Five top spots for horse lovers

jpatton1@herald-leader.comSeptember 22, 2011 

For a horse lover, the greatest experiences are fleeting. But that doesn't mean you can't honor the fleet of foot.

Many spots in Kentucky are devoted to immortalizing equine greatness. Here are a few of the best places to see the swift and the dead.

Barbaro's statue, Churchill Downs, Louisville. The 2006 Kentucky Derby winner was a huge fan favorite even before his untimely death in January 2007 due to laminitis following a broken leg in the Preakness. Some of his ashes are in the base of the sculpture, which is frequently adorned with roses and apples, particularly around the first Saturday in May.

While there you can also stop by the Kentucky Derby Museum. Visit: Derbymuseum.org.

Man o' War statue, Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington. The iconic life-sized statue of perhaps the greatest racehorse ever was commissioned for his grave, which was originally at Faraway Farm, where he stood at stud for 16 years. He died at 30 in 1947.

Man o' War won 20 out 21 races; his only loss came to a horse named Upset. In the golden age of horse racing, he set five American records and seven track records. When he died, thousands came to view the beloved stallion as he lay in state or to attend his funeral, which was broadcast live on the radio. He was embalmed and buried in a satin-lined casket. Both the statue and his remains were moved to the park in 1977. Visit: Kyhorsepark.com.

Claiborne Farm's cemetery, Paris. It would be hard to top this 100-year-old farm's grave sites, which are a collection of Thoroughbred greatness. Buried here are Secretariat, Riva Ridge, Mr. Prospector and Unbridled, among many others.

Claiborne is a private working farm, but tours can be arranged in advance through its Web site or by phone. Tours are free, but a tip is customary. Visit: Claibornefarm.com. Other horse farms in the Bluegrass also conduct tours. For suggestions and for package tour companies, visit the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau at Visitlex.com.

Hamburg Farm's horse cemetery, Sir Barton Way, Lexington. The horseshoe-shaped memorial has the gravestones of such racing luminaries as 1898 Kentucky Derby winner Plaudit; Lady Sterling, mother of Sir Barton, the first Triple Crown winner in 1919; and Bel Sheba, the mother of 1987 Derby winner Alysheba.

The site is not the original resting place of the horses; the remains and headstones were moved from the 97-year-old graveyard in 2005 as the former horse farm off Winchester Road continued to be developed..

The Keeneland library, at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, is the place to go to understand the sheer depth of racing history. The research library contains centuries of records, including the Daily Racing Form's archives and more than 225,000 photo negatives.

The collection has been called "the soul of Keeneland." Head librarian Cathy Schenck has assisted writers with everything from books to high school term papers. The library is open to the public. Visit: Keeneland.com.

More Central Kentucky bucket lists:

Reach Janet Patton at (859) 231-3264 or 1-800-950-6397, ext. 3264.

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