Michael Blowen, founder and president of Old Friends, the Thoroughbred Retirement Facility, announced that grade I winner Early Pioneer will reside at the Georgetown, Ky., farm.
Bred in Kentucky by John and Betty Mabee, Early Pioneer won or placed in 23 of 33 races and earned $1,156,815, He initially raced for the Mabees' Golden Eagle Farm before he was claimed by trainer Vladimir Cerin for David and Holly Wilson for $62,500 at Santa Anita in 1998. His two biggest wins, in the 2000 Sempra Energy Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) and the San Bernardino Handicap (gr. II), came for the Wilsons. A tendon injury ended the gelding's career the following year.
Fourteen-year-old Early Pioneer (Rahy--Golden Darling, by Slew o' Gold) 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 a 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 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 its 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, he was unsound and had terrible feet.”
Dewey said 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, not just this horse,” Dewey said. “It was just a group effort and everyone played an equally important part.”
Dewey found Old Friends through supporters Karen Bailey of Georgetown’s Summer Wind Farm, and volunteer Bill Oster.
“I am in the equine nutrition business, and I met Cass’ daughter, Brandy, who is also in the business of horse supplements,” Oster said. “She knew that I was involved with the Kentucky Horse Park and also Old Friends, and she said, ‘Hey, my mom’s got this millionaire Thoroughbred.’
“When they end up on the fair meet in Arizona, Montana, or Nevad, 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 settled in well, sharing a paddock with Futural, Siphonizer, and Affirmed Success.
“My sincere thanks to everyone who helped get him to Old Friends,” Blowen said. “We will have to see how they get along, but we’d like to put Early Pioneer and Lava Man together later this summer. It will be our Hollywood Gold Cup paddock.”