The birthplace of Lexington lies within the current city limits of his
namesake town Lexington, Kentucky. The great runner and sire was bred
by Dr. Elisha Warfield, one of the most important early figures in
Kentucky racing and breeding, and one of the founders of the Kentucky
Association Race Track, adjacent to Warfield's farm, The Meadows.
The Association track is long gone, and its historic gates now grace the
entrance to the Keeneland Racecourse on the other side of town, but
vestiges of The Meadows still remain just a few blocks north and east of
modern downtown Lexington. Stone pillars mark the south and west
entrances to what is now an older residential neighborhood with streets
named Meadows Lane, Warfield Place, Carneal Place, and Darley Drive.
Darley was the name Warfield had given to the bay colt by Boston out of
his top racemare Alice Carneal, foaled on March 17, 1850, since the
flashy bay reminded him of a portrait of the Darley Arabian, also a bay
with a blaze.
Although he raced in the colors of Dr. Warfield, who had been in the
process of retiring from the turf, he was leased to trainer, Henry
Brown. Darley made his first start in the spring of his three-year-old
year, in the Association Stakes contested over mile heats at the
Association track on May 23, 1853. The field was on edge, possibly due
to the muddy conditions, and the Boston colt found himself part of the
group that bolted before the start. Despite having run over 2 miles
before the official break, in the race itself, Darley led from flagfall
to finish, as he did in the second heat, thus leaving a remarkable
His dam, Alice Carneal
This performance did not go unnoticed by Richard Ten Broeck, who made an
agreement on behalf of a syndicate to purchase the colt prior to the
Citizens' Stakes run just a few days later over two mile heats. Darley
lost the first heat to another Boston offspring, the filly Midway, then
won the next two for the victory, at which time, his undoubtedly
disappointed trainer learned of the sale and turned the colt over to Ten
Broeck. His new ownership consisted of the leading Kentucky breeders General Abe
Buford, Captain Willa Viley, and Junius R. Ward. Captain Viley took over
the position of managing the Boston colt, who was sent to Broeck's
trainer, John Pryor. |
Renamed Lexington, the colt's schedule was
interrupted after he broke into a store of corn and had to undergo
emergency treatment, which at that time meant being "bled." The incident
set his training back seriously enough to warrant concern that he was
fit for a match with the filly Sallie Waters (by Glencoe) over three
mile heats on December 2. He dashed those worries by taking the first
two heats, distancing the filly in the second and leaving no questions
about his ability.
Lexington spent the next four months prepping for the Great State Post
Stakes on April 1, 1854 to be contested over four mile heats at Ten
Broeck's track, Metairie near New Orleans, Louisiana. Here he met his
most serious challenger, another colt by Boston named LeComte. Lexington
again led from start to finish in the first heat, with LeComte second.
Sitting behind the pace in the second heat, Lexington rallied in the
final mile and was drawing away from LeComte at the finish.
There then came a disagreement about the colt's racing futures, which
resulted in Ten Broeck buying out the interests of the other syndicate
members for $5,000. Lexington was back in action a week later in the
Jockey Club Purse over four mile heats. LeComte defeated him soundly in
the first heat, setting a new world record for the distance of 7:26.
LeComte came back and won the second heat with equal authority.
Lexington did not race again that year due to several unfortunate
circumstances. Shipped to the Union Course on Long Island, New York as
the charge of William Stuart, Stuart contracted cholera and died.
Shipped to Holmdel New Jersey as a charge of Charles Lloyd, he was
prepping for the Astor House Stakes when his bridle broke, he ran off
and injured his legs. He then went back to Pryor at Natchez.
Returning to the course on April 2, 1855, Lexingtonís rival was not a
horse, but the clock, as he raced to beat LeComte's 4 mile record. Given
pacesetters, Lexington ran them all into the ground, and the record as
well, besting it with a time of 7:19, despite losing a shoe.
