LEXINGTON, KY (March 28, 2005) We think of Henry Clay as a larger-than-life statesman, orator and wealthy businessman, but most of the outstanding achievements and legacy of Clay’s Ashland Stud in the horse industry have been overlooked, until now.
From April 1 to October 31, the Kentucky Horse Park’s International Museum of the Horse will honor this great American with an exhibition devoted to his equine prowess called Kentucky Bloodlines: The Legacy of Henry Clay. This is the most recent installment by the museum that brought international blockbuster exhibitions Imperial China and All the Queen’s Horses to the United States.
While the world remembers Henry Clay as one of the most significant and effective politicians and statesmen of his day, a good-natured bon vivant, charismatic communicator and controversial character, few realize that he was equally skilled as a progressive agrarian and stockman (he was the first to import Hereford cattle to the U.S. and introduced Gingko trees to the Midwest). In addition to an astute mind and famous quick wit, Clay was also possessed of a keen eye for fine horses, Thoroughbreds in particular, and was one of the leaders in establishing the Bluegrass region of Kentucky as the nation’s premier Thoroughbred breeding center.
Clay’s stock was some of the finest in the Bluegrass, as he imported mares from Virginia and jacks and jennies from Spain and Malta to his Ashland Stud (also known as Ashland Thoroughbred Stock Farm).
The success he achieved in his day carried into future generations of Clays and horses. Clay’s grandson, James B. Clay, was almost single-handedly responsible for introducing trotters to Kentucky, and his daughter-in-law, Josephine, became the first prominent Thoroughbred horsewoman in America (her father, Colonel William Russell, was blamed in news accounts for being the captain of what was described as the worst disaster on the trail to California, the infamous “Donner party”).
No less impressive, the blood of his foundation mares pulsed through the veins of 11 Kentucky Derby winners, two of which were foaled at Ashland Stud.
The Kentucky Bloodlines exhibition is being offered in association with Ashland, The Henry Clay Estate, the Kentucky Historical Society, Keeneland Library, UK Libraries Special Collections, Dr Lindsey Apple at Georgetown College, the Simpson and LaBach families, Jeff Meyer, Sue Andrew and the Lexington Public Library.
It will bring a fresh perspective to the fascinating story of Clay and his heirs, through their role in the development of Kentucky as a horse breeding mecca. It will be a rich and exciting opportunity for every Kentuckian to pay homage to its most famous native son, and for the horse industry to pay respect to one of its founding fathers.
Included in this fascinating exhibition are racing trophies, original pieces of Henry Clay’s furniture, silver and paintings, along with Civil War and horse related artifacts from his descendants.
A Teacher’s Guide is available on-line at www.kyhorsepark.com under “What’s New” and school groups are encouraged to attend. Contact Amity Brannock for school group rates, firstname.lastname@example.org or 859-259-4225.
As part of the Kentucky Bloodlines exhibition, George McGee, a professional actor, will perform an historically accurate, live impersonation of horseman Henry Clay on April 2 at 11:45 in the courtyard of the park.
The Kentucky Bloodlines exhibition has been made possible by these generous sponsors: Fox River Development, Courtesy Pontiac, National City Bank, Bell South, Kentucky Horse Park Foundation, Airdrie Stud and Margaux Farm.
For more information on the Kentucky Bloodlines exhibition, contact Bill Cooke, Director of the International Museum of the Horse, at email@example.com or 859-259-4231.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: High resolution, high-quality photos of some of the items in the exhibition are available for use in your publication. Email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org and provide a mailing address for the photo cd.)
The Kentucky Horse Park is a working horse farm/theme park and equine competition facility dedicated to man’s relationship with the horse. The park is an agency of the Kentucky Commerce Cabinet that hosted 913,000 visitors and 80 special events and horse shows in 2003. The park is located at Exit 120, Interstate 75, just north of Lexington. The place to get close to horses, the park is open daily March 15 to October 31, and Wednesday through Sunday, November 1 to March 14.