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Old Friends is in trouble

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  • Old Friends is in trouble

    I have nothing to do with the organization, just passing this along.

    Subject: Old Friends - Important

    As most of you know, Old Friends has received a lot of notoriety lately. There was a flattering story by Esther Marr in The Bloodhorse last month. Ed DeRosa, in his Thoroughbred Times blog was very complimentary and we're receiving a great award named after my great friend, the late Boston Globe turf writer Sam McCracken in July. Last night, at the Keeneland two-year-old sale, I couldn't walk more than a few yards without someone stopping me to say good things about Old Friends. Yet, today, I feel like a complete failure.
    Given the amazing athletes, great employees and invaluable volunteers, an idiot could make Old Friends profitable. We're surrounded by superstars that are visited by 20,000 fans a year. They come from all over the world to touch the magic of Marquetry and the majesty of Gulch. They donate carrots and mints and racing memorabilia and money. Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel left money and his trophies to Old Friends. Jerry and Ann Moss, Zenyatta and Dottie Ingordo Shirreffs have been unwavering in their support. Mike Repole, John Ciccolo, Dogwood Stable, Mary Sullivan, Brereton Jones, Brian Burns, Susanne Gottlieb and Angie Dickinson are extremely generous.
    All of the horses look fabulous. Except for the ravages of old age that we all face and a bowed tendon here and there, they are all doing well. "You have the greatest horses ever assembled in one place in the whole history of horse racing," Kent Desormeaux told me last week. Yet, with a farm flattered by Eclipse Award winners and more than $80 million in race track earnings, I'm still left begging at the gate.
    All of these great deserving athletes retired without Social Security or a 401 (k) plan. Through no fault of their own they ended up broke. Whether it's Clever Allemont who won the Rebel and the Southwest Stakes or one time Derby contenders Lusty Latin and Easy Grades or Canadian horses of the year, Thornfield and Benburb, they all come to us and come to depend on us.
    By the end of May, we should be in better financial shape. We have the Ferdinand Ball on May 5 and the Homecoming on May 7. We have an anticipated grant of $50,000 coming from the ASPCA and some money from Thoroughbred Charities of America. The Frankel Trust will be dispensing a sizeable contribution later this year, once the Trust's tax obligations are satisfied. The future looks bright. It's the present that's problematic.
    We don't waste money at Old Friends. You can check our tax returns to verify where the money goes. I make $20,000 per year and Diane makes nothing. We get to live in the house and have our utilities paid and I wouldn't trade my life for wealth or fame or anything. None of our employees has ever had a raise. And our volunteers are priceless.
    Here's what has happened. About three years ago, I went to Michael Duckworth at Citizens Commerce Bank and asked him to re-write our mortgage so we would have payments due biannually. They would be due after our big fundraisers in the spring and fall. He concurred and re-wrote the loan. We continued to make all payments on time through our bookkeeper. A couple of months ago, I was visited by two Citizens Commerce representatives and their attorney. They explained the bank had made a clerical error. While they had re-written the loan, they had failed to increase the payments. Consequently, the bi-annual payments we made were the same monthly payments and we were in arrears for more than $200,000. And, because the bank is under pressure from Federal regulators, they couldn't do anything until the account was brought up to date. As you might imagine, this was quite a surprise.
    On top of that, the price for horse farms in the Bluegrass has bottomed out. Stonewall, Hillcrest and dozens of other farms are being sold at bottom of the barrel prices. Old Friends at Dream Chase Farm is undervalued as well. In spite of the fact that we built dozens of paddocks, run-in sheds and waterers and fenced in more than 70 additional acres and re-built the driveway to accommodate buses, the value of the farm has actually diminished. We need to raise $300,000 over the next two months to maintain our current status and, quite possibly, increase our space.
    It's a lot of money. We don't get a dime from the Commonwealth of Kentucky or the Federal Government. We receive a grant for signs and brochures from the Georgetown-Scott County Tourism Commission. These horses depend on you and I'm tired and heartsick to ask you once again to do for them what they can't do for themselves.
    And, on their behalf, I come to all of you to ask for help, once again. We need to raise $300,000 by the end of the month.
    This is humiliating. Frankly, if I had any money left, Diane and I would do it ourselves. But, we've already done that. I resolved many years ago, to not expect people to do what they could do or should do or ask them for money. Today, I'm breaking all three of those resolutions. It's frustrating because of what all these great athletes have accomplished. What if Old Friends received a penny for every $100 wager when Black Tie affair electrified the Churchill Downs crowd when he went wire-to-wire in the Breeders' Cup Classic or a nickel for every hot dog sold when Awad broke the track record in the Arlington Million? How about a dime for every beer sold the day Gulch won the Breeders' Cup Sprint or a quarter for every admission when Wallenda and Bull Inthe Heather competed in the 1993 Kentucky Derby? How about a dollar every time a son or daughter of Fortunate Prospect was sold or every time Marquetry was bred? How about $10 for every $100,000 jockeys made riding these great champions? What about a fund set up by vets who earn their living treating these horses or a small fee from Fasig-Tipton or Keeneland every time a horse goes through the sales ring? The ideas for sustained funding are endless. And, once more, they earned it.
    What does central Kentucky look like without these stunning Thoroughbreds? Old Friends not only cares for these deserving retirees, we are a significant boost to the local economy. We are desperately trying to prove that they can generate income once their racing and breeding careers are over. And, we're on the cusp of proving they can. Once again, I feel terrible at my personal failure and would not be begging anyone for anything except for these spectacular creatures outside my window. They deserve better than what I've been able to provide. But I can't give up. Any ideas, donations or advice from all of Old Friends' friends would be deeply appreciated.


