Drew Brees’ Autograph Pays For Life-Saving Surgery On Old Friends’ Mare

by | 01.05.2018 | 7:34pm
Retired race mare Misszoey Belle and equine surgeon Dr. Chris Johnson at Old Friends.

Old Friends, the Thoroughbred Retirement facility based in Georgetown, KY., is tipping its hat to the NFL this week–especially to New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

Thanks to the Big Ten record-holder–who will kick-off against the Carolina Panthers in the first NFL Wild Card Round this Sunday–Old Friends was able to give a lasting gift to the equine surgeon who saved the life of one of its retired mares.

Old Friends is a non-profit sanctuary for more than 175 retired race horses, including two Kentucky Derby winners and numerous other champions. When one of its residents, Misszoey Belle, a 13-year-old mare, showed sudden and severe signs of a gastrointestinal disorder, it was determined that surgery was her only chance for survival.

A hard-knocker on the track, Misszoey Belle had 74 starts and 7 wins, earning only $70,000 in her career and racing until she was eight. She was bought back by her breeder, John C. Oxley (whose Classic Empire won the 2016 Breeders' Cup Juvenile), and retired to Old Friends.

The mare was rushed to Park Equine Hospital at Woodford in Versailles, KY., which provides Old Friends with cost-free veterinary care. They quickly called in the on-call surgeon, Dr. Christopher Johnson.

The mare underwent surgery to repair a very serious intestinal obstruction known as an epiploic foramen entrapment. Her life spared, Misszoey Belle returned to Old Friends farm a few days later and is now recovering well with an excellent prognosis.

Knowing that Dr. Johnson was a huge Saints fan, Old Friends resident veterinarian, Dr. Bryan Waldridge, an internist at Park Equine Hospital at Woodford, offered Dr. Johnson a gift from the team as a special thank you.

“I went to high school in New Orleans, so I have been a Saints fan as long as I've been alive,” says Johnson.

Luckily, New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson is also a well-known racehorse owner, and one of his former runners, Saint Aloysius, was retired to Old Friends after suffering a career-ending injury last year.

Old Friends founder and President Michael Blowen made a call to the Saints' office and Brees was kind enough to help out with an autographed football.

“We always love helping Old Friends and Michael,” said Greg Bensel, who manages GMB Racing for the Bensons and is also the Sr. Vice President of Communications for the Saints. “After all, he was there for us when we needed a good home for Saint Aloysius.

“Drew is so kind and giving with his time that when we need a signed ball he's always available to help,” Bensel continued. “And to be honest, he loves the horse-racing industry, and he loves that the horses at Old Friends get great care. So while he is busy planning for the Panthers game, I know he feels great about this.”

“It's really great to see professional athletes such as Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints helping our professional athletes like Misszoey Belle when they need us most,” said Blowen. “We can't thank the team, Dr. Waldridge, Dr. Johnson, and everyone at Park Equine Hospital enough.”

In a press release issued January 5, Old Friends misstated that a surgeon was unavailable at Park Equine Hospital at Woodford in Versailles, KY for an emergency procedure required for one its equine retirees. Dr. Christopher Johnson, who performed colic surgery on the 13-year-old mare Misszoey Belle, was, in fact, the surgeon on call with the practice on this day. The autographed football from the New Orleans Saints was a gift procured by Old Friends for his generosity.
Park Equine Hospital has long treated Old Friends horses at no cost to the organization, and has always provided the most proficient of care in the most professional manor. Old Friends is grateful for their continued help and generous support. 
Old Friends regrets any misunderstanding.
  • gus stewart

    Great story thanks saints ownership and drew brees. A little thing goes a long way..

  • Frankie Conditions

    So many people from La. like Dallas Stewart, Randy Gervais, and others have massive hearts for equines and humans. They are trendies people and have amazing work ethics too

  • Richard C

    One of the “Top Ten Stories For 2018” has made the list.

  • Flying J

    Great story, made my morning!

  • Michael Castellano

    Love this story, could make a movie out of it. Now I know who to root for in the NFL playoffs!

    • Judy Gaddis

      My feelings EXACTLY!

  • Memories of Puchi

    what a great story. talk about networking and connections.

  • Larry Sterne

    What a good story. WISH all had such a good outcome.

  • Ida Lee

    Isn’t it nice to have an actual feel-good story about the NFL for a change?? Thank you Drew, the Saints and especially Dr. Johnson for saving our lovely mare …..

    • Judy Gaddis

      Amen to that, Ida Lee………………..amen to that!

  • Bella

    Oh what a beautiful morning..when you can get up and read a story regarding compassion and caring between man and horse. Bless all those involved and much love and good health to Misszoey Belle.