Finally, the great rematch between Lexington and LeComte materialized at
Metairie on April 14. In the first heat, Lexington led throughout and
won decisively, although it was known that LeComte was recovering from a
bout of colic and was not up to the contest. LeComte forfeited the next
heat, and Lexington was crowned the champion.
This final triumph ended the great champion's racing career, with six
wins in seven events and earnings of $56,600, the third greatest
money-earner up to that time. He was rapidly going blind, as had his sire
had before him, and there was nothing left for him to prove on the
Richard Ten Broeck arranged for Lexington to enter stud at John Harper's
Nantura Stud near Midway, Kentucky and the horse stood there for two
years until purchased by a neighbor, Robert A. Alexander, of Woodburn
Farm, just up the Old Frankfort Pike. Alexander bought Lexington from
Ten Broeck for $15,000, which paid off almost immediately. Lexington
became the Leading Sire in America 16 times, from 1861 through 1874, and
then again in 1876 and 1878.
War Dance, out of famous matron Reel
Duke of Magenta
Lexington's first crops included the champion IDLEWILD, besides WAR DANCE, UNCLE VIC, JACK MALONE and COLTON, but the American Civil War
(1861-1865) impeded on Lexington's stud career in several ways. Many of
his best offspring were used as cavalry mounts and died in various
military actions. Woodburn Farm itself, owned by a Scottish national,
managed to avoid being raided until late 1864, when Alexander's prize
colt, ASTEROID (by Lexington) was stolen by Confederate raiders, but
recognized, purchased from his rider, and returned by a neighbor when he
saw the contingent pass.
In February of 1865, soldiers made off with 15 head, including two of
Alexander's best trotting sires, Bay Chief and Abdallah, and a younger
brother to Asteroid named NORWICH. This last raid prompted Alexander to
ship his breeding stock, including the stallions Lexington and
Australian, from Woodburn to safe harbor in Illinois, where they stayed
for the remaining few months of the war, which ended in April of 1865.
Lexington's best crop was the one that included ASTEROID, foaled in
1861. Others in that group included the great colts KENTUCKY and
NORFOLK, all with solid qualifications as champions of their age. Other
champions sired by Lexington included GENERAL DUKE, VAUXHALL, HARRY
BASSETT. TOM BOWLING, ACROBAT, SULTANA, DUKE OF MAGENTA, PREAKNESS, TOM
OCHILTREE, and CHESAPEAKE, all names which define the era of the last
half of the nineteenth century of racing in America.
Unfortunately, while many of Lexington's sons were successful at stud,
none could approach their sire's status as stallion. LEVER, VAUXHALL,
PAT MALLOY, DUKE OF MAGENTA, UNCAS, WAR DANCE, KENTUCKY and KINGFISHER
all sired champions or classic winners. GILROY and COLTON were useful,
but the most influential of all was NORFOLK, who stood in California and
sired the brothers El Rio Rey and Emperor of Norfolk.
On the other hand, Lexington's daughters were prolific and crossed
exceptionally well with the other bloodlines of the day, producing the
likes of Salvator, Spendthrift, Ten Broeck, Hindoo, Aristides, Luke
Blackburn, Los Angeles, Sensation, Olitipa, Parole, Wanda and many
Lexington was a horse of tremendous quality, extremely well made with
beautiful action to accompany. He was medium-sized, 15.3 hands, and his
shoulder and hindquarter were extremely powerful. He was a bright bay
with a narrow blaze beginning half way down his face and ending in a
snip. He also had four white feet, up to the pasterns in front and over
the ankles behind. With all this white, he showed a lot of white around
his eyes, a trait often associated with high-mettled types. His
temperament went beyond that, however, and bordered on the foul temper
of his sire, Boston. (Descriptions of loading him, literally kicking and
screaming, onto the train to Illinois in 1865 are colorful to say the
Lexington died on July 1, 1875 at the age of 25 from a "nasal catarrh."
He was buried outside his stall at Woodburn, and his skeleton was later
exhumed and articulated for public display at the Smithsonian Institute
in Washington D.C. where it remains today in the Hall of Mammals.