    Old Friends, Inc.
    1841 Paynes Depot Rd.
    Georgetown, KY 40324
    859-509-4814 (cell)
    *Absolut Equestrian*

    "The plural of anecdote is not fact...except in the horse industry"

  • #2
    First, they need to hire a lawyer to sue the bank for the "clerical error." There was an article in the NYTimes just this week about suing banks for bank errors that cause foreclosure. They can stop the bank from foreclosing or calling in the loan.

    Second, they ought to adopt out some of the horses who are sound.

    I know of no solution to all the problems that we have now with unwanted horses and ottbs w/o homes. Maybe the breeders could stop breeding? Oh wait, I get flamed every time I suggest that. It is sad that the horses end up like this after winning a lot of money. But as the breeders and owners say, it's a business, and they can do what they want to with the horses when they are finished on the track.


    • #3
      Oh C&C...the breeders stop breeding...TBs? Really?!

      That does help Old Friends exactly how?
      Oh, in 15 years they are out of business. Right...

      But then I didn't hit the reply button to start a snark fest.

      I really do agree that they need to address that with a lawyer, because that is ridiculous!


      • #4
        C&C - adopt out what? All these horses are old most of them are stallions because they are the only place that takes stallions for retirement. They really aren't adoptable.

        I do agree with the finding an attorney and going after the bank.


        • #5
          Except if Old Friends knowingly decided to pay two payments a year instead of 12, shouldn't *they* have noticed that the payments had not increased?? It is implied in the letter that each new payment would = six monthly payments.

          Having said that, everyone can make mistakes and I don't fault them if that's what happened.
          Follow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/peonyvodka/


          • #6
            Is that from a director or a volunteer? While I feel bad for their predicament, it's far from the most professional fundraising letter out there....and sad misuse of the word noteriety. For the horses' sake I hope it manages to work for them.


            • #7
              Originally posted by Seal Harbor View Post
              C&C - adopt out what? All these horses are old most of them are stallions because they are the only place that takes stallions for retirement. They really aren't adoptable.

              I do agree with the finding an attorney and going after the bank.
              +1. And it's not like they have a huge herd, either. They take on pensioned stallions and sometimes older geldings and mares in very small numbers--horses who aren't adoptable or desirable. Last year the New York division, on very short notice, took two older geldings from Finger Lakes who were in a bad place--not really able to keep racing, but they'd sat on the Trainer Listings without any buyers because very few people to none want a 9+ year-old gelding fresh off the track. And IIRC, that filled them up. They're a location of last resort for a small, select number of horses that no one else wants.

              The should lawyer up where the bank is concerned, but this isn't a fly-by-night rescue hoarding horses against an unmeetable adoption standard.
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              • #8
                Old Friends is one of the gems of Kentucky and is one of the highlights of many visitors to our state.

                Michael is Michael Blowen, President.


                • #9


                  You're paying $2,000/monthly.

                  You rewrite asking to make 2 payments/year.

                  The rewrite was done and you were still paying $2,000/bi-annually?

                  No one noticed?

                  Do I have this right?


                  • #10
                    First off, I agree that they need to lawyer up and at the very least get an injunction against the bank.

                    Yes, Alagirl OF and MB SHOULD have noticed that the biannual payments were not equal to 6 mos, however it was a bank clerical error and there is precident for an injunction/lawsuit.

                    Second, MB's suggestions, penny here, nickel there, are highly unlikely to happen. The TB industry would have to sit up and acknowledge there is actually a problem, then decide as a group to address it.

