Lexington, Kentucky, October 2016

What a legendary week!

A trip by Nikolaus Matzka

The Big Barn of the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Left to right: Groom Jenny Leslie, Nikolaus Matzka, Mr. Muscleman.
All pictures by Nikolaus Matzka, if not otherwise mentioned.   Foto: Keely Gusting

I was going from Vienna, Austria, via Paris CDG to Cincinnati, OH, then with the car to Lexington, KY, arriving there on wednesday night, October 5. The night before, the Lexington Yearling Sales had it’s first sensational day with the 800.000 Dollar yearling Tactical Landing, a full brother to Mission Brief and the most expensive yearling in Lexington Sales´ history.

Day 1 – October 6.

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Jenny Leslie in the Hall of Champions with Won The West

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First, I made the Kentucky Horse Park, a really nice place to stay, no matter if you are interested only in Standardbreds, Thoroughbreds or other kind of horses. You feel, they make it with love and you don’t have to do everything they offer, it’s nice and unpalatable at all.

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For me, especially the cemetery for famous Trotting Horses has been extremely interesting, one can find really impressive names of Trotters with enormous influence to the breed. Since the Park is situated on the place of old Walnut Hall Stud (sold in 1972 to the Commonwealth of Kentucky), you´ll see names like Rodney, Evensong, Bret Hanover and many others in history of all kind of breeds.

A special highlight for the audience is without doubt the Kentucky Horse Park Hall of Champions. 8 horses, Thoroughbreds, Pacers & Trotters, are currently in that kind of Hall of Fame.

Only 4 of them are presented by different grooms in a very respectful way. Each of these horses has been a champion of the race track, excellently commented video recordings attest to it.

In my case it was Go For Gin (Thoroughbred, won 1,4 Million Dollars), Won The West (Pacer, won 4 Million Dollars), Funny Cide (Thoroughbred, won 3,5 Million Dollars) and Da Hoss (Thoroughbred, won 1,9 Million Dollars). Everyone of them a unique individual.

After I come from Europe, my main topic are Trotters. My home country Austria hosts the oldest Trotting Derby in the world (first run in 1884) at the historic racetrack of Vienna-Krieau. So, my personal interest was of course Mr. Muscleman, the great gelded Trotter, a bargain in the auction ring, a winner of fabulous 3,5 Million Dollars, a very unlucky looser of the Elitloppet at Stockholm-Solvalla – an all time hero of mine! (Unfortunately, this unbelievable bargain as a yearling was soon gelded. As a son of Muscles Yankee out of the Minnehaha maternal line he could have been an influential sire, even he is a mighty horse of size.)


Kentucky Horse Park Magazine

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I met groom Jennifer Leslie while preparing Won The West (a legendary Pacer with earnings of nearly 4 Million Dollars out of a famous maternal, mostly trotting line) for the presentation for the show. She recognized my interest for Mr. Muscleman and offered to present him for me after – well, great service! (Even the big horse was hungry, but waited patiently until the Foto Session was over.)

In the evening, it was Auction Time…

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Gene Carter, 90 years old,
with Thoroughbred Funny Cide

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Day 2 – October 7.

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I was lucky because during my entire stay there was wonderful weather (the first two days really hot), so I could enjoy the fantastic scenery of the famous Bluegrass region. (My rented Chevy Impala was a relieable and powerful helper …) I started this day at Kentuckiana Farms in Georgetwon near Lexington. It was very quiet in that huge area, more or less surprisingly I met legendary broodmare Flirtin Victory on her paddock. The now 22 year old Valley Victory mare out of the Speedy Crown mare Miss Flirt had and has a great impact in the breed, see the list of her descendants on the right hand side.

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Flirtin Victory

Descendants of Flirtin Victory

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Thoroughbred Racetrack

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From Kentuckiana it’s not too far to one of the most famous Farms in harness racing, Walnut Hall, founded in 1892. I guess they have the cemetery with the most sounding names of trotters and pacers of the past until today´s times. You are welcomed by a statue of Guy Axworthy, one of the most influential sires of the early 20th century. Unfortunately the Axworthy line seems to be extinct, if not a miracle happens (like it did with the axis Songcan – Nearly Perfect – Sierra Kosmos).

