Wednesday, June 13, 2001

Henry Clay vital to racing


Statesman a renowned breeder

The Associated Press

        LOUISVILLE — Kentuckians know Henry Clay as one of the greatest politicians the Bluegrass State ever sent to Washington, but they may not know about his keen eye for judging horseflesh.

        The Kentucky Derby Museum explores Clay's legacy to horse racing in an exhibit on display through Aug. 4.

[photo] A visitor looks at photos on the wall in the Henry Clay Estate display at the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville.
(Associated Press photos)
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        Twelve Kentucky Derby winners trace their lineage to his Ashland Stud farm in Lexington.

        “I knew he was part of the Civil War,” said Susan Alsop, a recent Derby Museum visitor from Littleton, Mass.

        “I knew he was secretary of state. I didn't know he had anything to do with horses.”

        The exhibit focuses on three horses given to Clay in 1845 as political gifts — Magnolia, Margaret Wood and Yorkshire.

        “These are the horses that really started Ashland Stud,” said Chris Goodlett, curator of collections at the museum. “The horses they produced or sired went on to great careers.”

        Images of their progeny line the walls of the exhibit. Photographs of Gato Del Sol and Sunny's Halo, for instance, 1982 and 1983 Derby winners, respectively. Gato Del Sol descended from Margaret Wood, Sunny's Halo from Magnolia.

[photo] At the museum are a scaled-down version of Henry Clay's jockey silks and a photo of the Ashland estate.
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        There also are photographs of the three Derby winners foaled at Ashland.

        One of these, 1902 champion Alan-a-Dale, carried Jimmy Winkfield, the last African-American jockey to win the Derby.

        Thomas Clay McDowell, Henry Clay's great-grandson, owned Alan-a-Dale.

        With the horse's victory, he became one of only three people to breed, train and own a Derby winner.

        The show also contains an 1852 bill of sale transferring ownership of the stallion Yorkshire from Clay to his son. Included as part of the deal was a slave, Bill Buster.

        The price for horse and man? $1.

        Presiding over the exhibit is an engraving of Henry Clay seated outdoors, a dog at his feet, livestock and manor arrayed in baronial splendor behind him.

        “He enjoyed the racing business immensely,” said Mr. Goodlett. “His sons said he used it as an escape from political life. He thought he would be a better farmer than a statesman.”

       



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