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Book Review: ‘Celebrating Old Friends’

By Rick Capone.

Old Friends is arguably one of the great treasures of the racing world: a sanctuary where racehorses can retire with dignity after their racing or breeding days have come to an end, while also educating the public as well as industry professionals about the importance of Thoroughbred aftercare.

With a main farm located in Georgetown, Kentucky as well as two satellite farms — Cabin Creek in New York and a special farm/exhibit at Kentucky Downs — Old Friends is home to well over a hundred retired Thoroughbreds, ranging from former champions headlined by Silver Charm to more “anonymous” warhorses whose connections sought the retirement possibilities opened by the farm. Certainly the headliners, including more recent champions such as War Emblem and the late Charismatic, attract much of the attention, but every horse has a story.

It’s these stories that Rick Capone seeks to tell in Celebrating Old Friends, his second title about Kentucky’s retirement farm. This volume tells some of the stories of the farm’s living legends as well as those who have passed away, detailing their racing careers and the stories of how they came to reside at Old Friends or the satellite farms.

This book is a very quick read — I estimate that cover to cover I read the entire book in about an hour. The vignettes about each horse are short but detailed, including plenty of quotes from the individuals closest to each animal — ranging from Old Friends’ founder Michael Blowen to volunteers to the connections who sought retirement for their beloved horses.

Having never visited Old Friends in person (though I seek to change that status in the next few months!) I imagine that this book would serve well as a companion volume to bring home after a tour, helping to illustrate and remind the reader about the horses he or she met in person. Even without a farm tour, however, this book is a lovely reminder of the good work that Old Friends is doing for all Thoroughbreds, not only by offering retirement for the horses calling it home but raising awareness for all.

Accompanied by black and white as well as color photographs, Celebrating Old Friends should be a winner for any horse racing fan or Thoroughbred enthusiast. While not terribly carefully edited, the book is an easy read that would be appropriate for middle school readers on up.

Celebrating Old Friends is available through Arcadia Publishing.

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