Back in turn-of-the-20th century czarist Russia, an American man revolutionized standardbred racing.
For his efforts, he got one heck of a gift — a cloisonné Fabergé punch bowl tray and ladle with cups made in an elaborate C-shaped handle style.
The set was presented by 43 members of the Russian racing elite to legendary horseman Frank Caton (1852-1926) to celebrate the success of Caton's breeding, training and racing methods in Russia.
But the set has led something of a peripatetic life on its way to its current resting place at the International Museum of the Horse at the Kentucky Horse Park.
It left Russia via Siberia in 1917 as the Russian revolution sent Caton and his family back to the United States. But the set has also spent some time in living rooms on Bon Air and Cooper drives in Lexington with its current owner, Caton descendant Bill Sims, a University of Kentucky graduate and retired Air Force colonel.
Now the indescribably expensive set — sterling silver with cloisonné enamels in turquoise, pink, white and green — is on long-term loan to the horse museum.
It was created by the workshop of Karl Fabergé in 1900. Fabergé, a Russian jeweler, was best known for his Fabergé eggs, made using precious metals and gemstones.
The decorative punch bowl set — not intended for liquid refreshment, just as Fabergé eggs were never plopped into Easter baskets — has traveled with Sims to Florida, California and Texas.
How much does it cost?
Sims describes it only as having "a whole lot of zeros" in its estimated worth — so many that it's something of a relief to have it in a museum rather than in the San Antonio house he shares with his wife Suwapee.
Sims, 77, and Suwapee made a trip with friends Jake and Glenna Graves of Lexington to see the Fabergé display on Friday.
Graves called the Fabergé items "iconic" and "one of the major acquisitions of the standardbred world.
"The idea that it would be displayed here in my hometown in the horse park — when I saw a picture, I cried," Sims said. "This is a very emotional moment for me."
The museum display shows pictures of standardbred horses racing at the Moscow Hippodrome, which is still in existence and apparently still has a wall devoted to Caton's racing accomplishments.
Caton's son-in-law, Will Rosemire, settled in Lexington. Sims is Rosemire's grandson.
"To have it here in my hometown, I'm just overwhelmed," Sims said. "I grew up sitting in my grandfather's lap at the Red Mile when he was training and racing himself."
If you go
International Museum of the Horse at the Kentucky Horse Park
4089 Iron Works Pike
Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Adult: $16 (includes park admission)
Child 7-12: $8 (includes park admission)
Children 6 and under: free
Admission prices also include admission to the Parade of Breeds Show, Horse Drawn Trolley Tour and more.
Also available is a "museum only" ticket, available year-round at a cost of $8 per adult, $4 per child 7-12, which includes admission to the International Museum of the Horse and American Saddlebred Museum only.
Prices are different during the winter season, which begins Nov. 4. Call the horse park at (859) 259-4232 for details.