Commentator

Nov 1, 2011: Commentator races to the top of his paddock for carrots.

Nov 1, 2011: Commentator races to the top of his paddock for carrots.

Old Friends retirement farm in Georgetown, KY is one of the best places to visit in the area. Take a tour with one of their knowledgeable guides and feed carrots to some of racing’s modern legends. So much fun!

One of my favorite horses of the last decade is Commentator, a speedy son of Distorted Humor who won over $2 million on the track. As a gelding, he ran from 2004 to 2009, setting track records along the way and winning the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap on two occasions. His final race was a third try in the Whitney, where he finished 3rd.

Commentator now spends his days racing around his huge paddock at Old Friends and chowing down on carrots from his adoring fans.

May 2, 2012: One of the few moments where Commentator's ears are pricked forward. This is a rare thing for him!

May 2, 2012: One of the few moments where Commentator’s ears are pricked forward. This is a rare thing for him!

May 2, 2012: Nom nom nom.

May 2, 2012: Nom nom nom.

May 2, 2012: What do you mean, "No more carrots?!"

May 2, 2012: What do you mean, “No more carrots?!”

May 2, 2012: Insert carrots here.

May 2, 2012: Insert carrots here.

Silky Serenade

 

July 12, 2011: Silky Serenade at Stonestreet Farms.

In 2011, I drove to Kentucky to spend a few days touring farms in the Lexington area. It’s one of my absolute favorite things to do. I went specifically because I made it onto the list to visit Rachel Alexandra at Stonestreet Farms. While I was there, I got to meet some of the broodmare band that calls Stonestreet home. What an amazing group of mares!

One of the more curious girls was Silky Serenade. She’s by Unbridled’s Song out of the mare Smooth As Silk, which makes her a half-sister to Grade 2 winner Private Vow. Barbara Banke’s Grace Stables bought Smooth As Silk for $1.35 million at Keeneland in 2006 while she was pregnant with Silky Serenade, so Stonestreet has been Silky’s home her entire life.

And she’s just as sweet as she looks in these pictures!

July 12, 2011: Silky Serenade was awfully curious about my camera.

Girolamo

I was going through some photos from last November and was struck by how much Girolamo looks like his sire, A.P. Indy.

Girolamo now stands at Sequel Stallions in NY, but I saw him last year at Darley before he moved north. He’s a Grade 1 winner and full brother to graded winners Daydreaming and Accelerator. Here’s hoping his babies are as handsome as he is!

November 5, 2012: Girolamo at Darley’s Jonabell Farm. He looks just like a young version of his sire.

November 6, 2011: A.P. Indy at 22 years of age, enjoying his retirement at Lane’s End.

Get Well Soon, Rachel!

July 12, 2011: Rachel Alexandra at Stonestreet Farm.

Rachel Alexandra became a fan favorite in 2009 during a record-setting campaign that saw her beat the boys three times, become the first female in 85 years to win the Preakness, and become the first female ever to win the Woodward. She capped 2009 by winning Horse of the Year and 3-Year-Old Filly Eclipse awards.

Rachel gave birth to her second foal, a filly by Bernardini, last week on February 12, 2013. All was not right the next day, so she was sent to Rood & Riddle for exploratory surgery and had repair done to a bruised small colon. Her foal has since been transferred to a nurse mare and Rachel appears to be improving, but I wanted to add my well wishes to her speedy recovery. Get well soon, Rachel!

Stonestreet has been incredibly good to the fans who fell in love with Rachel on the track, and they’ve been very open about both of her foals and her recovery at Rood & Riddle. In 2011, I was lucky enough to be chosen to visit Stonestreet during the early stages of Rachel’s first pregnancy. (She is pregnant with her Curlin colt, Jess’s Dream, in the photos included here.) She was amazingly calm and sweet, letting us all go up and have photos taken with her without batting an eye. She took the petting, hugs, and adoration in stride and seemed to enjoy it all quite a bit.

