Sunday, July 21, 2013

Bliss in the Bluegrass

Sometimes I find myself on Google Maps, using Street View to drive along the roads in central Kentucky. I pretend I’m there – in the Bluegrass, watching as the regal Thoroughbred farms and picturesque wooden fences roll by. Occasionally, I’ll catch sight of a beautiful Thoroughbred – perhaps a broodmare, maybe a foal or yearling. Of course, it is nothing like actually being in the Lexington, Kentucky area, but it allows me to imagine myself there.

But for six days, I didn’t have to imagine it. There I was, in the horse capital of the world, riveted yet again by the abundance of Thoroughbred farms nestled in the green, rolling hills of central Kentucky. Overwhelmed in the best way by the beauty of the land, the splendor of the horses, and the hospitality of the people, those six days can only be defined by one word: bliss.

broodmares, kentucky, horses
Photo by Terri Cage

Along with my parents, I made my fourth trip to the bluegrass – and my first when the grass was actually green (er, blue). Central Kentucky had just experienced two consecutive weeks of rain, leaving the grass vivid. But during the days I spent there, the only rain that fell was at the very beginning and end of our trip and the days were spent beneath the warm, bright July sun with sometimes suffocating humidity. However, that didn’t matter much. Not when I was in the place I always dream of being in.

I will write more extensively about certain parts of my trip in future articles, both on here and on my Horse Racing Nation blog, but in the meantime, please enjoy the 51 photos (all by my mom, Terri Cage) below, along with descriptions of the various places I visited in central Kentucky.


WINSTAR FARM

My time in Kentucky began with a visit to WinStar Farm. Thanks to Well Armed's owner, Bill Casner, and the broodmare manager of WinStar, Kieran Lalor, I was able to see nearly the whole farm and meet Well Armed’s “family” – his sire, two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) winner Tiznow; his dam, Well Dressed; and his full brother of 2013. These three horses were just few of many spectacular Thoroughbreds I saw at the farm, which – combined with the impressiveness of the farm itself – made the visit to WinStar one of the standouts of my trip.

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Tiznow
Photo by Terri Cage
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Well Dressed
Photo by Terri Cage
Well Armed's full brother
Photo by Terri Cage
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Colonel John
Photo by Terri Cage
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Super Saver
Photo by Terri Cage
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The view from the top of a barn at WinStar Farm
Photo by Terri Cage
FASIG-TIPTON JULY SALE

Leading up to this trip, I eagerly anticipated the Fasig-Tipton July Sale. Having a great interest in the sales industry, I was enthusiastic about finally attending my first sale where I would both evaluate horses and watch them sell. The day before the first yearling auction of the year, I roamed the barns of Fasig-Tipton’s Newtown Paddocks, analyzing dozens of yearlings by studying their conformation and walk. Viewing several nice horses from some of the nation’s best consignors was an incredible learning experience.

The next day, I finally attended a sale, where I alternated between two locations to see the yearlings and happenings of the sale up close: the auditorium – where I could see the horse in the sales ring and watch the bidding– and the back ring – where yearlings pranced by me just inches away so I could get last-minute impressions of them. Altogether, it was a very unique, educational experience.

Evaluating a yearling the day prior to the sale
Photo by Terri Cage
Hip 51, who topped the sale at $460,000, was one of my selections
Photo by Terri Cage
Hip 58, one of my selections, in the back ring before selling
Photo by Terri Cage
Hip 4, one of my selections, in the sales ring
Photo by Terri Cage

SPENDTHRIFT FARM

After assessing horses on the day prior to the sale, I stopped by the open house Spendthrift Farm was holding, where I not only finally met a “racing friend” of mine in person, but was also able to view numerous quality stallions, including leading sire Malibu Moon, as well as Awesome Patriot, Line of David, Paddy O’ Prado, Tizway, Tiz Wonderful, Warrior’s Reward, and Wilburn.

Into Mischief
Photo by Terri Cage
Malibu Moon
Photo by Terri Cage
Paddy O' Prado
Photo by Terri Cage
Tizway
Photo by Terri Cage
KENTUCKY HORSE PARK

Maintaining a tradition, we visited the Kentucky Horse Park, where we stopped by to see Cigar, Funny Cide, and Go for Gin. In addition to seeing these champions, we strolled around the park, seeing an assortment of breeds along the way, and visited the International Museum of the Horse.

