Old Friends Equine received $11,000 in donations last month following a pledge and a challenge by 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.”
Following Hillenbrand’s $5,000 pledge in donations to the Kentucky Thoroughbred retirement facility in honor of Marquetry, a great runner who died last month in a fluke stall accident, she challenged fans to open their wallets. The donations poured in.
“It was amazing,” says Old Friends cofounder and president Michael Blowen. “Laura Hillenbrand has been great to us, and we were able to match her donation to honor Marquetry.”
A portion of the donations will be used to give the fine horse a hero’s burial on the sprawling farm where he and other great ex-racehorses lived out their retirement.
A formal ceremony is planned for the day after the Kentucky Derby, Blowen says.
In an earlier 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 compelled 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.”
Since losing Marquetry last month, Blowen still feels the absence of the remarkable animal, who was friendly to children and agreeable in so many ways.
“I said to my wife when we were out feeding the horses that we have a lot of really nice horses that I really like a lot, and some I really love. And if you took all of the best in all of our horses and combined it, you might get Marquetry,” he says.
While the grand old horse is put to rest, Old Friends is already making room for a new stallion to come and share the fields and barns with some of racing’s greats.
This week, a Kentucky bred tough guy with more than $300,000 in winnings, is set to arrive on the farm.
“That horse has worked through more injuries than any horse I know. He’s got pins in his knees, he’s had chips removed, pins in his legs,” Blowen says. “It seemed like every time I picked up a story on him, I’d read, ‘Sean Avery had to be scratched.’ ”
Blowen chuckles with his trademark delight when weaving a story about a racehorse. Hard-knocking runners like Sean Avery, or brilliantly gifted stars like Marquetry, all have a place in his heart, and on the sprawling farm so admired by horse enthusiasts, and fine authors alike.