Old Friends, one of the most well-known and supported Thoroughbred retirement facilities in the country, has fallen on financial woes due to a clerical error by its bank. In order to retain its current status and continue supporting the horses at its facility, the farm must raise $300,000 by the end of April.
Luckily, there is a silver lining in the situation. According to founder/owner Michael Blowen, who sent a newsletter to all Old Friends supporters about the money troubles April 13, the facility has raised more than $50,000 in the last 24 hours.
“These people are unbelievable…it’s an amazing thing; I’m just a conduit here,” Blowen told The Blood-Horse April 14. Since sending out the newsletter, Blowen has garnered donations from several Thoroughbred owners totaling as much as $10,000 each, as well as numerous $5 and $10 donations from fans. “We’ve gotten over 350 emails already," he said. "People write nice things; they’re very complimentary of Old Friends, and they are coming up with all kinds of amazing fundraising ideas. I’m very optimistic now; I think we’ll be able to work out an equitable solution out with the bank.”
Blowen explained how about three years ago, he requested that his bank rewrite the mortgage for Old Friends so it would have its payments due bi-annually. “They concurred and re-wrote the loan,” said Blowen in the newsletter. “We continued to make payments on time through our bookkeeper.
“A couple of months ago, I was visited by two bank 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.”
Blowen explained that in a section of Old Friends’ mortgage, it states that if the bank makes an error, as long as it isn’t malicious, the lender is responsible for the consequences.
“You never want to go public with something like this, but we’ve always been transparent,” said Blowen. “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.
"I 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.”
Blowen said if Old Friends raises a sufficient amount of money this month, by the end of May it should be in better financial shape. The Georgetown, Ky., facility will benefit from the Ferdinand Ball at the Frazier Museum in Louisville May 5, which basketball players John Wall and Demarcus Cousins are expected to attend. It will also host the Old Friends Homecoming party May 7, and expects to receive $50,000 grant later this year from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a distribution through Thoroughbred Charities of America, as well as a significant contribution from the late trainer Bobby Frankel’s trust.
“The future looks bright. It's the present that's problematic, said Blowen of the farm, which attracts more than 20,000 visitors a year and is home to numerous greats, including pensioned stallions Marquetry and Gulch; graded stakes winners Ogygian, Sunshine Forever, Awad, Creator, and Clever Allemont; and Canadian champions Thornfield and Benburb.
To make a donation to Old Friends, click here.