Visit Horse Country: Darby Dan a Pillar of Kentucky’s Horse Heritage

The Life
Darby Dan Farm is a full-service Thoroughbred breeding farm with a rich history that features top-ranked sires and Kentucky Derby winners. (Courtesy of Darby Dan Farm)

Lexington’s Darby Dan Farm has been a constant leader in Thoroughbred racing and breeding ever since John Galbreath purchased the former Idle Hour Farm owned by legendary figure Colonel E.R. Bradley in the 1950s.

Situated off of Old Frankfort Pike just east of Lexington, Darby Dan’s beautiful landscape houses stallion barns, boarding and quarantine areas, and plenty of pastures. The farm is a full-service operation, providing breeding and sales consultation in addition to the above services.

John Galbreath had already made a foothold in the Thoroughbred industry with his farm near Columbus, Ohio, also named Darby Dan, which he founded in 1935. His business grew steadily after making inroads to Kentucky, and Darby Dan became permanently ensconced among the sport’s elite as the 1950s turned to the 1960s, with the key acquisitions being European champion Ribot and 1955 Kentucky Derby winner Swaps.

Mares and foals at Darby Dan. (Courtesy of Darby Dan Farm)

Galbreath imported Ribot, who was a perfect 16-for-16 as a racehorse, to the U.S. in 1961 and reaped the rewards of a stellar stud career in the decades to follow as his sons His Majesty and Graustark became leading sires in their own right. Swaps sired the first of Darby Dan’s two Kentucky Derby winners during the 1960s, 1963 hero Chateaugay. Proud Clarion would give the farm its second Kentucky Derby winner in 1967.

Through the second half of the 20th century, Darby Dan Farm excelled as a homebreeding powerhouse – read more about the farm’s history and its deep family trees in Keeler Johnson’s 2015 profile for America’s Best Racing. Galbreath was also very successful in Major League Baseball as the owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1946-85, who won three World Series during his tenure, in 1960, 1971, and 1979. One of Darby Dan’s greatest stars, 1972 English Derby winner and elite stallion Roberto, was named after the iconic Pirate outfielder Roberto Clemente.

Darby Dan has been under the ownership of John Phillips, John Galbreath’s grandson, since 1997, and Phillips has overseen the farm’s expansion of its business into the commercial sector (Galbreath died in 1988 at age 90). The farm’s stud roster for 2019 continues Darby Dan’s rich tradition, led by young and successful stallions Dialed In (the sire of top handicap horse Gunnevera) and 2011 Preakness Stakes winner Shackleford (sire of 2018 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes Presented by Runhappy winner Promises Fulfilled).

Darby Dan’s tours through Horse Country are booked for a minimum group of 10 guests arriving in a single vehicle. They feature a behind-the-scenes look at life on the farm and may (but are not guaranteed to) include visiting stallions. The farm’s history and location as the site for filming scenes of the motion picture Secretariat are highlighted. For more information, click here.

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