Thoroughbreds in Woodford County article by Patti Nickell
January 1st may be the birth of a New Year, but it has a special significance in Woodford County. It marks the birthday of every Thoroughbred horse, and we think that’s something to celebrate.
Woodford County ranks third (just behind Fayette and Bourbon) in its Thoroughbred population. As of 2017, the county had 689 farms with a total acreage of 112,190 acres. Many of the farms are considered boutique and most are not open to the public.
The good news for horse-loving visitors, however, is that some of the most prestigious farms happily welcome guests on tours. Here are seven that do.
Coolmore Ashford Stud Farm.
Based in County Tipperary, Ireland, Coolmore is one of the largest Thoroughbred breeding operations in the world, with farms not only in Ireland, but also in Australia’s Hunter Valley and here in Woodford County.
Ashford Stud’s 3,000 acres are, at first glance, more reminiscent of landscaped parkland than a farm. But the stone barns with neat blue trim, mimicking those of its sister location in Ireland, leave no doubt that this is a working horse farm.
The farm’s one-hour tour gives visitors a glimpse of the breeding shed and stallion barn. The latter is especially popular, and with little wonder. Though it can vary as to which stallions are available on any given tour, among those that you have an opportunity to see (and perhaps get a picture taken with) are fan favorites Uncle Mo, Maximum Security, Tiz the Law, and two Triple Crown winners, American Pharoah, the 2015 winner, and Justify, who took the Trifecta in 2018.
Just down the road from Coolmore, Stonestreet was the life passion of the late California winemaker Jess Jackson, and his widow Barbara continues the legacy her husband started with the great stallion Curlin, and continued with the super filly Rachel Alexandra, who was bred on the farm.
Stonestreet’s 1,800 acres actually consists of three separate farms – the rolling acreage dotted with freshwater springs on US 60 which is home to its yearling division, a broodmare operation in Midway, and the nursery farm on Old Frankfort Pike.
Beginning in April, Stonestreet will offer tours Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the nursery farm only. Visitors can opt for either of two one-hour tours – one showcases the broodmares with their foals, and the other offers a chance to meet and greet Rachel Alexandra.
Godolphin at Gainsborough Farm
Also in the neighborhood along US 60 with Coolmore and Stonestreet is Gainsborough Farm, owned by Godolphin, the largest Thoroughbred breeding and racing operation in the world, founded by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai.
The Sheikh owns two farms in the Bluegrass, and Gainsborough is the mares and foals division, so there are some little colts and fillies celebrating their first birthday this month. Some of the proud mamas, Hall of Famer Ashado and five-time Grade 1 Stakes winner Music Note, will also be there for the party.
A one-and-a-half-hour electric shuttle tour allows visitors to meet these champion broodmares and their babies, while at the same time having a chance to see the more than 1,500 beautifully landscaped acres.
Will Farish once served as Ambassador to the Court of St. James during the administration of his friend President George H. W. Bush. It’s said that while there, he developed a warm relationship with Queen Elizabeth II due to their shared interest in horses and racing.
Farish’s interest led to his purchase of Lane’s End, a 3,300-acre farm located along picturesque Midway Road, which he has developed into a world-class breeding operation.
Visitors can see the fruits of his labor on a two-hour shuttle tour to the stallion barn where Flightline, Up to the Mark, Union Rags and 16 other stallions are currently in residence. Depending on the season, the tour also takes in other farm structures such as the mares & foals barn and yearling barn. The horse cemetery is well worth a look, with the statue of 1992 American Horse of the Year A.P. Indy making for the most instagrammable shot.
In addition to the equine history, Lane’s End has some pretty interesting human history. It’s located on land once known as Bosque Bonita (beautiful woods) Farm, where one of the visitors was General George Armstrong Custer. Custer came here to purchase horses for the 7th Cavalry in 1875, one year before his disastrous end at the Battle of the Little Big Horn in Montana.
Airdrie Stud Farm
This is another farm with an illustrious history. The 2,500-acre stud farm, owned by the family of the late Kentucky Governor Brereton Jones, is on land that was once part of Woodburn Farm.
Woodburn is considered by many to be the birthplace of the American Thoroughbred breeding industry. It was at Woodburn that the legendary stallion Lexington stood during his 16-year tenure as America’s leading sire in the 19th century.
While Airdrie doesn’t offer organized tours like many farms, visitors can call ahead during the summer months to book a time to see the stallion barn where 10 stallions are currently in residence.
Three Chimneys Farm
When Robert Clay, a descendent of Kentucky’s most famous statesman, Henry Clay, first began this farm in 1972 on 100 acres (it now has more than 1,500) he took the unusual step of limiting the number of stallions he accepted for breeding. With no more than a dozen at any given time, he developed the concept of the boutique farm, emphasizing quality over quantity.
Public tours allow visitors into the stallion barn to see the four current residents: Gun Runner, Volatile, Sky Mesa and Funtastic.
Don’t leave without snapping a picture of the statue of Seattle Slew, the 1977 Triple Crown winner who stood at stud here for 17 years.
This 2,500-acre breeding operation also began modestly on the 400 acres that was once Prestonwood Farm. Owner Kenny Troutt, founder of Texas-based Excel Communications, started with four stallions – a number which has risen to 700, making it one of North America’s leading Thoroughbred racing, stallion and breeding operations.
The farm features a smokehouse, farmhouse, pond and several barns from what was once Silver Pond Farm dating to the 1700s, and which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Various public and private tour options are available, including stallion barn tours and extended shuttle tours. Curated private tours are also available, including a chance to meet Tiznow, the only Thoroughbred ever to win the prestigious Breeders’ Cup twice. Be sure to stash away some peppermints as Tiznow has a sweet tooth.
January is an important month to celebrate Thoroughbred culture – and Thotoughbred birthdays. So, wish them all a happy birthday and plan a visit to see them in the flesh at their Woodford County homes.
Please note that all farm tours with the exception of Airdrie Stud must be booked through visithorsecountry.com.
For more information on Woodford County horse farms, go to visitwoodfordky.com