Nicholson says he's ready to take Old Friends Farm into its third decade
For two decades, Old Friends farm outside Georgetown has been home to hundreds of horses — from former Kentucky Derby winners like Silver Charm and Charismatic to plenty of also-rans. Thousands of thoroughbred fans flock to the farm each year to get up-close looks at the retirees, where President and CEO Michael Blowen sometimes leads tours. Starting in February that responsibility will go to his successor, John Nicholson.
“I started looking a couple of years ago for someone to take over as president,” Blowen said. “The most important thing I was looking for was someone that really, really, put the horses first."
Nicholson checked all the boxes, Blowen said, pointing to his successor's own love for horses, his administrative skills and his deep connections in the thoroughbred racing world. In taking the reins, Nicholson said his goal is to continue and enhance Blowen’s vision and values for the retirement farm.
“Old Friends has been at the vanguard of the thoroughbred aftercare movement and I feel privileged to be a part of such an important cause,” he said.
The farm relies on donations to finance expenses to care for the nearly 300 horses now living there — including feed for the horses and staff to operate the farm.
Old Friends has been home to racing royalty like Silver Charm as well as others that may never have won back the costs to feed and care for them. No matter their racetrack record, they're all treated with love.
Silver Charm is the oldest living Derby winner, and the main attraction at the retirement farm. After winning the Derby in 1997, Silver Charm nearly ended a 20-year wait for a Triple Crown by winning the Preakness and then finishing second in the Belmont Stakes. He had been trying to become the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 in complete the feat.
While he'll no longer run the farm on a daily basis, Blowen said he will still be there as goodwill ambassador for his creation — greeting visitors, leading some tours and handling other duties as needed.