Unofficial Thoroughbred Hall of Fame

Lexington

The Blind Hero of Woodbine

Alice Carneal, the finest broodmare owned by Dr. Elisha Warfield, "Father of the Kentucky Turf," produced a bay colt on March 17, 1850. He went on to become not only the best racehorse of his time, in the twilight years of the era of the four mile heats, but the most successful sire in history as well. Lexington led the American Sire's List an amazing sixteen times, fourteen times consecutively.

Lexington was from the last crop of foals sired by Boston. His breeder, Dr. Elisha Warfield, was a professor of surgery and obstetrics at Transylvannia University and a charter member of the Lexington Jockey Club. Due to his resemblance to John Sartorius' painting of the Darley Arabian, Warfield originally named the colt Darlymey, and in 1853 leased him to former slave Harry Burbridge, who had bought his freedom training horses.

This photograph was taken when Lexington was of advanced age

Darlymey made his first start in Lexington, Kentucky, in the one mile heat Association Stakes as the entry of both Dr. Warfield and Harry Burbridge, and after an easy win he went on to score a victory in the two mile heat Citizens Stakes as the entry of Harry Burbridge. Between heats of the Citizens Stakes, Lexington was bought for $2500 by Richard Ten Broeck on behalf of a syndicate in order to represent Kentucky in the Great State Post Stakes in New Orleans. Broeck unsuccessfully tried to claim half of the $1300 purse his new horse had just earned, but since Harry had paid the entry fee, he had claim to the purse, and both Harry and Dr. Warfield refused the request.

Apparently to lessen regional friction following the purchase, Ten Broeck changed Darlymey's name to Lexington, and then shipped him to New Orleans, where after winning a match from Sallie Waters he was entered as the representative from Kentucky in the Great State Post Stakes. The event's importance was stressed by the fact that former President Millard Fillmore acted as one of the judges. Also entered were Mississippi's Lecomte, also sired by Boston, as well as Alabama's Highlander and Louisiana's Arrow. Lexington won the event by winning two straight four mile heats, with his main competition being the previously undefeated Lecomte. Wet, heavy track conditions prompted Lecomte's connections to call Lexington a mudder, and a rematch was immediately offered.

Broeck wished to accept the challenge, and when his partners disagreed, wanting to rest the colt, he bought them out. Lexington and Lecomte, the two finest sons of Boston, met again only a few days later, in the $2000 Jockey Club Purse.

The horses broke at the tap of a drum, and Lecomte rushed to claim the early lead, with Lexington hard on his heels. The third entry, Reube, trailed badly from the start. For three miles, the horses held these spots. The pace increased as Lexington made repeated brushes for the lead, forcing Lecomte to greater speeds in order to maintain his lead. Lexington's bravest effort came as the horses entered the fourth mile. As the New Orlean's Times-Democrat so dramatically reported:

"Lexington partially closed the gap that Lecomte had opened on him, and attempted to outfoot him. The attempt was immense, but it was ineffectual. The spur was freely used to induce him to do what his friends claimed for him - that he was the fastest horse in the world at a brush; but Lecomte baffled all his efforts, kept the lead, and won the head, amid deafening shouts, by six lengths, in much the quickest time ever made in the world -7:26!"

Following the stressful four miles, Lexington showed much greater signs of adversity than did Lecomte, who had not been spurred during the heat. Both horses came out for the next heat "with crest erect, determined, apparently, to win or die." Well perhaps not, but both were ready for an extraordinary effort. For the first two miles, it was Lexington who showed the way, but Lecomte passed him in a dramatic move as the third mile began.

The pair battled with great bravery, fighting for the lead throughout the third mile. The time of 1:46 made it the fastest mile of the day. As the dueling heroes came into the fourth mile, Lexington was nearly even with his opponent. In the midst of his great effort, the champion lost his stride. Although he recovered instantly and put forth great effort, the race was decided. Lecomte was the victor by four lengths, with a brilliant time of 7:38 3/4. The third horse, Reube, was distanced.

One account of the race explained that Lexington's loss of stride in the fourth mile of the second heat was caused by his failing sight. Yet another account claims that one of Lecomte's supporters leapt the fence and ordered Meichon, up on Lexington, to pull up, and was momentarily obeyed.

Ten Broeck claimed that Lexington could beat Lecomte's new world record of 7:26, and on a $20,000 bet he sent his colt out in a time trial under dangerous conditions, with Gil Patrick, who had ridden Lexington's sire Boston in his famous 1842 loss to Fashion, in the saddle. Despite a hard track and the loss of his near fore shoe, Lexington successfully lowered the world record for four miles to 7:19 3/4.

Lexington's record time brought about a third and final meeting with Lecomte, in the Jockey Club Purse at Metairie, New Orleans, in which Lexington beat Lecomte with a time of 7:23 3/4. The dramatic newspaper account began as follows:

"When the blankets were stripped from the horses and their magnificent combinations of blood, heart, and muscle stood glistening and flickering in the sun, the crowd ... could not resist a burst of admiration, at which Lecomte stepped coquettishly about, showing his beautiful chest and branching muscle, while the darker Lexington, with a sedate and intelligent aspect, looked calmly around, as if he felt that the sensation was quite expected and deserved."

When the drum tap sent the pair off they leapt instantly into a fierce battle. They raced up the stretch, racing "as if life were staked on every leap." As they flew into the turn, Lexington had the lead by a nose, and at the half mile post the two were locked in a head to head struggle.

