To get onto any of the horse farms in the area you have to take a tour. Ours left at 9:15 Thursday...there were 12 of us and Shaun Washington was was our guide. Shaun grew up in Lexington and has been around the horse business alot. He had been the chauffeur for the former owner of Calumet Horse Farms for 9 years and I guess because of that had some special privileges there because I think it is very special to be able to see Calumet.
He had some interesting stories to tell...One thing we learned from Shaun is that white paint costs a whole lot more than black paint and white fences need repainting more often...so when you see a horse farm with lots of white fences, it's a very nice farm!
Ever heard of Calumet Baking Powder? The founder William Monroe Wright, established Calumet Farm in 1924 as a breeding operation for Standardbred horses, specifically harness racing horses. At the time harness racing was the most popular form of horse racing. Later Calumet started Thoroughbred horse breeding and racing. After his death, his son, then his wife, then his son-in-law took over the management of the farm. The farm has a record history of 8 Kentucky Derby and 2 Triple Crown winners among other accomplishments.
The farm was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991....the stallion barn we visited was from 1931 and was beautiful.
As we approached the stallion barn, Lentenor was out front being bathed by a couple of groomers. Shaun introduced us to the manager of the stallion barn and he took us inside to see the beautiful interior.
He showed us the stall where Alydar, the leading sire at the time, once resided and told us his version of the story of Alydar's "accident".
His version was that in 1990 Alydar somehow broke the door to his stall open enough to get his front legs through....unfortunately he broke his legs and the son-in-law collected on a $36 million insurance policy. Long story short: in 2000 the son-in-law as well as the CFO of the farm were convicted of fraud and bribery and sent to prison. The other version is that Alydar's legs were intentionally broken to cover the debt the farm had due to mismanagement.
The farm went bankrupt in 1991 but the next year the farm was saved from liquidation and restored to its former beauty by a Canadian. Then in 2012 Brad Kelley bought the farm and is now working to reestablish the breeding operation. Juicy Intrigue......(Good name for a horse?....)
Anyway back to the horses....Lentenor was clearly enjoying his shower even though it was cool and windy. He gets this spa treatment about twice a week. Lentenor is a full brother to Barbaro who won the Derby in 2006, then broke his leg during the Preakness and had to be put down eventually.....Lentenor doesn't race now....he's a stud. His fee is just $7,500 if you are interested....
We also saw some beautiful mares with their foals in the field. Not sure the age of the young ones but they weren't very old. I took to one in particular: Accelero; and I think she liked me too.
We moved onto the mares' barn where we saw some new babies. Cricket Miss and her 10 day old baby were especially cute. Cricket Miss was a little protective of her little one although she was more comfortable with the lady stable hand standing guard.
We also visited the cemetary where Shaun showed his the headstones of some Calumet's great horses. A large monument lists the Kentucky Derby winners....missing is Forward Pass who won in 1968. Whirlaway and Citation were also Triple Crown winners.
Shaun told us stories about several other horses in the cemetary....most of the stories involved how much money the horses had earned, an important statistic when discussing racing horses.
Next on the tour was our visit to the Kentucky branch of Shadwell Racing. According to Shaun it is the most spectacularly appointed horse farm in this country.
It's owned by Sheikh Hamdam bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the brother of the ruler of Dubai. (I think I got his name correct, forgive if I err). He has other operations in England and Ireland and has put a lot of money into his "hobby."
The farm in Kentucky is one of 8 he owns and according to Shaun, expenses to run the farm in Kentucky are $1.7 million per month....nice hobby if you can afford it. His investments are not without success however as the operation has produced lots of wins on the track. We visited only a small portion of the farm (it's a 3200 acre affair)....the stud complex. Although we did not see any horses up close here (the stallions were all out relaxing in the paddocks I guess) the purpose of the visit was to see the incredible surroundings. Lots of landscaping and beautiful barns, all laid out in very symmetical fashion. No expense as far as I could see for making the stallions and their groomers feel comfortable. Shaun said that you just don't see facilities like these anywhere else. We saw the setup that each groomer has and it was nice....then we saw the breeding barn where the real action takes place....
you have never seen a romper room like this one! Shaun expained the mechanics of bringing the lady and stallion together....care must be taken so that no one is injured. The room has a special surface on the floor for traction and the walls are padded in case the stallion gets carried away.
Her tail must be wrapped and tied up to prevent cuts and her hooves are encased to protect the stallion if she kicks...
.Once the deed is done (there are cameras to surveill if the session goes on too long) a sample of the stallion's contribution is checked to make sure he is not firing blanks....all a very serious business. But a very nice room to do it in! And it should be...the stud fees range from $2,000 to $5,000.
Later that day we visited the American Saddlebred Museum where were educated about the use of the versatile breed which is the first American-bred horse.
A special exhibit was running in the museum exploring the use of the breed in marketing and advertising dating from the late 1800s to the 1970s.
We also saw the works of George Ford Morris....he is a well known equine art and I especially enjoyed his paintings.