12/01/2015 10:44AM

Boerjan and Kalamos are a match made in heaven

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Tom Keyser
Eventual stakes winner Kalamos was a $3,000 purchase by Edward Boerjan.

Edward “Bo” Boerjan doesn’t know how long he’ll be around, but no need to get morbid here. Boerjan was diagnosed six years ago with colon cancer and still suffers from its remnants, a condition he blithely waves off while living life to the fullest.

Boerjan, 61, is self-made and proud of it. His hard work and good fortune have afforded him and his wife a lifestyle that includes Thoroughbreds roaming their farmland in Ft. Wayne, Ind., where Boerjan rides and trains a small stable of horses when he isn’t working his semi-regular job as a construction pipefitter. His attitude is remarkably upbeat, partly because of this: Boerjan hit the proverbial home run in September when his stable star, Kalamos (nicknamed “Tom”), won a fat purse and more at Kentucky Downs.

“Tom paid the house off and bought me a F-450 truck,” Boerjan said recently from his farm. “And he’s also got a good home for life.”

Boerjan bought Kalamos for a mere $3,000 from a dispersal auction at Keeneland in November 2014. Since then, the 6-year-old horse has more than doubled his career earnings by bringing home $124,537, with $89,175 of that coming when he won the inaugural Old Friends Stakes on Sept. 16 at Kentucky Downs.

But wait, there’s more.

By virtue of that victory, Kalamos earned an expenses-paid place at Old Friends, the multi-location retirement operation founded in 2003 by former Boston Globe film critic Michael Blowen. Old Friends has become an iconic brand among the multitudes of equine retirement facilities that have sprung up in recent years across North America.

“I think that meant more to me than the money, knowing he’ll be taken care of when the time comes,” Boerjan said. “Michael and his staff do a tremendous job caring for these horses. It’s a real honor knowing Tom will be living alongside some great horses like Silver Charm and Game On Dude.”

Kalamos comes from royal bloodlines and was cut out to be a top horse, but injury curtailed his potential. Bred and owned by Juddmonte Farms, the son of Empire Maker began his career in France before being sent back to these shores to Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. At some point along the line, a screw was inserted into the horse’s right ankle to repair a fracture, although Boerjan said it is no longer of consequence.

“He’s as fit and sound as they come,” said Boerjan, who grew up on an Iowa farm. “I train him right here on my farm, ride him up and down hills. He loves it here. He thrives on it. He could run a three-mile race if you asked him to.”

Boerjan said he has fielded inquiries for Kalamos as a stallion prospect, but he isn’t sure how much demand there might be for his services. In any case, when the horse’s retirement comes, he has a nice spot waiting.

The founding premise of Old Friends, according to the organization’s manifesto, is to provide a safe harbor and dignified retirement to at-risk racehorses – those whose racing and breeding careers had come to an end – while encouraging the public to come visit. Old Friends is the only Thoroughbred retirement facility that accepts stallions, and according to Blowen, “We take exceptional pride in our pensioned champions.”

While Boerjan tries to figure out exactly when Kalamos will wind up at one of the three Old Friends facilities, he intends to focus on his own health.

“I haven’t been to the doctor in a while,” he said. “I know my cancer’s not gone, but I’m afraid to hear all the details. I had extensive surgery and two kinds of chemotherapy when they first diagnosed me. Something’s not right. One day soon I’m going to have to deal with it again.”

Clearly, Boerjan takes comfort living day-to-day with his horses. His health concerns, meanwhile, are tempered by knowing he won’t have to worry about Tom. That, for now, makes him happy.

“I’ve been on a hell of a ride,” he said.