Fortunate Prospect, the oldest thoroughbred retiree at Old Friends, a thoroughbred retirement farm in Georgetown, Ky., was euthanized at the farm on Thursday, March 15, 2012, due to complications of old age. He was a young 31.
Fortunate Prospect, whose nickname on the farm was Grandpa, was born in Florida on February 24, 1981, and became a top sprinter and broodmare sire during his lifetime.
“Grandpa was our oldest retiree and one of our flagship residents,” said Michael Blowen, president and founder of Old Friends. “He was incredibly gentle and was beloved by everyone at Old Friends and by every visitor. He was the kindest, sweetest stallion we've ever had, and he will be greatly missed."
In his racing career, Fortunate, who was out of Northern Prospect-Fortunate Bid, by Lucky Debonair, was a graded-stakes winning sprinter. He had 13 wins in 39 career starts, five seconds, three thirds and $439,875 in earnings.
His top victories included the San Vicente Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita, the Equus Handicap, which he won two times at Gulfstream, the Hallandale Handicap at Gulfstream, the Rise Jim Handicap at the Meadowlands, the Hialeah Sales Stakes at Hialeah, he Morven Stakes at the Meadowlands, the Criterium Stakes at Churchill, the Select Handicap at Monmouth, the Bold Reasoning Handicap at Gulfstream, the Kendall Stakes at Hialeah and the Chief Pennekeck Stakes at the Meadowlands.
When his racing career ended, he entered stud at Farnsworth Farm near Ocala, Florida, where he stood for nearly two decades. It was at stud that Fortunate really made a name for himself and became one of the truly great stallions in Florida breeding history.
In total, he had 779 foals. Of those foals, 663 ran in a race, 573 scored wins and 28 became stakes winners. In total, all of his runners have earned, to date, $43,128,428.
As a broodmare sire, some of his offspring are still running. For example, Mark Valeski, who is out of Proud Citizen-Pocho's Dream Girl, by Fortunate Prospect, is on the Kentucky Derby Trail this year. He recently finished second in the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds.
Also, Ron the Greek (Full Mandate-Flambe, by Fortunate Prospect) won the recent Santa Anita Handicap.
Over the last few years, Fortunate also produced two horses that ran in the Kentucky Derby. In 2009, Musket Man (Yonaguska-Fortuesque, by Fortunate Prospect) finished third in the Kentucky Derby and in the Preakness, while Z Fortune (Siphon (Brz)-Fortunate Faith, by Fortunate Prospect) finished sixth in the 2008 Kentucky Derby.
“His offspring are still filling race cards all over the country,” said Blowen, “and we’re incredibly happy to have been a part of his amazing legacy.”
Fortunate came to Old Friends from Farnsworth in 2005 to live out the rest of his life in comfort, while enjoying daily visits from the many people that came to the farm each day.
"I remember, so many years ago, reading that Farnsworth Farm was going out of the breeding business and putting the farm up for sale," Blowen said in an Old Friends newsletter about Fortunate's passing. "I contacted Farnsworth's Michael Sherman and told him we'd love to have Fortunate Prospect retired to Old Friends. He said that if he couldn't place him as a stallion, he'd donate him to us. It took nearly two years and many phone calls, but we finally brought him to spend his last years with us. And we were so lucky."
Without question, it was very sad to see Grandpa go like he did on Thursday, as he was such a strong, grand old stallion. Nothing seemed to get him down or bother him.
As Michael would say, "He knew how to take care of himself. He had a quiet dignity ... very self-contained."
Fortunate Prospect truly did know how to take care of himself, as he would slowly graze around his paddock and just enjoy each and every day.
He seemed to love sunny days, while bad weather – rain, snow or wind – never seemed to bother him at all, as he would rarely go into his run-in shed. In fact, his run-in shed was a source of some funny moments over the years for me.
On one occasion, a very hard rain was falling as I was leaving the farm, yet Fortunate would still not go inside. However, he did take advantage of it. As I was driving by, there he stood, his head underneath the roof, and the rest of his body out in the open getting rained on. "Maybe he just wanted to clean himself off," I thought, chuckling to myself and thinking of the times I'd seen him enjoying a roll in the mud.
He would also use the run-in shed as a windbreak, as he would stand on the side where it wasn't blowing. On one windy day, he gave me another chuckle. You see, his run-in shed was being rebuilt and just the frame was standing, yet he still found the side that was mostly blocking the wind and stood there grazing, the wind not bothering him at all.
But, mostly, Fortunate would just spend each day grazing and relaxing, no matter what the weather.
Of course, he especially seemed to enjoy a sunny day, and would take many naps in different spots around his paddock – basically, following the sun all day long. He would lie down in the sun, then when the sun moved and a shadow would fall over him, he'd get up, walk around and graze, find another sunny spot, then lie down once again.
His laying down for naps was also something of a trick he play on every one, especially unsuspecting visitors, or in some cases, people just driving by the farm, as he would lie so still, it looked like he might be dead. But, no, he was just "playing dead."
According to Michael, "Over the years, several people stopped by Old Friends to tell us we had a dead horse in the front paddock. 'No,' I would explain. 'It's Grandpa, Fortunate Prospect, just relaxing.'"
Of course, the first time Michael saw Fortunate do that himself, he too thought he might have died. When he saw him lying out there, he ran down to his paddock with a lump in his throat to check him out. Sure enough, as he got closer, Fortunate flicked his tail, twitched his ear, then rolled over, and looked at Michael with a "What's the matter with you" kind of look. He then got up and went about his grazing.
The first time I saw Fortunate "doing his trick," I thought something was the matter too. But, by that time, Michael knew better and calmly said, "No, he's just a smart old horse. He's taking a nap."
In fact, that's how we all thought the end would come for Fortunate some day. He'd lie down to take a nap and just silently go on his final journey. Meanwhile, we would all think he was just taking a nap… until we would know differently.
But, sadly, that's not how it happened.
"When his time came, I think everyone expected that he'd just lie down in the grass … and surrender to the inevitability of it all," Blowen said in the newsletter. "But, of course, that's not what happened. It's never what we expect.
"In spite of his being our elder statesman, it seemed like he would go on forever," Blowen continued. "… He was kind to visitors without ever giving up an ounce of his self-respect. He wouldn't beg for anything. His eyes, even in his later stages, never missed a thing. I think everyone who ever had the marvelous experience of being in his presence will never forget it. I know I won't."
Neither will I, and neither will the many other people who got to visit with Grandpa at Old Friends over the last few years. He will truly be missed…
Fortunate Prospect, 1981-2012 R.I.P.
Learn a little more about Fortunate Prospect in this short video, which is part of a series done by Tim Wilson and Nicholas Newman.
While I have many beautiful photos of Fortunate, this one is still my favorite. It was taken in 2009. It was an overcast day. I just happened to look down the hill from the barn, and there he was just running around his paddock and having a grand ol'time. I was so far a way, so I just took a chance and snapped this shot from the top of the hill and, thankfully, this is what I got. He was 29 at the time, but you would not have known it by watching him run around like a youngster.