Horse farms will open doors to visitors during WEG

Two years after winning the 1998 Kentucky Derby, Real Quiet was helped by groom Jesse Hendrix at The Vinery, the farm on Spurr Road where Real Quiet stands at stud.
Two years after winning the 1998 Kentucky Derby, Real Quiet was helped by groom Jesse Hendrix at The Vinery, the farm on Spurr Road where Real Quiet stands at stud. LEXINGTON HERALD LEADER

Lexington is known for is its accessibility to the Thoroughbred stars that reside on the horse farms that dot its landscape.

With the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games set to begin its run on Sept. 25 and the influx of equine enthusiasts expected to visit Central Kentucky, some top farms are expanding the opportunities for visitors to get an up-close view of the signature industry.

That glance behind the scenes in turn gives the Thoroughbred racing world a chance to attract new fans.

As the owner and breeder of this year's Derby winner Super Saver, WinStar Farm has been inundated with requests to see its sprawling facilities and has responded by offering as many as four free tours a day of its stallion barn from Sept. 18 through Oct. 17.

"We had steadily been getting a call a day for the past few months, and now we're getting multiple calls a day," said Amy Nave, bloodstock assistant for WinStar. "It's a good opportunity to be open for so many people, and it's one of the things we wanted to do for Lexington and WEG."

Three Chimneys Farm, home to two Kentucky Derby winners in Smarty Jones and Big Brown, is offering several tour options daily through Horse Capital Tours, including driving tours of the yearling and broodmare divisions as well as the stallion complex.

Tom Simon's Vinery Stud farm that many Lexington residents have driven past on Spurr Road is part of a global breeding and racing operation that has a division in Australia.

Vinery will give a group of about 40 fans from Australia the chance to see the American arm of the farm with a special tour of its grounds on Sept. 25.

Offering tours is just one way Central Kentucky's farms are doing their part to support WEG and its participants. Castleton Lyons, which is just down the road from the Kentucky Horse Park, is making beds available for members of the Irish team who will be competing at the Games.

And the endurance competition taking place on Sept. 26 would have been impossible if it were not for nearby farms like Mt. Brilliant, Cobra Farm and Kentuckiana Farm allowing the 100-mile event to go through their farms. Cobra and Kentuckiana are each hosting small private parties during the endurance event.

"You know, I really don't know that there is that much of a gap between the Thoroughbred people and the sport-horse people because so many of the Thoroughbred people are involved in event horses or dressage or hunter/jumpers," said Mike Owens, manager of Cobra Farm, which is also hosting opera singer Denyce Graves, who will sing at the Games' opening ceremonies.

The efforts the farms are making come at one of the busiest times of the year in the Thoroughbred industry. The Keeneland September yearling sale runs from Sept. 12 through Sept. 26. And the Keeneland race meet begins Oct. 8 and leads into the Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5 and 6.

"Just because the Games are going on, you can't change the schedule of the farm or the stallions," said Michael Hernon, director of sales for Gainesway Farm. "It is a busy time, and then it's a balancing act in a way. You want to try to accommodate people, but you also don't want people randomly showing up."

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