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Lexington (horse)

Lexington, the Blind Hero of Woodburn

Lexington (March 17, 1850 - July 1, 1875) was a United States champion Thoroughbred race horse who became the most successful sire during the second half of the nineteenth century.

A blood bay colt sired by Hall of Famer Boston (by Timoleon by Sir Archy) from the mare Alice Carneal by Sarpedon, eventually reaching 15 hands 3 inches, for his breeder, Dr. Elisha Warfield. Under the name of "Darley" he easily won his first two races for Dr. Warfield and his partner, "Burbridge's Harry," a once slave and then well known horse trainer. Burbridge, being black, was not allowed to enter "Darley" in races in his own name, so the horse ran in Dr. Warfield's name and colors. ("The Spell of the Turf" by Samuel C. Hildreth and James R. Crowell, J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1926.) He caught the eye of Richard Ten Broeck who asked Dr. Warfield to name his price. "Darley," the son of Boston, was sold in 1853 to Ten Broeck acting on behalf of a syndicate who would rename him Lexington. Affixed to Lexington's pedigree Dr. Warfield wrote: "The colt was bred by me, as was also his dam, which I now and will ever, own...E. Warfield."

A syndicate made up of Richard Ten Broeck, General Abe Buford, Captain Willa Viley and Junius R. Ward, bought the horse for $2,500 between heats (or during the running of his race), so tried claiming the purse money when he won. Failing that, he tried to deduct the purse money from the sale price. But Dr. Warfield held out.

His new owners immediately sent Lexington to Natchez, Mississippi to train under J. B. Pryor.

Lexington raced at age three and four and although he only competed seven times, many of his races were grueling four-mile events. Lexington won six of his seven races and finished second once. One of his wins was the Phoenix Hotel Handicap in 1875. Even with his complex and hard-fought rivalry with the horse Lecomte (also a son of Boston, both born just after Boston died), he was known as the best race horse of his day. His second match with Lecomte on April 24, 1855 was considered one of the greatest matches of the century. But Lexington had to be retired at the end of 1855 as a result of poor eyesight. His sire, Boston, had also gone blind.

He stood for a time at the Nantura Stock Farm of Uncle John Harper in Midway, Kentucky, along with the famous racer and sire, Glencoe. Sold to Robert A. Alexander for $15,000 in 1858, reportedly the then highest price ever paid for an American horse, Lexington was sent to Alexander's Woodburn Stud at Spring Station, Kentucky.

Called "The Blind Hero of Woodburn," Lexington became the Leading sire in North America sixteen times, from 1861 through 1874, and then again in 1876 and 1878.[1] Lexington was the sire of the undefeated Asteroid and Norfolk.[2] Nine of the first fifteen Travers Stakes were won by one of his sons or daughters, a list that included Kentucky (owned by William Travers himself), the first winner in 1864, and one of his last offspring, Duke of Magenta who won the Travers in 1878...as well as the Withers Stakes, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. Lexington sired three Preakness Stakes winners: Tom Ochiltree (1875), Shirley (1876), and the Duke of Magenta (1878). His three Preakness winners tie him with another great sire, Broomstick. Lexington also sired Cincinnati, General Ulysses S. Grant's favorite horse. Cincinnati was depicted in numerous statues of Grant that remain to this day.

During the American Civil War, horses were forcibly conscripted from the Kentucky Farms to serve as mounts in the bloody fray. Lexington, 15 years old and blind, had to be hidden away to save him from such a fate.

Lexington was part of the first group of horses inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1955.

Not so long ago, Lexington was so forgotten that on a fourth-floor attic catwalk of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, the blind hero of Woodburn was listed simply as Catalog No. 16020.

Lexington's dominance in the pedigrees of American-bred Thoroughbreds, and the fact that the British Thoroughbred breeders considered him not a purebred, was a large factor in the so-called Jersey Act of 1913, where the British Jockey Club limited the registration of horses not traced completely to horses in the General Stud Book.[3]

The Belmont Lexington Stakes runs every year at Belmont Park in honor of Lexington, as does the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland Race Course.


  1. Ahnert, Rainer L. (editor in chief), “Thoroughbred Breeding of the World”, Pozdun Publishing, Germany, 1970
  2. Hollingsworth, Kent, The Kentucky Thoroughbred, University Press, Kentucky, 1985
  3. Willett, Peter (1982). The Classic Racehorse. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky. pp. 71–74. ISBN 0-8131-1477-2. 


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