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Kentucky Horse Park

Kentucky Horse Park (10/15/07)

Contact: Cynthia Grisolia, (347) 423-7322

Thoroughbred Retirement Facility Old Friends to Help Spearhead Memorial for the Great John Henry

GEORGETOWN, KY (OCTOBER 15, 2007) Michael Blowen, President and founder of the Thoroughbred Retirement Facility Old Friends, is proud to announce that Old Friends will participate in a partnership with Bill Oster and The Kentucky Horse Park to create a privately funded memorial for the renowned racehorse John Henry, who passed away on Oct. 8 due to the infirmity of old age. He was 32.

John Henry (Ole Bob Bowers - Once Double, by Double Jay), famous for his cantankerous disposition, was unparalleled in his achievements on the racetrack. He retired in 1985 as the world’s richest Thoroughbred, having earned more that $6.5 million. He received seven Eclipse Awards throughout his career and was voted Horse of the Year in 1981 and again in 1984. A gelding, he raced until he was nine and won 30 stakes races, more than any horse in history. Voted “Horse of the Decade” in the 1980s, John was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1990.

“John Henry was special to the park, he was special to racing, and his story is just a great one regardless of whether you are into racing or not,” said Oster, a park volunteer for the last 10 years and one of John’s primary caretakers. “He was the people’s horse, he was a blue-collar horse, he didn’t have a lot of breeding, and he overcame every obstacle he ever had in his life.”

The idea of a memorial has been on a back burner for several years, added Oster, ever since “we almost lost him to colic surgery in 2001. At first, I thought we needed to do something very grand. But then, the more I thought about it, the more I felt that any memorial needed to be unpretentious and simple, just like John was himself.”

The memorial, which is pending approval from the park commission, will consist of a landscaped sitting area outside John’s former paddock at the Horse Park’s Hall of Champions, and will include an understated monument to be sculpted by local equine artist Shelley Hunter.

John Henry Memorial

For its role in the project Old Friends, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that is home to nearly 30 retired Thoroughbred Champions, has opened a John Henry Memorial Fund at the Citizen’s Commerce Bank in Kentucky to receive donations for the tribute.

“One of the reasons I first came to Kentucky was to see John Henry,” said Blowen, originally from Boston. “It was his fan following at the Hall of Champions that inspired the formation of Old Friends. We’re so proud to be associated with this memorial and to be instrumental in honoring one of the greatest horses of our time.”

Donations can be made payable to the John Henry Memorial Fund and sent to Old Friends, 1841 Paynes Depot Road, Georgetown, KY 40324. For additional information about donations, please contact Michael Blowen at 502- 863-1775. For more information about the memorial please contact Bill Oster at 502-316-0980 (or email

Like the Hall Of Champions, Old Friends’ Dream Chase Farm, located in Georgetown, KY., is open to tourists who come to see such luminaries of racing as Super Derby winner Wallenda, Eclipse-winning Turf Champion Sunshine Forever, and eight-time stakes winner Ruhlmann. For information about daily tours and other retirees call 502- 863-1775 or see their website at

Flashpoint Media Services, based in Harrodsburg, KY, is a comprehensive public relations firm specializing in the equestrian sports. For additional information contact Cynthia Grisolia, 347-423 7322, or Robbi Meisel, 859-734 3713,

More about John Henry




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