Lexington slowly drew ahead, but every inch was purchased with great toil. By the end of the first mile, which was run in 1:49 1/2, Lexington had managed to gain an advantage of less than a length. Said the rather poetic New Orlean's Times-Democrat:

"Onward they plunge; onward without pause! ... `By heaven, Lecomte is overhauling him!' And so he was, for on entering the backstretch of the second mile the hero of 7:26 made his most desperate effort, reaching first the girth, then the shoulder, then the neck of Lexington, and finally, when he reached the half mile post, laid himself alongside him, nose by nose ... But this equality was only for a moment's term. Lexington threw his eye jealously askant; Gil Patrick relaxed a little of his rein ... and without a violent or startling effort, the racer of racers stole ahead..."

Pulling clear from his gallant rival, Lexington raced through the second mile in 1:51. To the wild cheering of the crowded stands, Lexington extended his lead to three lengths as they pounded through the third mile. Lecomte strained beneath his rider's spur to no avail. Once again, the newspaper account:

"In vain Lecomte struggled; in vain his rider struck him with the steel; his great spirit was a sharper spur, and when his tail fell, as it did from this time out, I could imagine he felt a sinking of the heart as he saw streaming before him the waving flag of Lexington..."

The time for the third mile was 1:51, and Lexington had added another length to his lead. His rival beaten, Lexington continued to run as if for the joy of speed itself. Lecomte's bravery was enough to keep him from being distanced, but the gallant son of Boston could do little more against his sire's other champion. Lexington had the bit in his teeth as he charged under the wire in the stunning time of 7:23 3/4, and his rider had all he could do to stop him.

Lexington had won the first heat in the fastest four miles ever run in an actual match, since his winning time was far superior to Lecomte's previous record of 7:26. The second heat was far less dramatic, with Lexington winning both the heat and the match in a walkover. It is unknown when or how, but sometime during the period of time after, or possibly even shortly before, Lexington's last race he lost his sight, canceling any tentative plans Ten Broeck had made to race him in England. Retired to stud, Lexington stood two seasons before being sold for the record price of $15,000 to R.A. Alexander of Woodburn Stud in Kentucky. Here he became known as The Blind Hero of Woodburn, and his fame spread nationwide, first as a racehorse and then as a sire. He topped the American Sires List for the first time in 1861, a position he held for longer than any stallion in history.

During a desperate period in the Civil War, an order was given to Confederate troops to seize all sound horses within an area that included Woodburn Stud. The fact that Lexington was the most valuable horse in the world did not exclude him from the order, and in order to prevent a devastating loss, Woodburn was evacuated by night. Lexington and the other horses were floated across the Ohio River and kept in hiding until the end of the war.

As a sire Lexington surpassed all other stallions, reigning as America's leading sire for fourteen consecutive years before his death in 1875, and topping the list twice more in 1876 and 1878. Bold Ruler, who topped the American Sire's List more times than any stallion since Lexington, only ranked first half as many times, with eight years on the top of the chart. One of the unique challenges of Lexington's stud career was the changing style of racing at the time. Lexington had earned his own fame in four mile heats, but he was one of the last champions at that distance. European racing had long since given up heats and shortened race distances, and Lexington's offspring competed in contests of speed, rather than stamina, as American owners and breeders followed the lead of their English cousins.

One of Lexington's finest sons was Kentucky, winner of the 1863 Travers Stakes and two consecutive runnings of the Saratoga Cup, in 1865 and 1866. Kentucky's only career loss came in the Jersey Derby, in which he ran second to Lexington's undefeated son Norfolk.

Lexington also sired the champion Asteroid, 1868 Belmont Stakes winner General Duke, 1871 Belmont and Travers Stakes winner Harry Bassett, and Pat Malloy, a leading sire whose offspring included 1879 Kentucky Derby winner Lord Murphy.

By winning the 1870 Dinner Party Stakes at Pimlico, Lexington's son Preakness became the namesake of one of the three American classics. Another Lexington colt, Foster, ran second. The first Kentucky Derby, run in 1875, was won by Aristides, a chestnut colt out of the Lexington mare Sarong. Two other fillies by Lexington, Sultana, who won the 1876 Travers Stakes, and Idlewild, made names for themselves on the racetrack.

James R. Keene's Foxhall, a son of Lexington, successfully competed in England and France, winning the 1881 Grand Prix de Paris from Tristan, as well as the Ceasarewith and Cambridgeshire Handicaps. The following year, he won the Ascot Gold Cup.

Lexington also sired Duke of Magenta, whose wins in 1878 included the Preakness Stakes, the Belmont Stakes, and the Travers Stakes. Other winners sired by Lexington included 1873 Travers Stakes winner Tom Bowling, 1865 Travers Stakes winner Maiden, and Acrobat, Fellowcraft, True Blue, and Gilroy.

Lexington became one of the charter members of the Hall of Fame, elected when it opened in 1955. His son Kentucky is a member as well.



Lexington's Race Record

Year Starts Wins Seconds Thirds Earnings
Lifetime 7 6 1 0 $56,600


Lexington, 1850 bay colt

Boston Timoleon Sir Archy Diomed by Florizel
Castianira by Rockingham
Daughter of Saltram Saltram by Eclipse
Daughter of Symme's Wildair
Robin Brown's Dam Ball's Florizel Diomed by Florizel
Daughter of Shark
Daughter of Alderman Alderman by Pot-8-o's
Daughter of Clockfast
Alice Carneal Sarpedon Emilius Orville by Beningbrough
Emily by Stamford
Icaria The Flyer by Vandyke Junior
Parma by Dick Andrews
Rowena Sumpter Sir Archy by Diomed
Mare by Robin Redbreast
Lady Grey Robin Grey by Royalist
Maria by Hoskin's Melzar


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Recommended titles include: Champions from the Daily Racing Form, Thoroughbred Champions: Top 100 of the 20th Century from Blood-Horse, and Man O' War: Thoroughbred Legends #1 by Edward L. Bowen, as well as Seabiscuit on DVD .
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