Man O' War's grave at the Kentucky Horse Park
Photo by Terri Cage

TIMBER TOWN STABLE

Another standout of the trip was a visit to Timber Town Stable, where the single barn we visited – a small broodmare barn – housed several quality mares, including three whose combined value is nearly $18 million. Those mares were 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace (who sold for $10 million at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton November Sale), 2011 Kentucky Oaks (GI) victress Plum Pretty (who topped the 2012 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale at $4.2 million), and Cry and Catch Me (who sold for $3.5 million at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton November Sale). Among the other mares in the barn was Bethany – the dam of the multiple grade one-winning Tizway – and her 2013 foal.

The assistant broodmare manager of the farm brought out Plum Pretty and Havre de Grace for us, allowing us to take pictures of and visit the mares. Both were incredibly sweet and although we were told Havre de Grace could be cantankerous, she was on her best behavior and showed not even the slightest indication of irritability. After spending several minutes admiring and loving on the mares, we watched as they were turned out in a paddock together, gazing at the sights around them. It was an amazing moment watching these two fine mares together.

Plum Pretty
Photo by Terri Cage
Havre de Grace
Photo by Terri Cage
Havre de Grace (left) and Plum Pretty (right) headed to their paddock
Photo by Terri Cage
The very sweet Plum Pretty
Photo by Terri Cage
Havre de Grace
Photo by Terri Cage

THREE CHIMNEYS FARM

A visit to Three Chimneys Farm allowed me to finally meet Jen Roytz, the marketing and communications director for the farm. Taking us on a tour of the farm, Jen allowed us to see several stallions in their paddocks, visit mares and foals on the broodmare division, and drive around the yearling division as she shared stories with us about horses on the farm. Being able to meet several special horses – including a mare that survived a barn fire and a nurse mare foal that is more like a dog than a horse – was a terrific experience in and of itself, but most of all, my parents and I were amazed by Jen’s kindness. Thank you for showing us around the farm and sharing stories with us, Jen!

A foal at Three Chimneys
Photo by Terri Cage

HILL ‘N’ DALE

Awestruck by the beauty of Hill ‘n’ Dale’s stallion barn, I was able to view three of the farm’s stallions: Stormy Atlantic, Misremembered, and Harlington. But perhaps the most special component of this visit was seeing the grave of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, which – like the rest of the farm – was incredibly elegant.

Seattle Slew's grave
Photo by Terri Cage
CRESTWOOD

On the same farm on which my Miss Fifty was born and raised, I was able to see several stallions, including Country Day, Get Stormy, and Tizdejavu. The latter – a horse with remarkable conformation – and the multiple grade one-winning Get Stormy were both absolutely stunning in person.

Tizdejavu
Photo by Terri Cage
Get Stormy
Photo by Terri Cage

HOLLY OAK FARM

Early last year, I met a horse named Spanky (who is registered with the Jockey Club as Make Me Laugh) at Remember Me Rescue. Among several horses rescued from a farm in Many, Louisiana on which an abundance of Thoroughbreds were starved and neglected, Spanky was adopted by Elizabeth and Dietrich Felgendreher of Holly Oak Farm in central Kentucky. Tagging along with my mom for a photo shoot at the farm while we were in Kentucky, I was stunned to see the transformation in Spanky. The last time I had seen him, the young Thoroughbred had been lethargic and underweight and had the worst case of rain rot I’d ever seen. But now, his coat glimmered with a hint of gold and his energy reflected his happiness. It was incredibly touching to see the change in him.

Spanky
Photo by Terri Cage
Spanky
Photo by Terri Cage
Spanky
Photo by Terri Cage

CLAIBORNE FARM

Each time I visit Claiborne Farm, I feel like I’m stepping into history. These are the grounds that have once been home to a plethora of all-time greats, including Bold Ruler, Mr. Prospector, Round Table, Ruffian, and Secretariat. The farm remains home to top-class Thoroughbreds, including Algorithms, Arch, Blame, Flatter, Seeking the Gold, and War Front. It was a pleasure to see each of these stallions prior to visiting the stallion cemetery, where the great Secretariat and one of my personal favorites, Swale, are buried.

Algorithms
Photo by Terri Cage
Arch
Photo by Terri Cage
Blame
Photo by Terri Cage
War Front
Photo by Terri Cage
Claiborne's "stall of fame"
Photo by Terri Cage
Secretariat's grave
Photo by Terri Cage
ADENA SPRINGS

There is something special about meeting a Kentucky Derby winner and although I have seen numerous Derby winners before, it is always a special moment to actually touch a horse that wore the garland of roses. At the beautiful Adena Springs, I had that opportunity when I met Giacomo – longshot winner of the 2005 Kentucky Derby and a horse with a great personality. At Adena Springs, we were also able to see spectacular sire Awesome Again, as well as his Hall of Fame son Ghostzapper and the versatile Einstein.

