Ryan Dickey: Silver Charm’s 25th Birthday Party Is A Golden Moment

(Silver Charm on his birthday at Old Friends Farm / Photo by Ryan Dickey)

By Ryan Dickey:

Birthday parties at retirement homes are usually low-key affairs with the requisite birthday cake, cards, and a few close friends and family members. But when you’re Silver Charm, you draw over a hundred guests to visit you at Old Friends Farm –the Thoroughbred Retirement Facility in Georgetown Kentucky.

Celebrating 25 years on the planet, the now mostly white dual Classic winning son of Silver Buck greeted visitors from both near and far as they converged on his stall nestled in the center of the 136 acre farm dedicated to providing top notch care to over 175 rescued and retired stars of Thoroughbred racing. The farm operates from revenues obtained from donations as well as tour receipts.

A much lighter in color version of his former self that was seen winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes of 1997, Silver Charm is still as regal as ever and looked majestic out in his dedicated paddock where he took a requisite roll in the mud to spoil the efforts of being meticulously groomed for his big day.

He received hundreds of birthday cards from around the globe, and well-wishers came out to see him on a cold overcast Friday afternoon, 25 years to the day after he was foaled at Dudley Farm in Ocala, Florida.

(Silver Charm’s birthday cake / Photo by Ryan Dickey)

Of course, there was cake for the human visitors, as well as a cake specially made for the horse of honor– a concoction of grains and carrots with a “2” and “5” candle to commemorate the milestone silver anniversary birthday.

He seemed stoic as the large crowd sang “happy birthday,” but shortly afterwards it became apparent that the winner of nearly $7 million on the track simply wanted to get out of the barn and into his paddock, where he could put on a show for his visitors.

(Michael Blowen, the keeper of Old Friends Farm / Photo by Ryan Dickey)

Michael Blowen, President of Old Friends Farm and self-proclaimed but widely-confirmed #1 fan of Silver Charm, was pleased to see the number of people who came out to wish the aging hero of the 1997 Triple Crown series a happy birthday.

Silver Charm has been the main attraction ever since he came to the farm four years ago after being pensioned following stud duty in Japan.

“Donations have gone up, tour companies bringing people here have gone up. Bus tours from all over the country come here now. And I think it’s because the word of mouth is so good about coming here and seeing him it’s just unbelievable,” said Blowen.

The farm is home to many other well-known retired racing stars — Game On Dude, Alphabet Soup, Amazombie, and War Emblem, to name a few. One of the more ironic twists of fate is that the horse that denied Silver Charm immortality as a Triple Crown winner, 1997 Belmont Stakes victor Touch Gold, is also a resident of the farm. He and Silver Charm are just a few paddocks from each other on a daily basis.

The newest addition to the farm is German-bred multiple graded stakes winner Wake Forest, who seemed totally oblivious to the fact that a large birthday celebration was happening in the barn right next to his paddock.

(Fans visited with the “Birthday Boy” at Old Friends on Friday / Photos by Ryan Dickey)

While Silver Charm is and will most likely remain the biggest draw at Old Friends Farm, the visitors there for his birthday celebration could not help but to visit the other heroes of days gone by.

“It’s a great tribute to these athletes. It’s a great tribute to the appeal they have even when they are not racing or breeding anymore that people still remember what they meant to the sport and what they meant to them personally,” said Blowen. “The idea that they’re all coming out here on a cold, cloudy day to celebrate Silver Charm’s twenty-fifth birthday is just fabulous.”

(Silver Charm in his paddock / Photo by Ryan Dickey)


The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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