How Angie Cadaret wound up with a million-dollar winning racehorse in her barn, hinged on a detour she made one day while out running errands.
She was driving past Old Friends Equine in Georgetown, Ky., on a January afternoon, as she had many times before, when she decided to pull up the driveway to the famous Thoroughbred retirement farm.
“It was their slow season at the time, so I got a real good tour of the farm,” she says. “That’s when I learned about the unwanted horse problem, and that Old Friends was a place for retired racehorses to go.
“I fell in love with the place. I went home that night and told my husband that I wanted to start volunteering for them.”
Up until this point, Cadaret didn’t know a thing about Thoroughbreds. The Michigan native had been brought up riding Quarter Horses in a big ol’ Western saddle, so the sleek and powerful racehorses who were used to 100-pound jockeys were pretty exotic to her.
But a horse person is a horse person and it didn’t take her long to notice a new arrival named Falcon Scott, an expressive dark bay with a large white blaze that looked like it was painted on with a paint roller.
“Everybody who works at Old Friends has a handful of favorites. And I knew Falcon didn’t really have anyone. But to me, he was just a big puppy dog, and I really liked him, even though he was a little nippy,” she says.
Soon she started coming to work with extra carrots and mints for her favorite, and she even blurted out an offhand comment that if Old Friends ever wanted to free-lease Falcon, she’d take him.
Then, two years after that glib remark, she got a call. Cadaret, who had relocated about an hour away from Old Friends by this point, was asked if she knew anyone who might want to free-lease the goofy bay. She didn’t even have to stop to think. “I told her not to let anyone else take the horse, that I’d be first in line,” she says. “I didn’t have a farm at the time, so I had to find boarding for him.”
But his arrival heralded a happy change of circumstances for Cadaret and her family. The family’s lease on a property happened to be ending around the same time, and they easily found the perfect setting for them and their new horse on a property that offered a terrific little barn and enough acreage to satisfy any racehorse. “The timing was really perfect!” Cadaret says.
With Falcon Scott settled in to his new digs, Cadaret quickly got the itch to bring in another: Bluesthestandard. A million-dollar-winner so successful he has a flock of fans, and even a book devoted to him.
The slightly rotund, 17-hand gelding with the look of a cowpony, not a Breeders’ Cup contender, was the horse most likely not to succeed, she says. “He didn’t start racing until he was four, and he was bounced around quite a bit,” she says. “The way he runs, well, his gait is unusual, but it really worked for him.”
Starting in low claimers, he climbed up and out so beautifully that California fans Dale and Lee Ann Morretino wrote the book Go Get Em Blue in honor of his lifetime achievement: 47 starts, 19 wins, 8 seconds, 8 thirds.
“He looks like the kind of Thoroughbred who never did much on the racetrack,” she says. “People are always so surprised when I tell them how much he earned.
Around the farm though, he has become the quintessential “gentle giant” who is happiest hanging out with her young sons, or carting just about anyone around on a trail ride.
Falcon and Blue became such good friends, and the experience of taking in Old Friends horses was so successful, that Cadaret convinced a friend to look at a horse too.
But her plans did a complete 180 when Cadaret climbed into the saddle and decided she had to have Bonfante for herself, and he would become the third Old Friends retiree to join her new equine family.
“I got to riding this horse and he had already had some pretty significant training, and I just fell in love,” she says.
Cadaret admits that her own mother thinks she “has a screw loose” when it comes to horses. And her husband, though supportive of her quest to help Thoroughbreds, thinks they’re “too big” and is less than interested in riding.
But somehow, they all make it work.
With her barn now full, and the third horse being the final horse she will take in, Cadaret says she counts her blessings to be so lucky to share her life with some of racing’s most outstanding creatures.
“They say you will always have that one horse who captures your heart forever, and that’s what Falcon is to me. I have him on a lifetime free lease, and he has his forever home with me,” she says. “And Blue has been amazing. He loves children, and my 9-year-old rides him all over the farm. I trust that horse with anyone because he has the sweetest soul. And, Bonfante arrived two and a half months ago, and he’s just great.”
Greater still was the camaraderie and opportunity she found as a volunteer at Old Friends, a place where other like-minded people spend their days in the service of horses who deserve no less.