canada africa partner reservation How Derby winner Silver Charm is enjoying his retirement in Kentucky

How Derby winner Silver Charm is enjoying his retirement in Kentucky

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Have you ever wondered what happens to Kentucky Derby horses after they stop racing? Some lucky ones, like Silver Charm here, end up at a luxury facility for thoroughbred horses called Old Friends in Kentucky.

Founded about 20 years ago by former Boston Globe film critic and columnist Michael Blowen, Old Friends is a place where retired Derby horses find peace, tranquility and lots of friends. It is located in Georgetown, Kentucky, approximately 70 miles east of Churchill Downs, the site of the Kentucky Derby.

Blowen founded the sanctuary for retired horses about 20 years ago, president and CEO John Nicholson told USA TODAY.

“When he retired, he (Michael) decided he wanted to provide a home as a sanctuary for retired thoroughbred horses,” Nicholson said. “And so he came to Kentucky with his wife Diane and started with some paddocks he rented from some friends and a few donations of some feed and a golf cart to help out.

And that grew into what is now three farms, actually four farms,” Nicholson said.

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Old Friends now cares for approximately 250 retired thoroughbred horses, including Silver Charm. Nicholson said the facility has had “tremendous fortunes” and the retired horses appear to be doing well at Old Friends.

“They come here, they relax,” Nicholson said. “They may not be as fierce as they once were, and they’re great with the crowd and they just seem to adapt to the peace and serenity that we’ve created. We have a mantra and a deeply rooted philosophy and culture here in which we believe that these horses have given us a lot of themselves and given us a lot of happiness because they have performed as excellent athletes.

He added: “So we feel we owe it to them to give them a very, very comfortable retirement.”

Who is silver charm?

Silver Charm is the oldest living winner of the Kentucky Derby, according to Nicholson. The thoroughbred horse, who Nicholson said is “very special,” is also the winner of the Preakness and finished second in the Belmont. In 1997 he was on the verge of becoming a Triple Crown winner but was defeated by Touch Gold, who also lives at Old Friends, just a few paddocks away from Silver Charm. What’s even more interesting is that the two racehorses have the same birthday and recently celebrated their 30th birthday in February.

While Silver Charm is 30 years old in human years, having been born in 1994, in horse years he is 97 years old, according to Nicholson. But age is just a number for Silver Charm, as Nicholson said he’s “in good shape and feeling good.”

“He doesn’t have as many teeth as he used to, but that’s OK,” Nicholson said. “He carries his weight well and is doing great.”

Silver Charm also won the prestigious Dubai Cup in 1998, as well as several other racing events before heading to Japan, where he served as a stud and helped “increase the value of the thoroughbred racing stock.”

‘Horse version of Muhammad Ali’

Silver Charm was inducted into the Thoroughbred Hall of Fame in 2007. After his retirement, his owners Bob and Beverly Lewis sent him to another farm in Kentucky, but he came to Old Friends in 2012, according to his biography page, marking “an auspicious occasion.” (and) historic day” for the facility.

“It was a day of great celebration in the thoroughbred racing world because one of our great champions was coming home,” Nicholson said. “He has been something of an ambassador for us. He is somewhat of our ‘spokesperson’ and I think he is the leading symbol of the pillar that thoroughbred aftercare has become within our industry.”

Nicholson said Silver Charm has also become the face of post-retirement care for racehorses, comparing him to Muhammad Ali.

“In a way, he’s kind of like the horse version of Muhammad Ali, in that he was a really great athlete, but he used his platform as an athlete to do even bigger, more profound things with his life,” Nicholson said of Silver Charm. .

As for how Silver Charm now spends his days, Nicholson said the horse stays in a nice and “somewhat luxurious stable” and is on a special diet considering his age. However, he is out and about every day, spending time with hundreds of people, taking photos with them and basking in all the adoration and attention.

“He loves being a celebrity and he knows he is special,” Nicholson said.

Old Friends is a popular spot for tourists and horse racing enthusiasts alike, especially because it’s located in the heart of “central Kentucky thoroughbred country,” Nicholson said. Tens of thousands of visitors visit the facility every year to see the horses that have won more than $300 million in total and are among the greatest champions of all time.

“Not only do we celebrate being able to give these horses a comfortable retirement and we enjoy celebrating their individual achievements, but we also celebrate the sport of thoroughbred racing and its heritage,” said Nicholson.

Saman Shafiq is a trending news reporter for USA TODAY. Reach her at [email protected] and follow her at X @saman_shafiq7.