• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Versailles author shares more stories about Old Friends

RICK CAPONE, who lives in Versailles, recently wrote “Celebrating Old Friends: Stories from Kentucky’s Thoroughbred Retirement Farm,” published by The History Press. Capone and Miss Hooligan, which he co-owns, are pictured at Old Friends, a Thoroughbred retirement farm in Georgetown, Ky. (Photo courtesy of the author)

When Rick Capone was given the go ahead to write a second book about Old Friends, the Versailles author wanted to also include stories about the people who care for and about the horses at the Thoroughbred retirement farm in Georgetown, Ky. “It’s always fun to talk to people who love these horses, or love any horses, really,” says Capone of his “Celebrating Old Friends: Stories from Kentucky’s Thoroughbred Retirement Farm” interviews. “Everybody’s got … stories about horses they love.” It’s this love for horses that compelled former Boston Globe film writer Michael Blowen and his wife, award-winning columnist Diane White, to start Old Friends in 2003. It’s also why best-selling author Lauren Hillenbrand wrote an essay about Gulch, a horse she visited at Old Friends before his death in January 2016, because of what he meant to her in life. And it’s why Charlie Davis, one of Secretariat’s former exercise riders, regularly came to Old Friends just so he could visit Tinners Way – the 1973 Triple Crown winner’s “final colt and one of his very best,” according to the Old Friends’ website. In the back of his mind, Capone says he always wanted to do a follow-up to “History of Old Friends: A Retirement Home for Thoroughbreds” – especially with the addition of “so many new big-name horses,” including two Kentucky Derby winners (Silver Charm and War Emblem), and satellite retirement farms in New York and at Kentucky Downs. Old Friends had also received a special Eclipse Award since his first book. Knowing there was “so much more to write about,” Capone approached The History Press, whose parent company is Arcadia Publishing, to do a second book about this Central Kentucky farm where horses are able to retire with dignity after their racing and breeding careers. Capone says there were horses not included in “History of Old Friends,” but beloved by people like Don Veronneau. He told Capone at a book signing that he could not wait to read about his favorite horse, Leave Seattle, a story not in the first book because of space limitations. So Capone promised himself that if he got to write a follow-up he’d include Leave Seattle. “And when (my publisher) approved it,” he says, “that was the first story I wrote for this book to make sure it got in this time.” A photo of Veronneau with his pal, Leave Seattle, also got in “Celebrating Old Friends: Stories from Kentucky’s Thoroughbred Retirement Farm.” Capone says he combed through thousands of photographs – his and those shot by other horse lovers – before selecting 70 images for the book. They were chosen so readers could see the horses he’d written about, but more importantly each photo provides a visual memory of these stories. Or they were just memorable to Capone, who loves his photo of Angela Black with Sea Native because, “it’s hard to tell who’s smiling more…” – as he writes in “Celebrating Old Friends: Stories from Kentucky’s Thoroughbred Retirement Farm.” It wasn’t until Capone made his first visit to Old Friends and started shooting photographs of its retirees that he gained confidence behind a camera. Writing about horses became his passion a few years after moving from Florida to Central Kentucky in 2006. Capone says he has a third book in the works, which will focus on a little-known horse story and the people who helped make him a champion. Copies of “Celebrating Old Friends” may be purchased at the Old Friends gift shop (502-863-1775) or online at arcadiapublishing.com and amazon.com. A portion of the proceeds from book sales will go towards the care of horses at Old Friend.

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