  • GloriaU

    This story makes me smile and tugs at the heart strings at the same time. Thank you for sharing it. Have a nice life, Misszoey Belle.

  • Nick Palermino

    Many may not know that Drew makes his off season home in the city of Del Mar. He has also been involved in racing partnerships with Donkey Island (Jeffrey Strauss) and others on several horses. So glad that he has given back to the racing communit. Thanks Drew!


      I live near DMR and have seen Drew around. A class act that, sadly, the then S.D. Chargers let slip away. We did OK with Philip but, still root for Drew.

      • Monrovia Damon

        Weird how things happen. Miami Dolphins were going to sign either Brees or Daunte Culpepper that offseason and they went with Culpepper, leading to Brees to ink with the Saints and resurrect the entire city. Divine intervention perhaps

  • whirlaway

    Kudos this is the type of NFL player that shines a bright light on the NFL so pleased to see this
    happen for this lovely mare.

    • Judy Gaddis

      Yep you have NFL players (and their owners) like this and then you have, well, you have others (they reside up north and are so arrogant I could puke) so I will just leave it at that LOL!

      What a great story this was……..I needed a pick-me-up today and this sure fit the bill!

  • Wendy Averill

    Brought tears to my eyes. We’re Southern Californians but will be rooting for the Saints because of what you did. Thanks Drew Brees. Your thoughtfulness and kindness towards those can’t say thank you themselves extends way beyond making money and is an example to all of us.

  • longshot

    Great story. Thanks to the Saints and Drew Brees, but I hope the Rams win the Super Bowl

  • Ben Hudson

    This makes me want to stand up for the National Anthem and salute the Stars And Stripes.
    Thanks for making me smile this morning

  • LaborAttorney

    Hope this wasn’t too much an imposition for Drew.

    • Threerules

      Like many attorneys you probably have an impacted bowel and I hope no one will sign a hat for you.

      • LaborAttorney

        I’m happy if they just sign a check.

      • Marilyn Shively

        ignore the fool: there is always one of those, at least, on every message board. not worth a response.

        • Threerules

          I understand beside keeping Broberg out of jal what else does he have to do?

        • wamsen

          he was making a joke….and a good one, imo.

  • Old Timer

    Dr Johnson is one of my favorites. It’s not surprising that he would donate his skills this way. Not only is he an A-list vet but he is a marvelous human being.

    • layman

      evening, Dr. Johnson

  • TimTamTed

    Saw Misszoeybelle at Old Friends.So thankful for her angels;Dr.Christopher Johnson,Michael Blowen,Greg Bensel,and Drew Brees,for helping save her life,and her well deserved retirement.

  • Carole Gatti

    What a lovely & heart warming story – we need more kind, giving people for the many animals in need of human help. Thanks to Paulick Report for keeping us abreast of the feel good stories as well as the many sad ones.

  • Thanks so much for running this great story about Dr. Johnson, Drew Brees, Park Equine and, of course, Misszoey Belle. Both Dr. Park and Dr. Johnson were here today and are both very pleased about all the progress she’s making. I also want to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Park, in particular..(he will probably hate this publicity) because Park Equine provides all of our veterinary services free of charge and that would have been the case even without the icing on the cake…the Drew Brees autographed football. The response from the Saints and horse racing fans has been so gratifying. Brees even owns some racehorses having once claimed one from Kobe Bryant. Anyway, thanks to everyone for making the story of a horse that John Oxley bought back for $500 and retired to us. What a great team.

    • TimTamTed

      Thank you Michael,for all you do for these beautiful retired horses.You sir,are an angel.You and I met at Old Friends,in October of 2016.I was with Lori Hammons,the blonde horse lover.I took a photo of you and your shadow,Lil Silver Charm :).I’m sure you don’t remember me,but being there,seeing all the great champions,and meeting you, was one of the highlights of my entire life.Old Friends had been on my bucket list for years,but no more.Keep up the great work,and God Bless you,Michael !………….Bobby from Philly

  • Monrovia Damon

    Great story. Lived in New Orleans for ten years and friend worked for the Saints — said Drew is almost too nice and genuine that it’s annoying haha. Good problem to have. Brees is good people and played a huge role in helping the city heal and rally together after Katrina, as cheesy as that sounds but it’s true. We’re starting the year off on the right foot.

  • Patti Davis

    I was thrilled to read this story of the generosity of Dr. Johnson, Drew Brees and the Saints. Thanks to all for saving Misszoey Belle, who is such a sweet mare and a pal to my own mare, Euronfire, who is blessed to be living out her retirement at Old Friends. While I “spoil” Euronfire whenever I visit her, “Zoey” gets my attention, too, and I am glad for her good health.

