Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Seth W. Hancock, March 8, 1978

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:02 - Introduction by an unidentified narrator

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Partial Transcript: March the 8th, 1978 and the interview is Seth Hancock, manager of the Claiborne Farm in Bourbon County, Kentucky.

Segment Synopsis: This segment is an introduction to the founding of Claiborne Farm and the merger of the Ellerslie estate with Claiborne given by a narrator that is unidentified.

Keywords: Adventures; Arthur Boyd Hancock Jr.; Arthur Boyd Hancock Sr.; Claiborne Farm; Confederate Army; Ellerslie estate; John Hopkins University; Nancy Tucker Clay; Quarter horse; Richard Johnson Hancock; Riders; Stonewall Jackson; Success; Thomasia Overton Harris; University of Chicago

Subjects: Bourbon County (Ky.); Horse racing; Marriage; North Carolina; United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.

00:03:43 - His involvement in the horse industry

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Partial Transcript: Mr. Hancock, in your own words, how about telling us how Claiborne Farm came to be a horse farm.

Segment Synopsis: Hancock discusses his childhood growing up on Claiborne Farm and his limited understanding of the horse business at the time. He also discusses how he became sole president of the farm after his father's passing and how his father set him up to learn as much as he possibly could about the farm after finishing his college education.

Keywords: Acreage; Advice; Advisory committee; Brothers; Claiborne Farm; Ellerslie estate; Farmhand; Fathers; Foals; Horses; Impressions; Nancy Tucker Clay; Presidents; Programs; Racetracks; Richard Johnson Hancock; Stallions; Summers; University of Kentucky; Vice presidents; Woodberry Forest School; Work

Subjects: Business; Childhood; Death; Education; Horse farms.; Horse industry

00:08:20 - From breeding to training

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Partial Transcript: Uh, we, we look upon the horse farm, of course, as a business, but it's also, in the Bluegrass, it's been a kind of a way of life that has altered the character of this surrounding country and has helped to make it one of the elite, uh, spots of the Earth because of the beauty of the area.

Segment Synopsis: Hancock describes the process of breeding mares to stallions as well as what kind of care and employees need to be available throughout the breeding, pregnancy, and care of the foal. Hancock discusses the process of breaking a foal in order to send it to training, but when asked to describe different training techniques, he notes that Claiborne Farm only breeds and breaks the race horses, but does not train them.

Keywords: Birth; Breaking; Bridles; Care; Claiborne Farm; Foals; Galloping; Horses; Pregnancy; Racetracks; Saddles; Secretariat (Race horse); Stirrups; Teasers; Techniques; Trainers; Training; Veterinarians; Weaning

Subjects: Employees.; Horse breeders; Horse farms; Horse industry.; Mares.; Race horses.; Stallions--Breeding; Thorough horse--Breeding

00:13:50 - Successful stallions at Claiborne Farm

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Partial Transcript: Well, the, the problem of, uh, keeping an organization like this organized, uh, productive, proficient, supplies, food, and so on, this, this, this all falls off into your, your hands.

Segment Synopsis: Hancock discusses duties of the manager of Claiborne Farm as well as his part in bringing successful stallions to the farm. He talks about the horses he took part in breeding (Bold Reasoning, Riva Ridge, and Secretariat) as well as the illegal practice of artificial insemination.

Keywords: Artificial insemination; Attitudes; Bold Reasoning (Race horse); Claiborne Farm; Horses; Managers; Money; Organization; Riva Ridge (Race horse); Secretariat (Race horse); Studs; Success; Supplies

Subjects: Farm management; Horse breeders; Horse farms; Race horses; Stallions; Thoroughbred horses--Breeding

00:17:06 - Horse organizations

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Partial Transcript: What, uh, horse organizations are you a part of?

Segment Synopsis: Hancock notes the different organizations that Claiborne Farm is associated with. He also comments that he is on the board of directors of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.

Keywords: American Horse Council; Board of directors; Claiborne Farm; Horse organizations; Thoroughbred Breeders of Kentucky; Thoroughbred Club of America

Subjects: Horse breeders; Horse farms; Organizations

00:17:33 - Derby winners from Claiborne Farm

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Partial Transcript: How many Derby winners have you had--has Claiborne Farm had since its inception?

Segment Synopsis: Hancock notes the horses associated with Claiborne Farm that have won the Kentucky Derby. He also comments on the fact that Secretariat was conceived at the farm, but not foaled; therefore, Secretariat's success is not thought to be a result of Claiborne Farm.

Keywords: Claiborne Farm; Conception; Foaling; Jet Pilot (Race horse); Johnstown; Riva Ridge (Race horse); Secretariat (Race horse)

Subjects: Horse Farms.; Kentucky Derby.; Race horses.

00:18:10 - The horse industry and the breeding season

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Partial Transcript: What, uh--there have been great changes in the horse industry in recent years.

Segment Synopsis: Hancock briefly discusses the changes in the horse industry, as well as his lack of involvement in social activities revolving around the industry. He comments on the different countries that the horses at Claiborne Farm are from. He states that there had been 31 foals born at the farm since the beginning of 1978, as well as that the gestation period for a horse is 11 months. He also talks about the ideal birth months for a racehorse.