One can see the tombstones of the great line founders Volomite (founder of the Star´s Pride- and Victory Song-line) and Scotland (founder of the Speedster/Speedy Crown-Line).

The huge areal was the home for the most famous stallions in history. Today, there is only Groton Hall (Conway Hall – Garbo Hall – Lindy Lane/ a sire that is linebred 2x4 to the famous mare Amour Angus, her grave can bee seen also at the Walnut Hall cemetry like the ones of other mares with great influence like Impish, for example) as a cheap price stallion standing in Kentucky, some other stallions are doing their duty in other states. So, the stallion barn is more or less empty, but one can find stables with famous names (and their holsters) like – alphabetical – Cash Hall (by Self Possessed), Conway Hall (by Garland Lobell), Deweycheatumnhowe (by Muscles Yankee), Striking Sahbra (by Supergill), Tom Ridge (by Muscles Yankee), Windsong Espoir (by Kadabra), and the legendary snappy Pacer Campbest (by Cam Fella).

In the afternoon I drove to Keeneland Thoroughbred Racetrack, that opened the fall season meeting exactly at that day. Because I am not that big fan of the Thoroughbreds (even I like to watch their pedigrees!) I came late to the 9th race, a 400.000 Dollar Grade 1. The atmosphere was very interesting, especially on the hill in front of the racecourse and in the courtyard. You could see a lot of well-dressed young people in a special condition, the races on the other side of the grandstand seemed to be a side issue or for the hardcore horse fans only.

In the evening I went for dinner in Lexington in a typical american restaurant opposite the opera house (where they mostly play Musicals). Then I took a look again at the sensational Lexington 2016 Selected Yearling Sale at Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion, where I listened to the auktionary at her incredibly fast, musically most interesting work. After my budget was not enough to buy only one leg of a horse, I left it mainly to the American, Swedish and Canadian buyers to pull the stars of tomorrow to land.

Result Lexington Yearling Sales 2016 (Google Translate recommended)

Day 3 – October 8.

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After breakfast, I took my way to legendary Stoner Creek Farm (picture above), now operated under the name Hunterton Farm. Hunterton Farm and Sales Agency was extremely successful at Lexington this year, I guess, the first day with the sales of the pacer mare Come See The Show and the trotting colt Tactical Landing to 550,000 respectively 800,000 dollars will remain for a long time in remembrance. (Needless to say that their sires Somebeachsomewhere and Muscle Hill were also by far the most successful of the auction.)

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A bargain?

Well, the drive from Lexington to Paris, Kentucky, in autumn is one of the most beautiful Bluegrass has to offer, the discoloring trees, magnificent … 

From the stress of the auction at Stoner Creek/Hunterton nothing to feel, the friendly lady in the office describes me the way to so many illustrious names of my youth, so I followed the path. 

Here they are, my both heroes! My old friend Mack Lobell, legendary world record trotter, did his breeding duty here before beeing shipped to Europe where he was named as a Elite Stallion in Sweden. He died this year with 32 years.

And Nevele Pride, legendary evil trotter, who broke the world record of Greyhound after incomprehensible 31 years. Nevele Pride may not have been happily managed in terms of his stud career. But it looks as if his line would last forever. After his son Zoot Suit became five time champion sire in Sweden, and with From Above a very successful son in the breed, it is above all France that holds up his legacy. The catchword is given with Ready Cash, great-great-great-grandson of Nevele Pride, the most successful French trotter of all time, and above all a stallion, which surpasses all the surveys and can only be instantly compared with Muscle Hill in North America. His fee has been raised from 8,000 Euros to 30,000 Euros for 2017, reminiscent of the historical fees of stallions like Speedy Crown, Valley Victory, Speedy Somolli (in Sweden) or Sharif di Iesolo (in Italy). And of course Muscle Hill ...