                    Thirdly, OF needs to use this as a learning experience. They need to keep a reserve, and find more ways that they can raise money.

                    I hope it works out for the best.

                    I reject your reality, and substitute my own- Adam Savage

                    R.I.P Ron Smith, you'll be greatly missed


                    • #11
                      The letter says that the payments were made through a bookkeeper, isn't a BK's job to notice stuff like that?

                      Did anyone else notice that at the end of the 6th paragraph it says they need to raise the money within two months, and at the end of the 7th, it says they only have til the end of this month??

                      I reject your reality, and substitute my own- Adam Savage

                      R.I.P Ron Smith, you'll be greatly missed


                      • #12
                        To those of you questioning the letter and the details, please be as attentive to any questions raised about ALL rescues.


                        • #13
                          Right on the heels of the TRF fiasco.


                          • #14
                            How hard would it be if everyone on COTH or other forums that this might get posted that bought an OTTB sent Old Friends Farm a check for as little as $25.00.

                            Danceronice reminded you of 2 of the Finger Lakes Finest that the NY branch took in. I had offered the trainer of one of them, Karakorum Patriot(KP), $500 and a home for life at my farm, which he refused and virtually overnight, fellow COTHer's pledged an additional $275.00 and I have no doubt that the remainder ($225)would have been pledged within 24 hrs. That's just how generous this board is. Had Old Friends Farm (OFF)not stepped up to the plate and between OFF, the breeder, and the Karakorum syndicate, raised the $1000 ransom the trainer wanted, KP would be at my farm right now. After they took KP, I sent Michael a check for the $500 that I had initially planned to use to purchase KP as a donation. Believe me, that $500 would have been a mere drop in the bucket for what it would have cost me to take KP home. I planned to send Michael another $500 last yr and FLTAP got it instead. Needless to say, I'm going to drop a check to Michael before the week is over for the $500 I should have sent last yr and another $500 for this yr.

                            I'd like to see a few more COTHer's make a donation as well. You don't have to match mine, or even come close, but to let OFF fall by the wayside would be crime.

                            I'm not saying let's go kill all the stupid people...I'm just saying let's remove all the warning labels and let the problem sort itself out.


                            • #15
                              Was this an email sent out? They haven't posted anything about financial trouble on their webpage or facebook site that I see (although several people have posted to their fb saying they got an email).


                              • #16
                                Yes, it was an email. My daughter received it from the Woodford Hounds. Well said, msj.


                                • #17
                                  What if each owner/trainer of these horses at OF, who got money from racing wins and stud fees donated $1000 each, $5000 each or more? Compared to what some of those horses won, it's small change.

                                  Do they get a donation from the owners of these horses when they arrive? I mean many of these horses made some $$ on the track and many then went to stud for years... Cha-ching.
                                  Last edited by Angela Freda; Apr. 13, 2011, 07:24 PM.
                                  Yo/Yousolong April 23rd, 1985- April 15th, 2014



                                  • #18
                                    Even if they had a bookkeeper doing the books, anyone who was responsible for the fiscal health of this organization should've noticed they weren't paying the mortgage. I'd certainly notice if my mortgage wasn't being deducted from my checking account!

                                    I'm sure these folks are selfless, wonderful folks who devote their lives to horses nobody wants. But that doesn't excuse poor management. And to try to raise $300K in a month? $10K per day? Good luck with that. I'm far more likely to donate money to people who will be fiscally responsible, so I know it isn't throwing good money after bad.They've spent $100K per year more than they took in. How in the world will they not only recover that money, but tighten their belts to accomodate paying the extra going forward? And he's talking about increasing his space?

                                    Michael Bowen needs to be able to show a budget. What's coming in, what's going out. And how he's going to handle a realistic future.



                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by cloudyandcallie View Post
                                      First, they need to hire a lawyer to sue the bank for the "clerical error." There was an article in the NYTimes just this week about suing banks for bank errors that cause foreclosure. They can stop the bank from foreclosing or calling in the loan.
                                      OMG, yes agree. They acted in good faith and are not responsible for the bank's incompetence! I hope they get an attorney immedately.
                                      RIP Sasha, best dog ever, pictured shortly before she died, Death either by euthanasia or natural causes is only the end of the animal inhabiting its body; I believe the spirit lives on.


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by sdlbredfan View Post
                                        OMG, yes agree. They acted in good faith and are not responsible for the bank's incompetence! I hope they get an attorney immedately.
                                        They've had a couple months to 'lawyer up' and figure this out.

                                        Obviously OF owes the money.
                                        Last edited by laserRob; Apr. 13, 2011, 08:44 PM.