My Horse Country Tour – Part 2
Still in my first day of visiting the Horse Capital of the World, Lexington, Kentucky. After the fun morning at Claiborne Farms meeting all the Stallions and paying tribute to Secretariat we moved on to Denali Farms. Unfortunately summer time in Kentucky means rain, thunderstorms, high humidity and high temperatures. We experienced most of that.
Denali Stud Farm Tour
Our next horse country tour at Denali Stud was the big raining portion of the day. So much of a downpour that I was only able to shoot with my Nikon camera from under the barn eaves. We wore our raincoats and brought umbrellas but it really wasn’t practical to be shooting. I will be sure and order a rain cover for my camera and lens before my next trip.
“Now in our third decade, Denali Stud is consistently among the leading consignors of yearlings, weanlings and broodmares at public auctions in Kentucky and New York. Equally as important as the commercial success, is the racetrack performance of our graduates. More than 400 stakes horses have emerged from Denali consignments, including numerous racing stars who have gone on to lucrative stud careers.”
The farm had just completed it’s foaling season and there were a LOT of baby horses everywhere. The woman who gave us the tour was also busy getting prepared for one of the big upcoming sales. Craig Bandoroff and his family own and operate this beautiful farm. Although the name may indicate the Stallion list, Denali Stud is central Kentucky’s leading thoroughbred nurseries.
The Queen of Denali is Serena’s Song: She won 17 graded stakes races, including 11 Grade I (some against males and older mares), in three seasons for $3,286,388 in earnings.
Although it was disappointing that it rained that afternoon at Denali, it was still refreshing to enjoy the rain and get a tour of their facility.
Mill Ridge Farm Tour
Our final Horse Country tour that day was Mill Ridge Farm and we certainly saved the best for last! The clouds cleared and the rain stopped within just a few minutes of our arrival. We were treated to a rare invitation inside the office to chat with the owner, Headley Bell. “Mill Ridge was started by Alice Chandler in 1962 and has been raising and selling racehorses in Lexington, Kentucky ever since. From riding her pony through her father Hal Price Headley’s Beaumont Farm as a child to being one of the most recognized women in American horse racing, her horsemanship, passion, and stories are second to none.” We learned that Alice was Headley’s mother and she passed away earlier this year. Alice was quite the pioneer in the Horse Racing industry and her family has carried on that amazing tradition.
“Alice founded Mill Ridge so she could raise and be around her life’s passion, the horse. That passion still exists today in our care of the animal and in the results they produce. Promoting, protecting, and raising the horse in the most thoughtful and caring way, is the foundation of Mill Ridge Farm. A soft hand, a watchful eye, and thorough care are the keystones of Mill Ridge’s horsemanship. Echoing through all facets of life on Mill Ridge Farm is Alice’s life’s motto: “Take care of the horse, and it will take care of you”.
You can feel that passion and motto throughout the farm and the people who care for the operation of this farm. Headley gave a great history lesson and showed us some of his treasured memorabilia in his office. We also met his son, Price Bell who is taking over operations of the Farm.
Headley offers his breeding expertise through Nicoma, a spin off business of breeding consulting which includes sales, insurance, appraisals, consulting and more. “The name Nicoma has a very special meaning in my family. We are indebted to her and named the bloodstock agency in her honor. My grandfather, one of the founders of Keeneland left 286 acres and a portion of what is now known as Mill Ridge Farm, to my mother after his death in 1962. NICOMA was one of the first mares she bought and subsequently produced five stakes winners.”
Among the famed racehorse success stories are Barbaro, Artie Schiller, Havre de Grace, and in 2016, Oscar Performance whom we got to meet.
Headley genuinely and respectfully spoke with us and shared his stories, even though we were clueless at the time of the importance of where we were.
Our private tour with Tia was incredible. She also educated us on the history of the Farm. Tia’s beautiful mare, Creative Grace is on the farm and we met her as well as her beautiful little filly, currently named “Lil Grace”. Sired by Oscar Performance. They were out in pasture with other mares and foals in the final baby pasture of the 2021 season. Tia found herself at the Farm so much that she offered to join the team of Mill Ridge Farm as an ambassador and tour guide. Tia took us from pasture to pasture, from one scenic vista to the next and it was all so breathtaking. Rolling green hills as far as the eye could see lined with rows of black fence. Each road designed to only be seen while you are on it and lovely trees planted throughout. It’s poetic to look across and to photograph. We appreciated the family’s love of the land as well as the horses here. It was here that the idea of the tours for the local farms came to fruition with the “Horse Country” Tours. Tia mentioned that was it was the brainchild of Price Bell, and I certainly appreciate that idea!
Jody Miller is a professional photographer specializing in Horse Photography, Equine Photography, and Equestrian photography. Her work can be viewed online here in her gallery section, and she is also featured at these Arizona Galleries: Van Gogh’s Ear Gallery on Whiskey Row in Prescott, AZ and Coops Coffee House at Talking Rock Ranch. Arizona Downs OTB Room offers few of my Canvas work and several images are also available at The Phippen Western Art Museum