Stonestreet is such a class act, and Rachel is a true jewel. Here’s hoping she’s feeling better as soon as possible!

July 12, 2011: Rachel Alexandra at Stonestreet Farm, in the early stages of her first pregnancy.

July 12, 2011: The ‘Run Like a Girl’ banner from Rachel Alexandra’s start in the 2009 Woodward, flying at the office of Stonestreet Farm.

Happy Retirement, Quiet American!

November 5, 2012: Quiet American posing for the camera at age 26.

Darley pensioned their stallion Quiet American from stud duty last week. He’s still in fantastic physical condition at 27, but at his age it’s probably safest to retire him to a life of green grass and a snug, deeply bedded stall. He’s in good company, as he shares the end of a barn with fellow pensioned stallions Holy Bull and Cherokee Run. I bet they’ve got plenty of stories to tell each other about the good ol’ days!

The Blood-Horse has a great article summarizing all of Quiet American’s achievements, including siring Real Quiet–the closest thing we’ve had to a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in ’78. His sons and daughters have gone on to win over $57 million on the track, and he shows up in pedigrees as the broodmare sire of such champions as Bernardini and Saint Liam. He’s also the sire of one of my favorites, Star Guitar, who ended his career with 24 wins out of 30 starts and remains the leading Louisiana-bred money earner of all time.

Quiet American might have a slight sway in his back now, but he was on his toes the day I went to see him. His groom lovingly calls him the “sexy senior citizen”, and he still knows how to put on a show and pose for the cameras. It’s also ironic that he should be named quiet anything, since he’s always been known for being very vocal. He’s quite the character!

Happy retirement, old boy. Darley’s Jonabell Farm is one of the most lovely places I can imagine to live out your life in style!

November 5, 2012: Quiet American looking fantastic at Darley’s Jonabell Farm in Lexington, KY.

Old Friends: Heaven on Earth

November 1, 2011: Special Ring and Popcorn Deelites take a moment to give each other a good back scratching.

If you’re ever in Kentucky for a visit, Old Friends should definitely be at the top of your list of places to see. The retirement farm is located just outside of Lexington in Georgetown, and it’s also an easy drive from Louisville. Call ahead to schedule a tour for yourself or a group, and be prepared to do some walking! For a small donation per person, you get an hour or two of feeding carrots to some of Thoroughbred racing’s royalty. It’s so much fun to see them up close, and the guides are a wealth of information and always have a story to tell about each retiree. Old Friends accepts stallions, geldings, and mares who have been retired from racing or pensioned from breeding and stud duties, so they’ve got a huge mix of champions, hard luck stories, and blue collar runners. It’s also probably the greatest collection of famous Thoroughbreds on the planet.

Two of the favorites at the farm are the geldings Popcorn Deelites—whose sire Afternoon Deelites also resides at the farm—and Special Ring. These two had very different racing histories, but have become best friends and paddock mates at Old Friends. Special Ring won almost $1 million on the track and was a multiple Grade 1 winner on the turf, which is no small feat. Popcorn ran mostly in lower level races, but his claim to fame comes from his appearance in the movie Seabiscuit with Tobey Maguire. That’s right, Popcorn played Seabiscuit in several scenes—it seems he was really good at breaking from the gate when they were filming races.

November 3, 2010: Special Ring is so used to showing people his lip tattoo that he’ll do it for a carrot.

November 1, 2011: Popcorn Deelites ignores his fans to watch some birds playing in the trees.

November 1, 2011: Afternoon Deelites, sire of Popcorn Deelites, is insanely beautiful even when covered in mud.

November 1, 2011: Afternoon Deelites races the golf cart up the hill to get his dinner.

Prized won several graded stakes, including the 1989 Breeders’ Cup Turf, and ran against some of the best of his generation. In his final race in ’91, he lost the Hollywood Gold Cup to another Old Friends resident in Marquetry!  Prized was pensioned from stud duty in 2011, but one of his best sons—and one of my all-time favorites—is the Bradley family’s Brass Hat.

