One of the best things about Lexington is its scenery. Head out in any direction from the city, and you can be assured of a drive that is spectacular in the gorgeous landscape it offers. Whether you have an hour, a few hours or an entire day, there is a scenic drive waiting to be taken.
Heres a route from Thoroughbred Park to the Kentucky Horse Park that will allow you to see a lot of what the area has to offer:
At Main Street and Midland Avenue, there appears to be a horse race in progress. Visitors find, upon closer inspection, that these horses are bronze sculptures personifying the regions most famous inhabitants. Thoroughbred Park, a unique 2 1/2-acre green space dedicated to the giants of the industry, is a fitting introduction to the Horse Capital of the World.
Go west on Main Street until you reach Broadway, where you will turn right. While on Main, be sure to notice the stylized statue of a prancing horse on your right just past Chase Bank. The horse was a gift from the Peoples Republic of China.
As you turn onto Broadway, on the left you will see the refurbished Victorian Square, which in the 19th century was an area of rowdy bars and saloons.
Just past that, also on the left, is the Lexington Opera House. Built in 1886, it hosted all the greats of the time, including Sarah Bernhardt and Edwin Booth, brother of John Wilkes Booth, Abraham Lincolns assassin. After you cross Third Street, you will be on the campus of Transylvania University, the oldest institution of higher learning west of the Alleghenies (it was founded in 1780). On the campus across from Gratz Park is the Patterson Cabin, thought to be the oldest structure in Lexington (built in 1779.)
Continue on Broadway until it becomes Paris Pike, crossing the New Circle Road intersection and the junction of Interstates 64 and 75. You are now heading into horse country. When you reach Johnston Road, turn right and enter the parking lot of The Thoroughbred Center. Now owned by the Keeneland Association, the center has room for 1,000 horses, which are brought here from around the world to begin the transformation from an awkward colt or filly into a racehorse.
While you are sitting here, look across Paris Pike to Walmac Farm, which has produced some of the most important stallions of the 20th century, including the great Nureyev. Across Johnston Road is the beginning of Gainesway Farm, one of the Bluegrasss premier Thoroughbred farms. Formerly owned by the late John Gaines, who started the Breeders Cup, it is now owned by the family of the late South African tycoon Graham Beck, and it encompasses parts of the former C.V. Whitney and Greentree Stud farms and the original Gainesway acreage.
Continuing down Paris Pike, turn left at Ky. 1973, across from the entrance to Gainesway. After you turn, you will be on Iron Works Pike, where you will see Elmendorf Farm on the right and Spendthrift Farm on the left. Elmendorf dates to the 1800s and got its name from one of the owners, Daniel Swigert, who named it after his wifes grandmother, Blandina Elmendorf. If his wife, Annette, was flattered by this, she was not so pleased when he named one of his stallions Spendthrift, after her extravagance. She retaliated by naming Spendthrifts younger brother Miser.
Swigerts great-grandson, Leslie Combs, named his entire farm Spendthrift, and it was on this farm, which extends almost to Russell Cave Road, that some of the great Thoroughbreds stood at stud: Swaps, Foolish Pleasure, Majestic Prince, Affirmed and the greatest of them all, Nashua, who at the time of his sale in 1955 was the most expensive horse in history, commanding $1,251,200.
Continue on Iron Works Pike, where on your right you will see Domino Farm, named for the 1893 Horse of the Year, Domino, who lived here. This farm and the adjoining farm, Dixiana, are now owned by the same man, Florida businessman William Shively. As you approach Russell Cave Road, you will see Cobra Farm on the left.
Cross Russell Cave Road, where on your left you will see the Jot em Down Store, named after the fictional country store in Arkansas made famous by the comedy duo Lum and Abner in their radio broadcasts of the 1930s and 40s. Not far away on the right is Castleton Lyons, originally known just as Castleton, that was begun by John Breckinridge, a Kentuckian who was U.S. attorney general under President Thomas Jefferson. It has a rich 200-year history, featuring at various times Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds and Saddlebreds. When Tony Ryan of Ireland bought Castleton Lyons in 2001, he set about returning it to its Thoroughbred roots. Ryan died in 2007.
Continue on Iron Works Pike until you reach Newtown Pike at the four-way stop. Continue straight on Iron Works. Ahead on the left down a long, tree-lined entrance is a vast mansion where Jay Gatsby would feel right at home. This is Spindletop Hall, the palatial former estate of Pansy Yount, widow of Frank Yount, who made a fortune with the Spindletop oil gusher in Beaumont, Texas. At the time it was built in the 1930s, it was the most opulent home in Lexington. The mansion is now used by the University of Kentucky as its faculty/alumni club.
End your tour at the Kentucky Horse Park, just up the road from Spindletop on the right.