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In the afternoon, I was drawn to the red mile, there I saw some set world records, which gave a promise for the next race day.

In the evening, auction again. The current trend to buy the first offspring of a mare seems unbroken ...

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The Grandstand of The Red Mile

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Day 4 – October 9.

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From left to right:
Dean A. Hoffman,
Nikolaus Matzka,
David Carr
Foto: Chris Tully

Kentucky Futurity Day at The Red Mile. It started with a breakfast with Dean A. Hoffman, legendary harness racing journalist, editor of HOOF BEATS, great bookwriter – an icon of mine! The time was barely enough to exchange all the experiences on both sides of the Atlantic, and it was time to head to the racetrack. (Fortunately, Dean will come to Vienna over New Years Eve, as the talks can go on, luckily there is also a racing day on January 1 at the historic Vienna Krieau Racetrack, built in the year 1878.)

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Tombstone of Miss Bertha Dillon at the inside of The Red Mile

The Racing Day, in short, was not but sensational. A new world record in harness racing done by Always B Miki and Dave Miller, who also drove the great trotting filly Broadway Donna to a great victory in the Kentucky Filly Futurity. Then the Triple Crown of trotters came down with Marion Marauder, this great trained colt by Paula Wellwood. 

Beside Dean, elected to the Communicators Hall of Fame in 2006, I met great persons on that day like David Carr of the USTA (elected Communicators Hall of Fame in 2015), Janet T. Terhune, Director of the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame in Goshen, New York, with whom I have been in contact for more than 20 years, but first met her personally. I was further pleased to meet Elizabeth Caldwell, whose parents bred no lesser horse than Moni Maker, still the all time most winning female trotting horse. Legendary USTA photographer Chris Tully was so kind to take a picture of Dean, David and me.

The 9 Triple Crown Winners

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Cover Racing Program
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Always B Miki and Dave Miller
in 1:46 – the fastest
Harness Race in history!

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Trainer Jimmy Takter
with his wife Christina
after the historical race

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X-ray of a bone of Always B Miki

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Broadway Donna

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Marion Marauder (11) outstrips Southwind Frank at the last step

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Waiting for the Triple Crown ...

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Done it !!!

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Scott Zeron and Trainer Paula Wellwood on the Floral Chair

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Janet T. Terhune, Director of the Harness Racing Museum in Goshen, New York, 
with Nikolaus Matzka

The Trotting Triple Crown was inaugurated in 1955 when The Yonkers Trot joined the Kentucky Futurity (raced since 1893) and the Hambletonian (since 1926) for a series. Right in the very first year, Scott Frost won all of the three races. The longest interruption of a Triple Crown winner was between 1972 (Super Bowl) and 2004 (Windsong´s Legacy), so 32 years. Only colts could win the Triple Crown so far, some of them later with tremendous success in the breeding barn.

1955 Scott Frost (Hoot Mon – Nora – Spencer)
Motherline: Mambrino Beauty (Nervolo Belle)
1963 Speedy Scot (Speedster – Scotch Love – Victory Song)
Motherline: Esther
1964 Ayres (Star´s Pride – Arpege – Hoot Mon)
Motherline: Midnight
1968 Nevele Pride (Star´s Pride – Thankful – Hoot Mon)
Motherline: Lizzie Witherspooon
1969 Lindy´s Pride (Star´s Pride – Galena Hanover – Spencer Scott)
Motherline: Miss Sears
1972 Super Bowl (Star´s Pride – Pillow Talk – Rodney)
Motherline: Contention
2004 Windsong´s Legacy (Conway Hall – Yankee Windsong – Prakas)
Motherline: Mambrino Beauty (Nervolo Belle)
2006 Glidemaster (Yankee Glide – Cressida Hanover – Mister Lavec)
Motherline: Miss Copeland
2016 Marion Marauder (Muscle Hill – Spellbound Hanover – Donerail)
Motherline: Sally Sovereign (Maggie H.)

In the bike with Scott Zeron winning the Kentucky Futurity (and the Triple Crown) 

Souvenier Journal HRM


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