Claiborne in central Kentucky recently celebrated its 100th year as a thoroughbred farm. It has been 100 years and counting of accumulating the best stallions, the highest quality broodmares and a top-echelon list of graded stakes winners on the country’s race tracks.
Claiborne Farm received congratulations on its first 100 years from some of the most prominent people and influential circles in the thoroughbred business. Words of praise came from the Keeneland Race Course, Ogden Phipps and the Stuart Janney family, and The Jockey Club.
Standing at stud at Claiborne as one of its top-producing sires as the farm moves along into the next 100 years is War Front, a strapping bay whose progeny’s success has allowed the farm to raise his stud fee to $80,000 per live foal.
War Front is now 11 years old and the most expensive sire Claiborne has at its 3,500 acres of tranquility. While he was racing, he had only 13 career starts but claimed a win in a graded stakes and placed second in five more similar races.
He was owned and bred by Joseph Allen and had Allen Jerkens as his trainer. Jerkens was a success along the many paths his life took him. Whether it was sending out visually perfect thoroughbreds to bring back another graded stakes win, or blending his quiet and giving personality when working with either at-the-farm hands or the owners of the horses he tutored, Jerkens was fair and even-handed.
War Front’s 13 starts yielded four wins, five seconds and a third and brought earnings of $424,205.
In his three races at age three, his most noted accomplishment was winning the Princelet Stakes by eight lengths. He won all three of those tries at age three.
The next year, War Front had a win in the Grade II Alfred Gwynn Vanderbilt Stakes. His five runner-up finishes came in the Grade I Vosburgh Stakes, Grade I Forego Stakes, Grade II Tom Fool Handicap, Grade III Deputy Minister Handicap, and the Grade III Mr. Prospector Stakes.
While his race record was noteworthy, it wouldn’t have given War Front any more clout as a sire than scores of others except for his many ancestors with their immaculate credentials.
Not-too-distant relatives of his were Danzig, Northern Dancer, Rubiano, Neartic, Natalma, Ruby Slippers and Fappiano. His great grandfather was the hugely influential, Mr. Prospector.
War Front’s first two crops yielded 16 stakes champions including California campaigner The Factor, Summer Soiree, Data Link, Soldat, Summer Front, and State of Play.
Overseas in Europe or the Orient were Warning Flag, who raced in Hong Kong and Ireland, as well as Declaration of War, a winner in four of his five races in Ireland.
Across the small stream that winds its way through the manicured grounds of Claiborne is a cemetery that has gravestones with names of thoroughbreds that still echo the deeds they achieved on race courses; names like Secretariat, Mr. Prospector, Bold Ruler, Buckpasser, Nijinsky and Unbridled.
Beyond the cemetery and adjoining the grounds of Claiborne, yet fully a mile and a half away, is the small town of Paris. To cover 3,500 acres takes a little time.
When England’s Queen Elizabeth once visited the Kentucky Derby over in Louisville, she made sure to drop by Claiborne and was pursuaded to “dine” with Seth Hancock and his family.
The intimidating stone gates that dominate the farm’s entrance don’t really speak to the generosity Claiborne shows the public.
There are guided tours offered the public. The tours are free and given at convenient times. Questions about the farm’s history, famous thoroughbreds, current batch of stakes horses, 11 stallions and future interests are not only tolerated but encouraged and fully answered.
The age-old architecture draws questions, especially buildings like the 100-year-old breeding shed and the stone bungalow Claiborne’s longtime owner, Arthur “Bull’ Hancock, retreated to when holding his poker fests on summer weekends.
War Front is a small part of the complexity that is Claiborne Farm. In a normal year, there are about 160 Claiborne-bred foals on the huge estate. And 50 or so will be sold at auction. The others will be weaned and most started along the long path toward serious training. Some will eventually be sold as yearlings or even two-year-olds in training.
For now, Seth Hancock is most interested in racing and not in selling. That tact has brought him Eclipse Awards as the country’s leading breeder. And Claiborne Farm has been the leading North American breeder by purse money earned 10 times.
One hundred years as a breeder and on-track competitor were celebrated by Claiborne in 1910. What will the next century hold for one of thoroughbred racing’s kingmakers?