    VERY FEW people even know that Old Friends has a cadre of retired mares (I think there are about a dozen now). That might be a good story for The Paulick Report or a Jen Roytz feature, sometime!

  • ctgreyhound

    Please give us more heartwarming stories like this whenever you can. They are sorely needed & appreciated.

  • Delrene

    Thanks to all for this great effort to help this mare. Hey, 13 is not that old!!! Get better soon Miss Zoey Belle. She is a pretty girl.

  • Great stòry in so many ways! With so many negatives going on in both the NFL and horse racing, I am so grateful to all the good people in both professions. Bless you all.

  • Billy

    Coming from a horse racing fan….judgemental much….they people like us shouldnt be judged because they have money and star power….and i will add if you think football players are overpaid i dont wanna know what you think of nascar nba and mlb

    • whirlaway

      The difference in Nascar is sponsers and the drivers are like jockeys self employed but what these team sports players make is unbelievable, in life I will survive with
      no MLB, NBA, and team sports There are other fields of careers far more important like good top quality doctors and specialists not to mention high quality vets for our
      animals. I guess like racing things have changed. Many years ago my sister had numerous friends and worked in the L.A. Dodgers office and two top pitchers Sandy
      Koufax and John Podres never earned more than $50,000 in a season.Yes money went further but those salaries don’t come close to the mega millions today.

      • Billy

        I agree but football players used to work normal jobs also the saleries changed with the growth of the game…..the nfl has made moves to prevent this tho…..rookie salary caps…..and teams giving playwrs money is a way of getting them its buissness just like everything else

        • whirlaway

          It is now big business sports has changed and understandable. The concern with racing is mainly for me the big numbers of mares in stallion books. That has changed greatly and where will all these horses end up. When breeding animals more animals does not necessarily mean more quality horses even with the top stallions. A few farms do try to keep stallion books smaller.

          • Billy

            I agree needs to be looked at for animals bred and born to run so they say ….70 percent of the foal crop never racing doesnt speak well of the nature

          • whirlaway

            Finding a home for all the horses that retire from the track or never race is a big job and will take teamwork involving the owners as well as the accredited ottb placement facilities. I was in a partnership that 2 of the horses I was involved with never got to the races. We would send them to the farm after nagging set backs and
            gave them plenty of time off. Returning to the track it became evident they were not
            going to make it on the track. We went through two good ottb facilities. One horse is in the state next to me and enjoys dressage at a lower level and the other is a riding horse for a retired person. The commitment has to be there as well as a financial responsibility to the facility if necessary for these horses to be rehomed.

          • Billy

            People need to be responsible for their animals period enough said….you said it best commitment and finacial responsibility…which too many people involved dont do and continue to get a free pass on the track and off that animal pays the price everytime and thats not stinkin good enough

          • whirlaway

            True, I remember you are in Penn, I am in New England and I Don’t even want to get started on the things after the recent cold snap with dogs. I went crazy, problems are not limited to the track everyday idiots that have dogs leaving them in this cold. What is wrong with these people no punishment is harsh enough for them. I have a breed with some coat although more silky with no real undercoat and I had her in double coats when i took her outside with the wind chill plus dog boots. It was so awful here if She did not have her feet covered She would be trying to hold up her feet. It was a procedure to get both of us bundled up to go outside.

          • Billy

            At least domestic animals are afforded some protection by law….i feel the horse world still stuck in the wild west….i have 2 pitbulls they do their buissness have their 5 min they want to play then back in to the bed couch and wherever they wanna plop down….im sure its downright brutal in ne

          • whirlaway

            Well we have a saying at our house there might be laws but you can’t legislate behavior. Less then a week ago in Ohio a dog froze to death in a dog house outside the owners house. Another in Mass left in a cold car shivering that someone reported and they got that one out. Another in NE was brought to a humane society
            and tied outside and abandoned with no coat nothing luckily there was a night person but by the time they found the dog it was dangerously cold when It was 7 degrees and this all was the last 10 days. There are many laws that do little good and animal abuse of
            any kind as far as I am concerned punishment is not tough enough. I have had to speak to people during the summer leaving dogs in hot cars and they get testy with
            me. So those laws were not worth the paper they were written on.

          • Billy

            I dont stand for any of it whirlaway dogs cats horses dont matter its all wrong all of it…..i agree the law sucks and animal abuse is taken as a joke in this country….life is life regardless and people should have more of a moral respect for that imo

          • whirlaway

            Many are a bit short of respect in this world that is for sure.

        • Billy

          And i should add the vast majority of football players are not highly paid only the top few…..do you relize how much money players spend on just their health and training, and also the vast majority are great humans that happen to be very active in their community i do agree tho the ones that do injustices should be held accountable and even more so in racing because of the animal with no options or choices

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