November 1, 2011: Prized finds the softest ground in his paddock, and with no regard for dignity, has a good roll.

Sunshine Forever was a multiple Grade 1 winner and Champion turf horse of ’88. His final race was the ’89 Breeders’ Cup Turf which he lost to the aforementioned Prized. It seems that many of the horses at Old Friends raced against each other at one point or another. Sunshine had a classic pedigree, but was sent to Japan for stud in 1995 after a lackluster career in the states. Michael Blowen, founder of Old Friends, brokered a deal to bring him back to the US for retirement along with Criminal Type and Creator in 2004.

It’s widely known that Sunshine Forever is the smartest horse at the farm. Just ask him a question, and he will nod in answer… and possibly in hopes of a carrot or two.

November 1, 2011: Sunshine Forever stuck his tongue out at us for a solid 5 minutes.

November 1, 2011: Sunshine Forever made certain we got a good look at his tongue.

I’ve taken tons of photos at Old Friends over the years, so this is only the first of many entries!

The Incomparable, Invincible, Unbeatable Cigar!

May 2, 2012: Cigar enjoys some paddock time at the Kentucky Horse Park.

The Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY is home to tons of beautiful horses of all breeds, shapes, and sizes. The park’s Hall of Champions is a destination in itself, and is exactly what the name implies. It’s a barn full of amazing horses that excelled at their particular disciplines throughout the last two decades. Amid Kentucky Derby winners and other champions, the current king of the barn is Cigar, pictured here at age 22. A son of Palace Music out of the Seattle Slew mare Solar Slew, Cigar raced 33 times with 19 wins during his stellar campaigns in the mid 90s.

Cigar began his career on the turf, but only won 2 of his first 13 races. Trainer Bill Mott switched him to dirt for his 14th race, and the rest is history. With the change in surfaces, Cigar ran his win streak to what was at that time a record-tying 16 races in a row. He was retired at the end of 1996 after a close 3rd place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, a race he’d won the year before.

Cigar retired at age 6 with record North American earnings of $9,999,815, which was not eclipsed until Curlin broke the $10 million mark in 2008. He won 12 Grade 1 races, including the inaugural Dubai World Cup (the world’s richest race), and was voted Horse of the Year and Older Male in both 1995 and 1996. The superlatives could go on for pages, so I’ll just stop myself now!

Stud plans at Coolmore were stopped in their tracks, as Cigar proved to be completely infertile. It was a blow to the racing and breeding world, but a boon to his fans because he was allowed to retire to a public place where he can be viewed as much as we like. Admission to the Kentucky Horse Park gives you access to the Hall of Champions and the shows they do each day. You never know how long these guys will be around, so go see Cigar if you’re ever in the area. You won’t regret it!

May 2, 2012: Cigar certainly still knows where the camera is! The Hall of Champions show is a fantastic way to get a good look at him.

Goodbye, Pulpit

Nov 3, 2012: Pulpit poses for the camera.

Pulpit (A.P. IndyPreach) passed away today in his paddock at Claiborne Farm at the age of 18. I’m just heartsick. Claiborne is such a wonderful place, full of amazing horses and fantastic people, but one of my favorites was always Pulpit. I was able to visit him just a few weeks ago, but you never leave thinking it will be the last time.

There are pages and pages of accolades dedicated to his success on the track and at stud, so I’ll just leave you with some of my favorite pictures from a rather dreary day in November. Goodbye, Pulpit. I’m happy to know you were so well loved.

Nov 3, 2012: Pulpit waits patiently while Rodeo cleans a hoof.

Nov 3, 2012: Pulpit at Claiborne Farm.

Nov 3, 2012: Pulpit at Claiborne Farm.

Nov 3, 2012: Goodbye, Pulpit. I hope they play the chain game with you wherever you are.