The retired racehorses that live at the Old Friends facility on Kentucky Downs’ property in Simpson County are moving to Georgetown.
The seven former racehorses and one miniature horse that live on the Old Friends farm will be moved Thursday, though Tuesday is the last day tours will be offered, according to Karen Eaton, Simpson County Tourism’s office manager.
Eaton said the tourism office will miss Old Friends, which is a notable tourist attraction in the county.
“We’re all very disappointed,” she said. “We’re going to miss the horses.”
Simpson County Tourism employees oversaw the day-to-day operation of Old Friends, Eaton said.
Though she was a substitute, only working at Kentucky Downs when another scheduled employee couldn’t make it, Eaton said that she, like the other workers, grew attached to the horses.
“We just really grew to love them,” she said. “They were like our pets we have at home but at work.”
Turnout at Old Friends wasn’t always steady, Eaton said, noting that some days were busy and some hardly had any guests at all.
“It’s either feast or famine,” she said.
Michael Blowen, who founded the original Old Friends location in Georgetown shortly after retiring from his job as a film critic in 2001, said maintaining the Simpson County location had become too expensive and didn’t foster enough public interest.
“It never caught on the way we thought it should,” he said.
While originally hoping the business would grow, Blowen said Old Friends can no longer sustain the Simpson County location.
“We have an auxiliary farm going strong in New York, but it took 10 years,” he said. “We just couldn’t wait that long with the one in Franklin.”
Blowen said it will be more cost-effective to consolidate the horses at the Georgetown location.
“I felt it was a really good experiment, and I met a lot of good people who worked really, really hard to make it work,” he said.
Ted Nicholson, senior vice president and general manager of Kentucky Downs, said the racetrack wasn’t involved in the decision to close Old Friends.
Kentucky Downs allows Old Friends to use the track’s property but was otherwise uninvolved, he said.
Nicholson said he appreciates the partnership Old Friends and Kentucky Downs had over the years.
“It was nice while it lasted. I just don’t know if it was something they could have sustained with the kind of traffic they had,” he said.
What Kentucky Downs will do with the land when Old Friends is gone hasn’t been decided. “We haven’t really had a chance to discuss it yet,” he said.
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