Kentucky Farm Time Capsule: Elmendorf Farm

In the world of Thoroughbred breeding, the same names come up again and again, whether as roots or as branches in the family trees of top racehorses. The same is true of farm names, which often crop up over and over in the history books. This week, we’re launching a series looking back at some of the big stable names of yesteryear, and finding out whether horses still live on their land today.

One of the oldest names in the Kentucky racing business was Elmendorf Stock Farm, which occupied various pieces of land along the Paris Pike/Iron Works Pike/Russell Cave road corridor from the 1870s forward.

Although it existed as farm land for several decades beforehand, the property was originally christened Elmendorf in 1881 by Daniel Swigert, who used an old family name for his new farm. Swigert bought the farm from Milton Sanford, who had called it Preakness Stud, named after his horse and Triple Crown race namesake, Preakness.

Under Swigert’s management, the farm produced Hall of Famers Firenze and Salvator, and Kentucky Derby winners Ben Ali and Apollo. Swigert also bred Kentucky Derby winners Baden-Baden and Hindoo and himself was the eventual great-grandsire of Leslie Combs II, who started Spendthrift Farm. Combs named Spendthrift after of one of Swigert’s horses.

The farm passed through the hands of Con Enright and on to James Ben Ali Haggin in 1897. Haggin was a colorful character, a self-made man whose fortune, at its height, was dwarfed only by John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. He made his money in copper and gold mining in the West. At the time he bought Elmendorf – then about 545 acres – he had built a sizable operation at Rancho Del Paso in California. Within a few years, Haggin had sold his California farm, purchased adjoining properties to Elmendorf and expanded it to encompass 8,900 acres and over 2,000 horses. At its largest, Elmendorf included a training center, a stallion complex that stood 43 stallions, a dairy, a power plant, a grain elevator, a greenhouse complex filled with tropical fruits, and a barn for Haggin’s coach horses. Allegedly, Haggin also installed “one of the finest henneries in the country” when he discovered there were no eggs in the house for his breakfast one morning.

A diagram of Elmendorf’s facilities at its largest, via the Lexington History Museum

Under Haggin’s ownership, Elmendorf produced 200 to 400 yearlings each year, making him the owner of more horses than C.V. Whitney and August Belmont put together, according to the Lexington Morning Herald. Haggin managed the property hands-on until an advanced age, which most reporters guessed to be his late eighties or early nineties. They had to guess at the time because he was sensitive about revealing his exact age. Upon being told he looked “at least twenty years younger” than his rumored eighty nine years, Haggin demanded “Who said I was eighty nine?” and concluded, “Well, eighty is enough. I am eighty years old.”

Haggin died in 1914 (for the record, he was 92), and Elmendorf was sold in pieces. The central portion went to Joseph and George Widener, brothers from New York with established racing names. Under Joseph Widener’s reign, the farm housed Fair Play and Mahubah, the eventual sire and dam of Man o’ War.

Maxwell Gluck purchased Elmendorf in 1950, jumping into the business with both feet. Gluck, who made his fortune selling women’s apparel, owned two horses before buying the farm. One of them won just one race in four seasons of trying. The second won the 1951 Camden Handicap, only to keel over and die after the race.

“I asked myself, ‘How the hell do I get another stakes horse?’” Gluck told the Lexington Herald-Leader. “I realized then that you make them yourself.”

One of the old round barns at Elmendorf. From the University of Kentucky’s collection

The soft-spoken Gluck rose to the top of national breeding standings in the 1970s with his breed-to-race operation producing about 50 foals per year. He was leading breeder in 1973, 1981, and 1982 by money won. His style, together with pedigree advisor Bob Bricken, was to seek quality mares, often imports from England, with family emphasis in distance. Gluck’s sharp eye for pedigree earned him the Eclipse Award as outstanding owner in 1977 and later, the P.A.B. Widener Trophy for outstanding achievement. Top Elmendorf horses under Gluck’s tenure were Prince John (who became sire of Stage Door Johnny and damsire of Alleged and Cozzene among others) and Eclipse Award winners Protagonist and Talking Picture. Elmendorf’s multiple graded stakes winner Verbatim sired Hall of Fame champion mare Princess Rooney.

Gluck died in 1984 and stipulated in his will the farm be sold together with its stock. Jack Kent Cooke, flamboyant owner of the Washington Redskins and Los Angeles Lakers, purchased the farm and kept his broodmares there until 1997, when he sold the property to Dinwiddie Lampton.

With a lifetime spanning more than a century, Elmendorf has seen its fair share of tragedy. Shortly after selling the property to Milton Sanford in 1874, former owner WT Hughes was shot and killed by his uncle over a financial dispute as he vacated the property for a new home in central Kentucky. Another former owner, Carter Harrison, was assassinated in his Chicago dining room in 1893 over a business dispute. The farm lost several dozen horses in the early 1900s to barn fires; one of them was believed to be arson committed by the night watchman, according to the Lexington Leader, another the result of a lightning strike, and a third whose cause was not immediately apparent. In more recent times, a driving accident at the farm resulted in the death of Elizabeth Lampton, wife of Dinwiddie.

Various pieces of the original Elmendorf are still in operation. Parts of it, on the east side of Paris Pike, were eventually turned into the modern Gainesway Farm. Clovelly Farm, which was purchased by Golden Age Farm in 2011, and Normandy Farm, are both in operation as Thoroughbred farms today. Some of the land that forms the modern-day Dixiana Farm was also part of Elmendorf under the Haggin administration.

The post Kentucky Farm Time Capsule: Elmendorf Farm appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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