Old Friends was formed last year with the intent of retiring and/or bringing home pensioned Thoroughbred stallions and giving the public access to these horses. Ironically the operation's first acquisition, aptly named Narrow Escape, is a 21-year-old mare.

Narrow Escape's key connection is that she is a daughter of Horse of the Year Exceller, who met his demise in a Swedish slaughterhouse in 1997. This mare was formerly owned by John Franks and was entered as part of his dispersal at the recent Fasig-Tipton February mixed sale. She failed to get a bid and was bought back for $1,000.

Michael Blowen of Midway, Ky., who heads up Old Friends, contacted the Franks operation and intended to buy the mare, but they ended up giving her to Old Friends. She has already settled in at Afton Farm near Midway, Ky.

Mr. and Mrs. Paul Hexter bred Narrow Escape in Kentucky. She raced for the couple and finished second in the 1986 Princeton Handicap at Gulfstream Park. Franks purchased the mare for $21,000 in 1997 and she produced three of her 10 foals for him. Her most successful foal was Sneaky Solicitor (by Crafty Prospector), who won a stakes in Puerto Rico in 1992 and who finished second in the Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II) the same year.

Old Friends is still in negotiations with a number of parties with hopes of acquiring stallions from Japan and from Turkey. Another mare, a daughter of Ferdinand, is expected to join Narrow Escape shortly.

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