Michael Blowen enjoying a moment with Sunshine Forever at Old Friends (Photo by Rick Capone)
On Friday night, July 22, 2011, in front of 300 friends and fans in the Danversport Yacht Club reception room, Michael Blowen, president and founder of Old Friends, the thoroughbred retirement farm in Georgetown, Ky., was awarded the New England Turf Writers Association's Sam McCracken Memorial Award.
According to an article on OffTrackThoroughbreds.com, Blowen received, "The organization’s top honor at their 69th annual awards dinner for his pioneering efforts to found and maintain Old Friends with his wife Diane White."
“I feel we owe a lot to our amazing equine athletes," Blowen said in the article. "The race horses at Old Friends have earned over $8 million in their lifetimes, but they don’t have a pension or a 401K when they retire."
The award is named for Sam McCracken, a former turf writer for the Boston Globe who Blowen knew for 20 years when he and his wife both wrote for the Globe, too.
Upon hearing the announcement earlier this year that he had won the award, Blowen said in an April 2, 2011 Bloodhorse.com article, “This is absolutely unbelievable. Sam was such a great friend and a wonderful colleague. He was the one who introduced me to racing. This a huge honor, so huge that it is really overwhelming.”
The ceremony at the yacht club brought Blowen back to Suffolk Downs, where his interest and learning about horse racing began many years ago. He learned about horses from his then mentor, trainer Carlos Figueroa.
In is acceptance speech, Blowen was also sure to acknowledge one other person he knew from Suffolk Downs that helped him during his career, Lorita Lindemann.
Lindemann, who Blowen refers to as "my daughter," is a longtime trainer and horse-welfare advocate at Suffolk Downs, and according to the OffTrackThoroughbreds.com article, Blowen thanked her for her "support and friendship over the years."
Throughout the years, Lindemann has sent a few horses to Old Friends, including the farm's adorable mini-mascot, Little Silver Charm, who she purchased for $40 right off a slaughter truck.
After his time at Suffolk Downs, Blowen's travels took him and his wife to Kentucky, where in 2002 he began Old Friends. He started it on a small farm with one horse, a mare named, most appropriately, Narrow Escape. Today he has 107 horses, many of them stallions in his care at his main farm in Georgetown, and at his satellite farm in New York near Saratoga Springs.
The key thing about Blowen's vision of Old Friends is that, to date, it is the only retirement farm in the country that accepts stallions. Many other farms don't accept them, or can't accept them, because they take a lot of land to house. But, Blowen always believed that stallions deserved a place to retire in peace and dignity, and he has accomplished that through his efforts.
According to the Old Friends' Web site, the mission of Old Friends is to provide thoroughbred stallions, geldings and mares with "the dignified retirement they deserved, and open the space to the public. By promoting these one-time celebrated horse through a campaign of education and tourism, we realized we could draw attention to all retired thoroughbreds and equines in need."
To that end, Blowen has succeeded beyond expectations, as thousands of people from around the world come every year to Old Friends to visit these beautiful animals.
During the evening's award festivities, Blowen and his wife got to meet and greet many old friends and acquaintances who were on hand to see him receive the honor. And, as he will usually do, Blowen added in a little humor to punctuate a serious point about thoroughbred race horses during his acceptance speech.
“Without the horses, there’d just be a bunch of short people running in circles around the track," he said according to the OffTrackThoroughbreds.com article.
For Blowen and his wife, Diane, the evening was very enjoyable and the culmination of all of his hard work with Old Friends. It was an honor most well deserved.