Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Seth Hancock, July 9, 2019

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries

 

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00:00:00 - Claiborne Farm legacy

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Partial Transcript: You ask the questions and I’ll try to answer them.

Segment Synopsis: Seth Hancock illustrates the legacy of Claiborne Farm through the famous race horses who stood within the farm’s ‘Stall One.’

Keywords: Advertisements; Arthur B. Hancock; Arthur Boyd "Bull" Hancock, Jr.; Arthur Hancock; Bull Hancock; Fasig Tipton Co., Inc.; Hancock, Arthur B.; Hancock, Bull; Hancock, Jr., Arthur Boyd "Bull"; Iconic names; Jim McIngvale; Keene Place; McIngvale, Jim; Mr. McIngvale; Number one stall; Race horses; Stallions; Stalls; Yearling sales

Subjects: Bold Ruler (Race horse); Claiborne Farm (Bourbon Co., Ky.); Easy Goer (Race horse); Horse breeders; Horse farms--Kentucky; Run Happy (Race horse); Secretariat (Race horse); Unbridled (Race horse)

00:04:06 - Early farm life and memories

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Partial Transcript: But, all be it that’s a, um, fairly recent thing. For years you’ve been able to wander around the cemeteries there and it’s like seeing the stud book carved in stone isn't it? Some of the names, uh, equally, um, very moving to see.

Segment Synopsis: Seth Hancock recounts the history of the farm from its start in 1910, when his grandfather, Arthur B. Hancock, headed the operation to its building and foundational years under his father, Arthur Boyd "Bull" Hancock, Jr. He also recalls their character as well as physical attributes. Seth describes past and present farm practices and how his various life and farm experiences have shaped farm operations.

Keywords: Apprenticeships; Army; Army Reserves; Breaking yearlings; Broodmares; Death of a parent; Foals; Harold Johnson; Mares; Memories; Sheds; Stud books

Subjects: Arthur B. Hancock; Arthur Boyd "Bull" Hancock, Jr.; Arthur Hancock, III; Bull Hancock; Claiborne Farm (Bourbon Co., Ky.); Family farms--Management; Farm management; Hancock, Arthur B.; Hancock, Bull; Hancock, III, Arthur; Hancock, Jr., Arthur Boyd "Bull"; Horse breeders; Horse farms--Kentucky; Horse industry; Horse industry--Kentucky

00:09:18 - From apprenticeship to leadership of Claiborne Farm

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Partial Transcript: Um, how did you feel about having, you know--you--that says, you're ready to learn. You literally have a program to learn and suddenly you have to be ready to lead.

Segment Synopsis: Seth Hancock discusses the early and surprising death of his father, Arthur Boyd "Bull" Hancock, Jr. in 1972. Hancock Jr.’s death not only impacted Seth emotionally but also altered the trajectory of his apprenticeship, fast-tracking the intended three-year program and forcing him to take the lead early. General family dynamics, including his brother Arthur’s alcoholism, are also discussed.

Keywords: Advisory committees; Alcoholics; Alcoholics Anonymous; Arthur Boyd "Bull" Hancock, Jr.; Bad decisions; Being young; Brothers; Bull Hancock; Cancer; Family crisis; Family dynamics; Funerals; Grouse hunting; Hancock, Bull; Hancock, Jr., Arthur Boyd "Bull"; Horse guys; Howard Keck; Keck, Howard; Leadership; Nashville (Tenn.); New York; Ogden Mills Phipps; Older brothers; Operations; Phipps, Ogden Mills; Race horses; Stallions; Yearlings

Subjects: Alcoholism; Bereavement; Claiborne Farm (Bourbon Co., Ky.); Farm management; Horse buyers; Horse buyers--Kentucky; Horse farms--Kentucky; Horse industry; