Open houses are a great way to see upcoming and established stallions before or after the breeding season. But what if you cannot make it or the farm limits the viewing opportunity to breeders only? A good way to see those stallions again is through the Horse Country tours! I’ve done one in the past to see California Chrome, and it was a great experience because they even brought out the rest of the stallions to give Chrome some time to breathe. This post is about another event that happens through Visit Horse Country: Meet the NEIGHbors. This is reserved for locals (Kentucky residents) and is a chance to see some of the farms that you’d only driven by before.
So, while you out of towners might not be able to get tickets, many of these opportunities are also available as a regular tour that can be booked year round or whenever the season permits. These aren’t limited to just stallions. I know Stonestreet opens up tours to see their broodmares and babies (that includes Rachel’s Valentina, the daughter of Hall of Fame mare, Rachel Alexandra)! You’ll have to glance through and see what strikes your interest!
Starting out, the very first picture you see on this page is of Collected! If you remember, he was the buzz horse coming into the 2018 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs but ended up not getting into the race. So, the owners retired him for a rather anticlimactic end to a great career. We learned that he has an extremely good mind: he came onto the farm cranked and ready for a huge race but with no where to burn out all that power. He was turned out and comfortable that weekend, that’s how quickly he adapted to the life of a stallion. A fun fact: Collected enjoys keeping himself clean and was the only horse not covered in a thick layer of mud for the tour. I cannot guarantee that’ll never change, but he was a sight to behold all the same. He’s quite the camera ham too!
Also at the front of the stallion barn is Cairo Prince. He was a flashy, talented racer by Pioneerof the Nile (American Pharoah’s sire) and even had a colt on the Derby trail until Cairo Cat had to be sidelined earlier this year.
Cairo was very eager for people to admire him. He ran up and down the fence, posing when appropriate, and always kept a good eye on us…just in case a straggler needed one last moment of reverence. As par for any grey horse -clearly visible in the picture- he enjoyed trying to turn himself into a brown horse. The coverage was a bit patchy, but he was consistent. A for the effort.
He’s quite the character and finally picking up steam as a stallion. Like many, the poor guy has been the victim of the industry’s “flavor of the month” mentality. The week before Cairo Cat won his stakes race at Churchill, no one wanted to look at his offspring (I believe it was one of the yearling sales). Post victory, everyone and their mother suddenly wanted to look at every Cairo Prince yearling Airdrie was offering. It’s an infuriating mentality but it means that shrewd buyers looking for racing quality and not a quick market flip can find a bargain. When those bargains do well, they make those of us who liked them from the start look very smart. 😉
Another student in the art of mud rolling is Upstart.
He’s raced against some of the most popular stallions including: Daredevil, Frosted, Carpe Diem, and American Pharoah. Particularly, he ran against the Triple Crown winner three times. He was only out of the money four times in his career with one of those instances being in the Derby. You can’t fault a horse for not enjoying a spectacle like what you see in Louisville on the first Saturday in May.
That being said, he’s been well supported in his retirement. He enjoys a good run through his paddock, a good roll to keep things interesting for his grooms, and trying to eat the occasional lens that sticks too far beyond the fence. Be wary, photographers or you might find your camera galloping off without you attached.
He’s very friendly though. It happened to be a dreary day when I was touring but you’re bound to capture some memories worth sharing. He’s magnificent in person, so make sure you come prepared to take many pictures. You won’t even realize how many times you go back to him (like I did) until you get home and review. But, he’s worth every frame!
Summer Front was our tour guide’s favorite stallion for his remarkable kindness and even keel. You can just look at him and tell that he’s a good sort. His eyes reflect no ill-will.
He exudes peace. Why? I don’t know. It’s just the feeling I got from him.
He’s the son of War Front, who stands for a princely $250,000 at Claiborne Farm. That’s another place to tour if you can find the time, but that’s its own post. Summer Front was a turf horse -everyone before this was on dirt- and he also made frequent appearances in Gr. I races. They’re the highest caliber a racehorse can achieve and as a result, come with the hardest competition to beat. He never won, but came agonizingly close on three occasions; all 2nd place efforts within two lengths of the winner.
Despite just missing, he’s another millionaire in Airdrie’s pastures and his first 2YOs will be racing this year. His best years were late in his career though, so maybe give his offspring some slack if they don’t immediately burn up the track. They’ll get there.
Creative Cause was the last of the group that were toward the front of the barn. I say this because these guys were calm enough to be across the road from some mares, so they lived in the pastures closest to the road. The rest had to be further back or they’d get so worked up about potential girlfriends in sight that the concern was someone trying to jump the fence.
No concerns for CC though. He was more preoccupied with posing near his sign. He was quite proud of it. People on the tour even asked if they’d taught the horses to pose, but there never was any need. Some racehorses are attention seekers by instinct after years on the track and besides, why wouldn’t you give it to them? Look at that adorable face.
Creative Cause is clearly another not defeating the stereotype of “greys always find the dirtiest puddles”. Even in the time that we were touring, he rolled twice and got the entire right side of his head thoroughly caked. This happened after he egged on and raced Mark Valeski up the hill. They’re pasture neighbors and allegedly hold their own contests of speed. No one keeps tally though. Don’t want to hurt any feelings.
Unfortunately, an hour just isn’t enough time to see everyone. I wanted to take more, but our visit was over. You’ll want to spend a minimum of half an hour and half your memory card on one horse because they’re so much fun to be around. They’re playful, inquisitive and occasionally, a show off. I’ve included a slideshow with all the pictures from the event including a few horses I did not mention above: McCraken and Include are in a photo together and Mark Valeski showing off (bay running).
I hope you enjoy them and if you’re interested in booking your own tour with Visit Horse Country, click here, and it’ll bounce you straight to their page. You can purchase tickets or find out more from there! Happy touring, everyone!
**As always, please do not share or reproduce these pictures (any of them on this entire website) without asking permission. I am crazy and have gotten pages taken down for theft before. Be honest, please.**