Elmendorf Farm has been a Kentucky Thoroughbred horse racing fixture in Fayette County, Kentucky since the early 1800s. Once the North Elkhorn Farm near Lexington, Kentucky, many owners and tenants have occupied the splendid spread of blue Kentucky grassland, straight through from the American Civil War--which proved havoc for the sport of horse racing--to this very day.
Milton H. Sanford
In 1874 Milton H. Sanford purchased 544 acres (2.20 km2) on the Paris Pike about six miles (10 km) from Lexington. He named it the Preakness Stud. In the mid-1800s, Sanford moved his Preakness Stables (named for the town of Preakness, New Jersey after which he also named his horse Preakness, the very horse the Preakness Stakes is named for) from New Jersey to North Elkhorn. Here, he continued to use the name Preakness Stables for racing and notably stood the stallion, Virgil, sire of three Kentucky Derby winners.
Eventually, in 1881, Sanford sold the land as well as his bloodstock (including the great stallions Virgil and Glenelg), to Daniel Swigert who had been the manager of the Woodburn Stud as well as a pinhooker, someone who buys horses only to quickly sell them again. Swigert renamed the farm Elmendorf for his wife's grandmother, Blandina Elmendorf Brodhead. Under Swigert, Elmendorf was a pre-eminent establishment growing to perhaps ten thousand acres. For years Swigert ran Elmendorf, breeding many exceptional horses. One was Spendthrift which he named after his wife's spending habits. A while later, Mrs. Annette Brodhead Swigert responded by naming Spendthrift's younger brother, Miser. Other horses were the 1870 Belmont Stakes winner Kingfisher, the 1873 Belmont Stakes winner Springbok, and the 1877 Kentucky Derby winner Baden-Baden. Swigert bred Salvator, Firenze, and the Kentucky Derby winners Ben Ali and Apollo. The horse he not only bred, but raced, was the great Hindoo. Daniel Swigert sold Elmendorf in October of 1891 to Con J. Enright.
Con J. Enright
Con Enright purchased Elmendorf in October of 1891. He owned it for less than six years and imported several good breeding mares from Europe. Enright most notably bred U.S. Racing Hall of Fame inductee, Hamburg. He sold the farm to James Ben Ali Haggin.
James Ben Ali Haggin
James Ben Ali Haggin, who already had had much success with Thoroughbreds in his Rancho Del Paso spread in California, bought not only Elmendorf in 1897, but expanded it by also buying quite a few of the farms surrounding Elmendorf. Haggin built a $300,000 mansion on a small hill overlooking Elk Horn which he called "Green Hills," a great Southern Mansion in style and feeling. He also built a model dairy farm and a greenhouse which he filled with exotic plants. In buying Elmendorf, he bought Salvatore, Miss Woodford, Firenzi, Star Ruby, Water Boy, Hamburg Bell and quite a few other good horses. He stood the great Salvator here until the horse's death in 1909. No one knows for sure, but many believe Salvator lies in an unmarked grave at Elmendorf.
The first record of Dexter cattle in the United States is when more than two hundred head were imported between 1905 and 1915, a large number of which were imported by Elmendorf Farm.
Joseph E. Widener
When Haggin himself died in 1914, the estate was broken up. In 1923, Joseph Widener and nephew, George, bought a part of Elmendorf. Joseph operated as Elmendorf and George as Old Kinney Farm. Throughout the Twenties, Thirties, and Forties, the main part of Elmendorf was owned by Joseph E. Widener and then by his son Peter A. B. Widener II. The elder Widener tore down Green Hills in 1929 not wishing to pay taxes on an unoccupied house, but left the marble pillars as a landmark. Widener bought the stallion Fair Play as well as the broodmare Mahubah at the dispersal sale of August Belmont. Fair Play and Mahubah were the sire and dam of Man o' War.
Maxwell H. Gluck
In 1950, Max Gluck purchased the original section of Elmendorf Farm along with its name rights. Gluck, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Darlington Stores Corporation and later the United States Ambassador to Ceylon, had his first success in racing when he bought Prince John for $14,300 at the 1954 yearling sales. The pillars of Green Hills were on his land and in front of them Gluck buried the juvenile champion Protagonist (by Prince John), Speak John (also by Prince John), and Verbatim. Gluck owned Elmendorf until his death in 1984 after which his widow sold it and about 350 horses to Jack Kent Cooke.
Besides the original section acquired by Max Gluck, by 1951 Elmendorf was reduced bit by bit as various parcels were sold off. E. Barry Ryan bought the section with the cemetery, calling it Normandy Farm. Here stood the statue of Fair Play erected by Widener. Buried in front of the statue are both Fair Play and Mahubah as well as many of their best sons and daughters bred by Widener, along with quite a few other of his great runners. Other farms were sliced from Elmendorf: Old Kenney Farm (owned by George D. Widener, Jr.), Clovelly Farm (owned by Robin Scully).
Clovelly Farm still exists, as does the 262-acre (1.06 km2) Normandy Farm. Green Gates Farm, once Spendthrift Farm, once the Old Kenney Farm, also still functions today.
Elmendorf was most recently acquired in 1997 for $5 million U.S. by Dinwiddie Lampton, Jr., the president of American Life and Accident Co. Mr. and Mrs. Lampton were longtime coaching and pleasure driving enthusiasts with a collection of carriages and carriage horses. Dinwiddie's wife, Elizabeth Whitcomb Lampton, died March 22, 2008 from a carriage accident on the property. Dinwiddie never fully recovered from the shock, said his daughter, Nana Lampton, he died six months later on September 25, 2008 at the farm.
- "The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America" by William H.P. Roberton, Bonanza Books, New York, 1964