Laura Hillenbrand, author of the No. 1 New York Times bestsellers “Seabiscuit: An American Legend” and “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption,” this week pledged her support to Old Friends, a bucolic racehorse retirement facility which was recently touched by the sorrow of losing a prized retired stallion.
On the heels of an announcement by Old Friends President Michael Blowen that 26-year-old retiree Marquetry was euthanized this week, a handsome chestnut stallion who earned $3 million on the track, Hillenbrand pledged to match up to $5,000 in donations to Old Friends to honor the racehorse and Blowen’s tireless effort.
“Lets make something good come from a sad loss and help Old Friends give homes to other grand horses,” Hillenbrand stated in a message on Facebook. “I will match donations in Marquetry’s name, up to $5,000 total.”
In an interview with OffTrackThoroughbreds.com, Hillenbrand says she was so moved by the “singular bond between the horse and Michael Blowen” that when she learned a stall accident had forced veterinarians to euthanize the animal with whom Blowen is often photographed, she was impelled to offer her support.
“I’m a longtime supporter of Old Friends,” Hillenbrand said. “Marquetry was an extraordinary horse, not simply as a racehorse and a sire, but as a personality.
“I was heartbroken to hear that an accident had taken Marquetry’s life.”
With every hope of inspiring others to rise to her fundraising challenge, Hillenbrand says it is her desire that donations to Old Friends, in Marquetry’s name, will help the sprawling Kentucky retirement facility provide happy retirements for other horses.
“(Marquetry) lived at the equine paradise of Old Friends, a wonderful nonprofit retirement farm for racehorses. It is home to such legends as Gulch, Prized, Sunshine Forever, Will’s Way, and dozens of others,” Hillenbrand states in her Facebook message.
Before he was euthanized on Feb. 1, Marquetry had a stellar career on the track. He earned $2,857,886 in 36 career starts, and was a Grade 1 winner on both dirt and turf, according to the press release from Old Friends. His victories include the 1991 Hollywood Gold Cup Handicap (G1), the 1992 Eddie Read Handicap (G1), and the 1993 Meadowlands Cup Handicap (G1).
In his subsequent stud career, he fathered Breeders’ Cup winners and Eclipse sprint champions Artax (1999) and Squirtle Squirt (2001).
When Blowen announced his death, he said this horse left a deep hole. “We have retired many great horses, but none will ever take his place.”
In a telephone interview this morning, Blowen lauded Hillenbrand for her unstinting support of Old Friends.
“She’s amazing. She’s been helpful to us time and time again,” Blowen says.
Since news of the Marquetry’s death was announced, Blowen has received more than 200 emails expressing condolences and support, he says, noting that the great horse died after breaking his femur kicking his stall wall on a windy night.
All who knew the flashy chestnut understood him to be one of the smartest and kindest in the herd, he says, adding, “He even let me play with him!”
Those wishing to take up Hillenbrand’s challenge may contribute online, at Old Friends, or by calling 502-863-1775.