Old Friends, the Kentucky-based operation that aspires to give the public access to retired notable Thoroughbreds, could open its doors at Afton Farm near Midway, Ky., as early as next March. Michael Blowen, the president of Old Friends, has a verbal agreement with Afton's owners, Philip and Betty Sue Walters, to start building four paddocks and a run-in shed on their 70-acre property in the near future. Betty Sue Walters came up with the idea after hearing Blowen's frustrations with attempts to find the right spot. "Our farm is very picturesque," said Walters. "I had thought about doing a bed and breakfast here. I looked around and thought about it. It took a couple days to get Phil into the idea."Phil Walters retired to train Thoroughbreds after 35 years with Ford Motor Company. The Walters think they can merge the boarding and training operations on their 1 1/2-year-old farm with the Old Friends mission, which Betty Sue said she has supported from the outset. In a recent newsletter from Old Friends, Blowen reported that negotiations continue to try and return 1991 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Strike the Gold to the U.S. from his current home in Turkey. Kim Zito, wife of Strike the Gold's trainer, Nick, is heading up that effort and has talked of making the stallion part of the Old Friends facility.