By Lynne Snierson
Michael Blowen, the co-founder and principal of Old Friends, will receive the prestigious Sam McCracken Award for Lifetime Achievement from the New England Turf Writers Association for his outstanding work with the rescue and retirement of Thoroughbred racehorses.
The honor is the highest bestowed by the NETWA, and the membership this week voted unanimously to give the award to Blowen at the organization’s annual dinner to be held on July 21 in Danvers, Mass. It is named for McCracken, the late renowned turf writer for the Boston Globe. Blowen and his wife and Old Friends co-founder, Diane White, also wrote for the Globe and were on staff with McCracken for more than 20 years.
“This is absolutely unbelievable.Sam was such a great friend and a wonderful colleague. He was the one who introduced me to racing,” Blowen said from Old Friends’ Georgetown, Ky., farm when reached by phone. “This a huge honor, so huge that it is really overwhelming.”
Old Friends, which Blowen and White began on a shoestring in 2002 and at first was home to one horse, now cares for 100 retired racehorses at its main farm in Kentucky and another 10 horses at its Bobby Frankel division in New York. Blowen got his start in the business as an assistant groom for New England trainer Carlos Figueroa before becoming an owner who campaigned his horses at Rockingham Park and Suffolk Downs.
The mission of Old Friends, which is the only Thoroughbred retirement and rescue organization which will accept stallions, provides pensioned racehorses with the dignified old age and loving care which they deserve. Several of the horses currently residing at Old Friends have strong New England connections and they include grade I winner Marquetry, who captured the 1991 New England Classic at Rockingham; Kiri’s Clown, back-to-back winner of the grade III New Hampshire Sweepstakes in course and stakes record time in both 1994 and 1995; and Suffolk runners Riva Way, Leave Seattle, and Swan’s Way.
“Early on, Nick Zito was helping us raise money and he gave me the best piece of advice I ever got,” said Blowen. “He told me that this should never be about me or the awards that would come. But I am making the exception for the McCracken Award because this one is the best.”
The 2011 class of the New England Hall of Fame will also be inducted at the dinner and the divisional awards and other winners who were announced last fall will be honored. The ballot for the New England Hall of Fame will be distributed soon to the members and the inductees will be announced at a later date.