May 20, 2009-Michael Blowen, founder and president of Old Friends, the Thoroughbred Retirement Facility, is happy to announce that Early Pioneer, a one-time Hollywood Gold Cup winner, has been retired at the organization’s Georgetown farm.
The chestnut son of Rahy had 33 career starts with 9 wins, and was bred by Mr. and Mrs. John C. Mabee. He raced in their colors before being claimed by David and Holly Wilson of Southern California for a reported $62,500 in 1998. Under the tutelage of trainer Vladimir Cerin, Early Pioneer was an upset winner in the G2 San Bernardino Handicap in 2000, and a few weeks later overtook odds-on favorite General Challenge with a late stretch run to capture the $750,000 G1 Hollywood Gold Cup. A tendon injury ended his career the following year and he was reportedly retired.
Seven years later, thanks to the kindness of many strangers, Early Pioneer found his way back from oblivion. The gelding has spent the last year with Cass Dewey of Tucson, Ariz., after he was purchased by trainer Sean Davis as part of a parcel of horses destined to race at the Fair meet in Nevada.
According to Dewey, Davis didn’t know what he was getting, but when he received the paperwork he realized Early Pioneer, who earned more than $1.5 million on the track, didn’t belong in this company. Davis contacted equine agent Joyce Long, who is known locally for helping to place horses off the track. Long got the horse to Second Call, a racehorse rescue that operates out of Turf Paradise, but their facility was full. They contacted Dewey, who cares for more than 20 rescued Thoroughbreds at her home and often fosters horses for the organization.
“I offered to take the horse if they would help financially,” said Dewey “They sponsored him and Davis donated the horse so that we could find him an appropriate home. When he got to Arizona,” continues Dewey, “he was unsound and had terrible feet.”
Dewey adds that Dr. Lee Chatham volunteered all of his vet work on the ailing gelding and that Farm Vet provided supplies and meds at a low cost. “And they help with all of my rescues,” she notes, “not just this horse. It was just a group effort and everyone played an equally important part,” Dewey noted.
Dewey found Old friends through supporters Karen Bailey of Georgetown’s Summerwind Farm and volunteer Bill Oster.
“I am in the equine nutrition business,” said Oster, “and I met Cass’s daughter, Brandy, who is also in the business of horse supplements. She knew that I was involved with the Kentucky Horse Park and also Old Friends and she said, ‘hey, my Mom’s got the millionaire Thoroughbred.'”
“When they end up on the Fair meet in Arizona, Montana, or Nevada it’s the bottom of the line,” said Dewey. “Sean could have sold him for $500 or $1,000 and they would have run him. But he knew he was too nice of a horse and knew he should go to someone who would give him a dignified retirement.”
Early Pioneer was shipped to Old Friends in early May and has been settling in well, sharing a paddock with stakes winners Futural, Siphonizer, and Affirmed Success.
“We’re thrilled to have Early Pioneer,” said Blowen. “My sincere thanks to everyone who helped get him to Old Friends. We will have to see how they get along, but we’d like to put Early Pioneer and Lava Man together later this summer,” he added. “It will be our Hollywood Gold Cup paddock.”
For more information please contact Old Friends at (502) 863-1775.
Old Friends is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that is home to over 50 retired racehorses. It’s Dream Chase Farm, located in Georgetown, Ky., is open to tourists daily by appointment. For more information on tours, reservations at the Old Friends B&B, or to make a donation, contact the farm at (502) 863-1775 or see their website at www.oldfriendsequine.org.