12/19/2014 2:13PM

Old Friends to receive Special Eclipse Award

Email
Barbara D. Livingston
Michael Blowen's Old Friends Equine Retirement will be honored with a Special Eclipse Award for contributions to the sport. Blowen, pictured here with Rapid Redux at Old Friends, will receive the award at the annual Eclipse Award ceremony on Jan. 17 at Gulfstream Park.

Old Friends Equine Retirement will be honored with an Special Eclipse Award for contributions to the sport, the organizers of the Eclipse Awards announced Friday.

With bases in Kentucky and New York, Old Friends has become arguably the most visible Thoroughbred aftercare facility in North America, founded in 2003 by former Boston Globe film critic Michael Blowen.

Blowen had been working toward a year like 2014 for more than a decade, building up the farm’s relationships with owners and breeders both domestically and abroad. It paid off in spades, with a quartet of high-profile horses taking up residence at the operation’s Georgetown, Ky., home base the past year.

Breeders’ Cup Marathon winner Eldaafer arrived in June, followed by multiple Grade 1 winner Game On Dude and champion sprinter Amazombie in October. Finally, dual classic winner and champion Silver Charm was pensioned from stud duty in Japan and retired to Old Friends in December.

“I’m just astounded,” Blowen said. “I remember Robert Lewis, the gentleman who owned Silver Charm, said, ‘It’s amazing where a good horse will take you.’ The same holds true with the retirees.”

While the farm’s marquee additions were the ones that grabbed the headlines, Blowen said that Old Friends saw its biggest expansion ever in 2014, adding 58 horses at the Kentucky farm ranging from classic winners to rank-and-file claimers. The operation cares for more than 150 retired Thoroughbreds across its various farms.

“It’s so thrilling because it gives a stamp of approval to all the hard work our volunteers have put in, the people who have worked with us for over a decade to get us in a situation where the industry can look at [Old Friends] and say, ‘I’m not afraid to send my horse there. I know they’ll take care of them,’ ” Blowen said. “That’s a really great thing.”

Old Friends will be the third Special Award recipient tied to post-racetrack care. Monique Koehler, founder of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, was honored in 2009, and last year the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance received the award. Blowen will receive the award at the annual Eclipse Award ceremony on Jan. 17 at Gulfstream Park.

Nine Eclipse winners have resided at Old Friends: Amazombie (male sprinter, 2011), Gulch (sprinter, 1988), Hidden Lake (older female, 1997), Rapid Redux (Special Award, 2011), and Silver Charm (3-year-old male, 1997), as well as the late Black Tie Affair (Horse of the Year and older male, 1991), Precisionist (sprinter, 1985), Sunshine Forever (turf male, 1988), and The Wicked North (older male, 1994). The remains of 1998 Horse of the Year Skip Away also rest at the Kentucky farm.