Sunday, October 27, 2013


I have not posted much here on Random Thoughts about Kentucky's equine history. Until recently it is not a topic that has interested me much, but the more I find out, the more I have been intrigued. The fascinating aspect of enslaved and later free African Americans as early jockeys, grooms, handlers, and trainers, ever so important to the horse industry in the state has prompted me to do so learning.

Shown in the image above is the thoroughbred Longfellow, who was owned by John Harper of Nantura Farm in Woodford County.  Nantura Farm neighbored the better known Woodburn Farm of R. A. Alexander and Gen. Abe Buford's Bosque Bonita Farm.

Longfellow was named by Harper for the animal's long legs, not the well known poet. Foaled in 1867, Longfellow became America's most popular horse of the 1870s, eventually earning the nickname the "King of the Turf." Ungainly as a two-year-old, Longfellow did not race until a three-year-old, but came into his own the following season.  He won 13 of 16 starts in 1871. The next year Longfellow ran his last race when competing in a match event against Harry Bassett. During the run Longfellow's shoe bent and went into the soft portion of the hoof and temporarily lamed the horse.

Longfellow lived out his days at Nantura Farm as a standing stud. There he sired two future Kentucky Derby winners, Leonatus (1883) and Riley (1890). Longfellow died in 1893 at 26 years old, a legendary thoroughbred.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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