Kentucky: Home of the Thoroughbred

Horses and Kentucky go hand-in-hand. I always heard of the endless rolling fields of “bluegrass” edged with ancient trees and stark white fences — I even saw the pictures and movies like Seabiscuit, so knew it must be true. Yet nothing prepared me for the exquisite grandeur of a real, honest to goodness horse farm Kentucky-style! They are plentiful, some enormous and others modest in size, yet all are gorgeous.


Runnymede Farm ~ Founded in 1867, Runnymede Farm has been a vital part of the Thoroughbred industry ever since, and holds the distinct honor of being the oldest continuously operated Thoroughbred breeding farm in Kentucky, according to the Daughters of the American Revolution. The farm was originally established on family property by Colonel Ezekiel Clay, whose father was a member of the United States Congress and a breeder of Thoroughbreds and champion cattle. Runnymede is now the domain of Catesby W. Clay, a grandson of Col. Clay and one of the most respected breeders in the business. Runnymede bred horses have won virtually every prestigious race on the American racing calendar, including seven runners to compete in the Kentucky Derby with two winners—Ben Brush (1896) and Agile (1905)—and has bred four horses who are enshrined in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame. The history is vast and fascinating. You can read the full account here:

runnymede farm
Runnymede Farm in Paris, KY


Calumet Farm ~ From its humble beginnings in 1924 to its years in the limelight in the mid-20th Century, the name Calumet has resonated through the world of horse racing. Located in Lexington, Calumet Farms has bred 2 Triple Crown winners – Whirlaway (1941), Citation (1948) – 8 Kentucky Derby Winners, 8 Preakness Stakes Winners, 3 National Filly Triple Crown Winners, 11 horses in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame, and much more.

Calumet in Lexington


Claiborne Farm ~ The world-renowned Kentucky Thoroughbred farm has origins in Virginia where Civil War veteran Capt. Richard Hancock raised Thoroughbreds on the Ellerslie Farm of his wife’s family. Capt. Hancock’s son Arthur B. Hancock established a second Thoroughbred farm in Kentucky on the property of his bride, and named it Claiborne. The Kentucky farm gradually eclipsed the Virginia property, and Arthur Hancock launched an operation which strongly influenced the path of American breeding in the first half of the 20th Century. Claiborne is the birthplace of more than 75 Champions – including Secretariat – and 22 members of National Racing Museum’s Hall of Fame were foaled and/or raised at Claiborne.

claiborne farm
Claiborne in Paris, KY near Lexington

Lanes EndLane’s End ~ One of the world’s premier Thoroughbred farms encompasses more than 2,300 acres in Woodford County in the heart of Central Kentucky. A portion of the Lane’s End property was formerly Bosque Bonita Farm (“Beautiful Woods”) a Thoroughbred farm owned by Abe Buford, a general for the Confederacy, and one year before the Battle of the Big Horn, General George Custer came to Bosque Bonita to buy cavalry remounts! In 1979 the first 240 acres of what would become Lane’s End was purchased, and since then Lane’s End and partners have bred more than 290 stakes winners.

Lane’s End farm in Versailles, KY

WinStar Farm ~ Today WinStar Farm is comprised of over 2,400 acres, including the original 450-acre tract of land, once known as Silver Pond Farm. Settled in the 1700’s by the Williams of Tidewater Virginia, the Silver Pond property remained in the family for over 150 years. The original farmhouse, smokehouse, pond, bank barn and Osage orange allee on Pisgah Pike are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the acreage includes land from the Olsen, Johnson and Kinkead farms.

WinStar Farm in Versailles

Of course there are many, many more. Fancy a trip to Kentucky? Most of the farms are less than 50 miles from me, so we can visit a farm or two together!



Sharon Lathan

Sharon Lathan is the best-selling author of The Darcy Saga, a ten-volume sequel series to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

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[…] Kentucky: Home of the Thoroughbred […]


Love this feature, Sharon! How could I not? It’s our home 🙂

Brenda Webb

I love horses! I always have and this was a delight for me to see and read. Thank you!


Growing up in central Arkansas, a visit to Oaklawn Park Racetrack was just a given each spring. We loved to look at the horses before we chose a winner for each race and then cheered loudly for our favorite as they ran. The $20 given to me by my dad allowed me to bet a $2 ticket for each race and a daily double. I usually bet long shots to show. It was such great fun. Horse racing is a beautiful and exciting sport.

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