Awesome Again
Photo by Terri Cage
Einstein
Photo by Terri Cage
Ghostzapper
Photo by Terri Cage
Giacomo
Photo by Terri Cage
DENALI STUD

On the same farm on which Animal Kingdom was born and raised resides a royal Thoroughbred family: Serena’s Song and two of her daughters, Night and Day and Pure Symmetry. After seeing the Hall of Fame mare’s daughters, we were able to visit with Serena’s Song and feed her peppermints – her favorite treat. A mare I have great respect for due to her astounding success on the track and as a broodmare, it was an honor to meet Serena’s Song.

Serena's Song
Photo by Terri Cage

DARLEY AT JONABELL FARM

Due to the farm’s entire stallion roster being in quarantine in preparation for shuttling to the Southern Hemisphere, the only stallions we had the chance to see at Darley was a trio of pensioned stallions: Cherokee Run, Holy Bull, and Quiet American. Nonetheless, we were able to enjoy the grandeur of the farm, which includes the gravesite of Triple Crown winner Affirmed.

Affirmed's grave
Photo by Terri Cage

GAINESWAY FARM

Home to some of the most elite stallions in the Thoroughbred industry, Gainesway Farm is also a certified arboretum, boasting gorgeous gardens and landscaping. Arriving at the stallion barns, we read the names of famed Gainesway stallions along a long, unique fountain prior to viewing multiple stallions, including one of the top sires in the nation, Tapit, and one of my personal favorites, Afleet Alex. Strolling through the stallion barns, we were left in awe of the unique architecture and the impeccable care the stallions receive.

Gainesway Farm
Photo by Terri Cage
Afleet Alex
Photo by Terri Cage
Tapit
Photo by Terri Cage
The kind eye of Tapizar
Photo by Terri Cage
OLD FRIENDS

One of the most unique farms in central Kentucky, Old Friends houses dozens of ex-racehorses – some champions and some that weren’t so successful. Each of them has their own personality and as a big supporter of the aftercare of these amazing athletes, I just had to make my second visit to Old Friends. The best part of going to the farm again? Seeing my “old friend” Flick, a British-bred stakes winner who was glad to receive several peppermints from me. 

Flick
Photo by Terri Cage
Creator
Photo by Terri Cage
Sunshine Forever (always with his tongue out)
Photo by Terri Cage

KEENELAND

The three mornings we spent at Keeneland Race Course observing morning workouts were magical. Standing along the rail for hours as Thoroughbreds exercised on the track, I was blown away by the beauty of Keeneland and, of course, mesmerized by the horses. Since the news that reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan had left Keeneland for Saratoga had not yet been released, my parents and I went on a wild good chase looking for him, analyzing each chestnut Charlie Lopresti trainee that passed by on the track, hoping it was Wise Dan. We finally thought we found him until, upon further review of a photograph my mom took, I identified the chestnut as Villandry. Although the search for Wise Dan was unsuccessful, it was worth it, as I later met Villandry at the barn. As sweet as he was beautiful, meeting Villandry was the perfect end to my time at Keeneland.

Morning works at Keeneland
Photo by Terri Cage
Morning works at Keeneland
Photo by Terri Cage
Morning works at Keeneland
Photo by Terri Cage
Villandry working at Keeneland
Photo by Terri Cage

The day we left arrived much too quickly and despite waking up before the sun, I stayed awake to catch my final glimpses of the beautiful farms and Keeneland before dozing off. Although I was sad to leave the bluegrass, I will forever cherish the memories my time there has granted me with – the memories made unforgettable thanks to the incredible horses, stunning landscape, and kind people. I hope to see you again soon, Kentucky.

5 comments:

  1. Wow! What a great trip! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and photographs. I have had similar experiences on two occasions myself. I know on my last visit to the Kentucky Horse Park I was astounded at just how amazing the International Museum of the Horse is. It is on the same levels as one would find in say The Smithsonian, or The Natural History Museum. Simply stunning.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for reading and commenting! It truly was a great trip. And I agree, the International Museum of the Horse is very impressive! My parents and I immensely enjoyed it.

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  2. Thank you for sharing your wonderful trip commentary as well as your mom's photos!! Wow!! I am so happy for you for being able to meet Well Armed's dam and the new foal, but I'm still jealous because you got to meet Well Armed. Just kidding, of course. I always enjoy your blog! Thanks!

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    1. Thank you very much! Well Dressed was as sweet as can be. I just featured her in a Horse Racing Nation article. I absolutely loved her! She reminded me very much of Well Armed in both looks and personality. And his new full brother is full of personality! Not to mention he is a very fine-looking colt and very large for being less than three months old. Thanks again for reading and commenting! It means a lot to me that you enjoy my blog.

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