Horse Country Tours: Ashford and Rood and Riddle

The Life
Melissa Bauer-Herzog/America's Best Racing

Breeders’ Cup week in Kentucky means more than horse racing, it also means getting to check out some of the best farms and equine hospitals in the Bluegrass.

Horse Country’s Breeders’ Cup Festival Week Tours have scheduled tours that allow fans to visit two racehorse-related locations (mostly farms but two vet hospitals and one feed mill are also involved) to see what goes on “behind the scenes” in the racing industry.

Earlier this month, I took one of these tours to see what fans will see when they tour Ashford Stud, where American Pharoah will retire after the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital. Disclaimer: these two aren’t on a tour together but you can choose tours to see them separately.

I started my tour at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud right outside of Versailles, Ky. The farm is home to 14 stallions, with Breeders’ Cup victors Magician, Uncle Mo and Shanghai Bobby all standing at the farm in addition to 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up Giant’s Causeway.

Both Shanghai Bobby and Uncle Mo spend their summers and falls outside the United States so they weren’t there when I visited but Magician and Giant’s Causeway were both more than happy to entertain guests.

The first place we stopped was the main stallion barn. Like the rest of Ashford, this barn looks like it is right out of a fairy tale, especially with the great Giant’s Causeway out front.

While Giant’s Causeway probably won’t greet those who go on the tour like he did me, people will get to see the living legend in front of them. In addition to finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Giant’s Causeway has had two Breeders’ Cup winners. One of those, Take Charge Brandi, won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last year and was crowned champion. This year, Giant’s Causeway will be represented by Brody’s Cause in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

The main barn houses Giant’s Causeway and is where American Pharoah will be stabled when he retires to the farm. His stall wasn’t set up yet but those who take the Breeders’ Cup tours will get to see where he’ll live in the main barn.

During the tour, visitors will get to spend some time in that barn before moving down to one of the lower barns where 2013 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Magician and 1995 Kentucky Derby winner Thunder Gulch live.

Trained by Aidan O’Brien in Ireland, fans will get to learn about the worldwide Coolmore operation on their tour. Coolmore has farms in Ireland, the United States and Australia with the Irish-bred Magician a product of their leading sire Galileo, who stands in Ireland. Galileo’s son Gleneagles (who is out of a full-sister to Giant’s Causeway) is pre-entered to run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic next week.

Magician spent time parading in front of me, showing off his trick of sticking out his tongue. It is a habit he had when he retired to the farm in 2014 and something he hasn’t outgrown after his first season at stud.

While fans won’t be able to pose with Giant’s Causeway or Magician, Thunder Gulch is more than happy to add that duty to his job description. Pensioned this year, Thunder Gulch is a regular on the Ashford tours and is enjoying his new job.

Before coming out for my tour, he had to get primped by his servant … I mean groom. Thunder Gulch is adored at Ashford so I don’t think anyone minds having to get him ready to show off.

Thunder Gulch paraded for me just like Magician. While he’s been at the farm a lot longer than Magician, it seems like he’s learned from the younger stallion as he had his tongue sticking out during his parade as well.

After parading, the 23-year-old posed for the camera. He hasn’t been on the track in 20 years but he is still as regal as ever.

Thunder Gulch was the grand finale of the 45-minute tour then it was off to Rood and Riddle to see what fans will see on the tour of the vet clinic. 

The first stop was the Rood and Riddle front office where a few trophies and photos of famous clients greet everyone who walks into the clinic.

From there, we headed through the clinic and saw a soundness exam performed. First, the horse jogged on the pavement in front of a crew looking for any lameness.

The vet then tested the horse’s hooves to see if that led to a reaction. They jogged him one more time then headed off for a few more tests to see if they could diagnose what was bothering him.

From there, we walked down to the reproduction and podiatry building where both had procedures going on.

In the reproduction side, we watched a vet remove some follicles from a mare. While this procedure isn’t allowed in Thoroughbreds where mares must be live covered by the stallion and carry the foal to term, other breeds allow this procedure.

I am really interested in equine reproduction so it was interesting to watch the vet perform this on the mare.

His first step was to locate a follicle. With the help of an ultrasound machine he was able to find the one he wanted.

The jar on the table next to the ultrasound monitor was there to collect the follicles and after a little work started filling up.

From there, we made our way across the building to the podiatry section. There are a few walls full of shoes in the building and I totally geeked out over them for a few minutes. Here are just a few of the different types of shoes they have in the podiatry area.

Dr. Raul Bras was shoeing a horse during the tour and was having a good time showing off the work that goes on in his part of the clinic.

Because Breeders’ Cup is never far from anyone’s mind in the Lexington-area this year, I caught this on Dr. Bras’ stand while he was trimming the horse. I think it adds some good color to the stand.

While the surgery part of the tour is planned to be the first stop at Rood and Riddle during the Breeders’ Cup week tours, I ended my visit with a surgery.

Renowned surgeon Dr. Larry Bramlage was doing a surgery and came in to finish prepping his patient after most of the early prep had been done by those assisting him.

After watching about 10 minutes of the surgery, it was time for the end of my tour.

Both Ashford and Rood and Riddle have very interesting tours scheduled for those who visit them through the Breeders’ Cup week tours. To buy tickets to those tours still available, click here.

newsletter sign-up

Stay up-to-date with the best from America's Best Racing!