Most of the thoroughbred farms you visit in Lexington are awash in luxury. Their stallions live in stalls that are more like palaces, in facilities whose very construction sets a standard most people never experience.
Not at Claiborne. At Claiborne these horses live in barns that have stood for nearly a century. Visit a breeding shed that is little more than four walls and a dirt floor. Everything here is simple. They do things the way they’ve done things for centuries. At Claiborne it’s not what you see - it’s what you feel.
What makes this farm great lives in the soil. It lives in the air. In the memory of legends, whose foot falls still echo on the pavement if you listen hard enough. History permeates the walls of the simple white barns with yellow trim. One single stall has seen the likes of Bold Ruler. Secretariat. Easy Goer. And Unbridled. One stall. Walk along the shedrow and you’ll find countless other names that will stop a racing fan in their tracks, take their breath away. For just a moment, the legend comes to life, again for some, for the first time for others. For just a moment they come out of the pages of history and breathe again. They were real. This is where they lived. And you’re walking in their footsteps right now.
There is a cemetery next to the main office, one of three on all that acreage, that’s girded by a well-kept hedge. Inside, a courtyard of headstones bear the names of two Triple Crown winners, five Kentucky Derby winners, and some of the greatest stallions this sport has ever seen. I’ve never been here and not seen roses on the final resting place of Secretariat. Here, in this place, he will never be forgotten.
Claiborne Farm is unique in the Bluegrass. It’s a place out of time. The farm you see today is little changed from a hundred years ago. Drive past the gate and you enter a place where racing is still in its heyday. There are different heads peeking out from over those stalls. New coats of paint on the wood. But the same spirit endures. And hopefully always will.