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Bonapaw Now an Old Friend
Fair Grounds guests who love horses as animals as much as they appreciate horses as athletes might want to make their way down to the winner’s circle after the fifth race on Santa Super Saturday to salute Michael Blowen when he presents the trophy after Saturday’s fourth running of the $60,000 Bonapaw Stakes.
Blowen is the founder and owner of Old Friends Farm, located in Georgetown, Kentucky, where Bonapaw – the two-time winner of Fair Grounds’ Thanksgiving Handicap and a Grade I winner – is now enjoying his retirement as a 13-year-old gelding.
Some of Bonapaw’s neighbors at Old Friends Farm include such stars as Horse of the Year Black Tie Affair, and other former champions such as Hidden Lake, Sunshine Forever and The Wicked North, as well as prominent stakes winners such as Commentator, Kiri’s Clown and Awad.
Bonapaw, owned by the late Louisiana native twin brothers James and Dennis Richard in his racing days and trained at different times by fellow Louisianians Howard (Tucker) Alonzo and Norman Miller III, became a local legend during his career. He won the 2001 Pelleteri Stakes and 2002 Taylor’s Special Handicap in New Orleans, but then expanded his horizons to win Arlington’s Grade III Hanshin Handicap and Arlington Sprint Handicap in 2002 as well as Belmont’s Grade I Vosburgh that fall.
A disappointing 10th-place in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Sprint the following month when sent back to Arlington was a foregone conclusion after the gelding was unfortunately pinched back at the break.
“I was totally surprised but very honored when I was asked if I would be interested in having Bonapaw join us at Old Friends,” said Blowen last week when contacted at his farm. “Also, the people who offered him to us donated all of his trophies and scrapbooks to us as well, which was another wonderful surprise.
“Bonapaw was a true star who has fans all over the country,” said Blowen. “He is one more example of the economic value star horses still have after their racing careers our over. Of course, most of the horses we take in at Old Friends were never stars on the racetrack, but people come to visit us at Old Friends because of the star power of our champions, and the unique exhibits of racing memorabilia we also offer.
“Bobby Frankel, for instance, donated all his racing trophies to Old Friends for us to exhibit,” Blowen noted. “Of course, we are deeply indebted to him for that gesture, and we are opening another division of Old Friends Farm in upstate New York that will be named in his honor.”
Another profitable sideline venture at Old Friends involves having show business stars who also dabble in art to draw sketches of Old Friends’ famous racehorses, and those sketches are signed by the artist and reprinted as labels on bottles of wine the farm then offers for sale.
Singer Eddie Money, for instance, was the artist who drew Bonapaw, but other celebrities who have contributed sketches to Old Friends include Jack Nicholson and Angelica Huston.
“I started Old Friends Farm in 2003 with one horse and one paddock, and we now have 86 horses (with total earnings of $59 million) and 92 acres on the main farm, with another 40 acres on the farm next to us,” said Blowen. “I was born in Connecticut, went to school in Boston, and spent most of my career as a sportswriter for the Boston Globe, but when my wife and I took our buyouts from the Globe, I briefly served as operations director for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, and that’s where I got the idea for starting Old Friends.
“We started slowly but quickly gained momentum,” said Blowen. “Just recently we got a substantial donation from the Mosses as the owners of Horse of the Year candidate Zenyatta, but we also just got one donation from a little girl in Rhode Island who is in the fifth grade and gave us the profits from a bake sale she had conducted. Gifts like that can be very humbling.
“But I’ve never been to Fair Grounds, and in fact I’ve never even been to New Orleans,” concluded Blowen. “I’m very excited about coming down there (Saturday) to present the trophy, and I’m extremely honored to have been invited. Naturally, I’m also looking forward to spending a day at the races at Fair Grounds.”
Louisiana Native Calvin Borel at Fair Grounds Saturday
Jockey Calvin Borel, the Catahoula, Louisiana, native who thrilled racing fans last spring with his dramatic Kentucky Derby win aboard Mine That Bird and then switched mounts to win the Preakness astride Rachel Alexandra, is scheduled to ride four mounts on Santa Super Saturday at Fair Grounds.
After riding Mary Grum’s Cosmic, trained by his brother Cecil Borel in Saturday’s Bonapaw Stakes, Representative Page Cortez from District 43 in Lafayette will join post race ceremonies to present a resolution to Borel commending him for his Kentucky Derby and Preakness wins, as well as expressing the sincere appreciation of the Louisiana State Legislature for the tremendous honor Borel has brought to the citizens of Catahoula, St. Martin Parish and the State of Louisiana.
Borel, who rides mostly at Oaklawn Park during the winter months, is also one of five finalists for this year’s George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, with the winner to be announced in January.
The Woolf Award has been presented by Santa Anita since 1950, and honors and recognizes those riders whose careers and personal character earn esteem for the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred Racing.
Trainer Tim Ice at Fair Grounds This Weekend
Trainer Tim Ice, who burst into national prominence by saddling Summer Bird to win the Belmont Stakes and Travers last summer, is at Fair Grounds this weekend and will saddle GAL Racing Stable’s Wildrally in Saturday’s $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf. Wildrally won last year’s Turf renewal.