racing’s blue riband event.

Many expected a ferociously tight battle, but in the end Kauto Star produced one of the greatest performances ever seen. He finished an astonishing 13 lengths clear of Denman and became the first horse to ever regain the Gold Cup. Trainer Paul Nicholls almost secured a 1-2-3, but Tony McCoy on Exotic Dancer finished third instead. Yet there were no complaints from the Ditcheat maestro. “What an unbelievable horse Kauto Star is,” he said.

Nicky Henderson’s Wonderful Wednesday

Henderson has always loomed large over the Cheltenham Festival, but his finest moment came in 2012. Sprinting Sacre helped him get off to a flying start when he won the Arkle at 8/11 on the Tuesday. Then Henderson saddled an astonishing four winners on the Wednesday: Simonsig (2/1), Bobs Worth (9/2), Finian’s Rainbow (4/1), and Riverside Theatre (7/2). A stable lad at his operation placed a five-fold accumulator on all of them and won £1 million.

During the course of the festival, Henderson secured seven winners. That saw him overtake Fukle Walwyn as the most successful trainer in Cheltenham Festival history, with 46 wins, and it was all thanks to that wonderful Wednesday. A young whippersnapper by the name of Willie Mullins has since overtaken Henderson by securing 65 Cheltenham wins, but Henderson is now just one back on 64. The Cheltenham odds, which you can check out here, show that both men have a number of heavily fancied runners in 2020, so it will be exciting to see who holds the record when all is said and done.