Keywords: Australia; Breeding season; Claiborne Farm; England; Foals; Germany; Gestation period; Horses; Money; Social activities

Subjects: Business; Horse farms; Horse industry.; Mares; Race horses; Stallions; Thoroughbred horse--Breeding

00:22:33 - Employee duties at Claiborne Farm

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Partial Transcript: The, uh--how many employees do you have?

Segment Synopsis: Hancock discusses how his 150 employees are organized, as well as the duties of the different crews. He also talks about the location of the farm for aged stallions and the farm's training track, as well as the effects of the weather on the employees and breeding season. Buckpasser's death, a fifteen-year-old stallion belonging to Claiborne Farm, is discussed as well. Hancock notes that horses have health problems similar to humans.

Keywords: Aged stallions; Breeding; Buckpasser (Race horse); Cattle; Claiborne Farm; Crews; Crops; Fences; General maintenance; Groomer personnel; Heart problems; Organization; Repairs; Shop; Stallion personnel; Training tracks; Weather

Subjects: Employees; Farm management; Horse breeders; Horse farms; Horses--Health

00:25:32 - Horse racing in present day

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Partial Transcript: What is your attitude towards present day racing?

Segment Synopsis: Hancock discusses the decline in attendance at horse races at the time of the interview, as well as where Claiborne Farm races the most. He also comments that the management of the racetracks is of good quality.

Keywords: Attendance; Belmont Park Racetrack; Claiborne Farm; Decline; Filly; Horses; Improvements; Keeneland Spring Meet; Recreational activities

Subjects: Horse Racing; Race horses; Racetracks (Horse racing)

00:27:50 - Theories of stallion condition at the time of breeding

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Partial Transcript: You, uh--I noticed that, uh, Secretariat's filly won a race at the first, uh, test, uh, fall test.

Segment Synopsis: Hancock discusses his opinion on how the stallion's condition at the time of insemination affects the turn out of the foals. He uses the turn out of Secretariat's first round of foals compared to the second round as evidence that the stallion's condition when inseminating a mare affects how the foals will do in training and participating in races.

Keywords: Breeding season; Claiborne Farm; Colts; Conditions; Crops; Effects; Foals; Genetics; Sperm; Theory

Subjects: Race horses; Secretariat (Horse), 1970-1989; Stallions; Thoroughbred horse--Breeding

00:30:13 - Horse racing and the Bluegrass

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Partial Transcript: The, uh--Clyde was asking you about your opinion, uh, of, uh, horse racing.

Segment Synopsis: Hancock discusses the reasons that horse racing is a struggling business and what the racetracks as well as the states could do to fix it. He names some of the racetracks and includes whether or not they host good competitions. He also talks about why Kentucky is a prime place to raise racehorses.

Keywords: Atlantic City; California; Concessions; Expansion; Fertile land; Florida; Garden State Park; Grazing; Keeneland; Keystone Racetrack; Limestone; Meets; New York; Numbers; Revenue; Risk; Stables; System; Taxes; Trainers

Subjects: Business; Competitions; Horse farms; Horse racing; Horse racing--Betting; Kentucky bluegrass.; Racetracks (Horse racing); Thoroughbred horse

00:34:44 - Employee management at Claiborne Farm

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Partial Transcript: Your employees, I've noticed, uh, that, uh, the horse people love horses so that, that they, s, some of them, would practically be willing to work for nothing.

Segment Synopsis: Hancock discusses how he cares for his employees and the familial atmosphere that surrounds Claiborne Farm. The interviewer discusses a study done in communist Russia that determined what type of leadership is more efficient.

Keywords: Attitudes; Claiborne Farm; Democracy; Family; Fathers; Grandfathers; Help; Horses; Institutionalized labor; Joseph Stalin; Loyalty; Shoe factories; Turnover; Workers

Subjects: Communists; Employees; Families.; Farm management; Horse farms; Horse farms--Laborers; Leadership; Russia

00:39:19 - The risks of running a horse farm

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Partial Transcript: Well, is there anything that you would like to say about the, uh, horse farm business, uh, so to speak, for posterity?

Segment Synopsis: Hancock discusses the major risks of running a horse farm, as well as the toll that Buckpasser's death took on Claiborne Farm. He brings the risks into light by discussing the percentages of foals that make it to the racetrack as well as what they do with the horses that do not succeed in racing. He also talks about Damascus, one of the horses that he cared for and loved, as well as how people in the horse industry must love the horses in order to succeed in the business.

Keywords: Animals; Arlington Park; Belmont Park Racetrack; Breeding rights; Buckpasser (Race horse); Courage; Damascus (Race horse); Fillies; Financial loss; Foals; Horses; Insurance; Love; Mares; Markets; Personality; Races; Rough times; Stakes winners; Stallions; Struggles; Success

Subjects: Business; Death.; Horse breeders; Horse farms; Horse industry.; Horse racing; Racetracks (Horse racing)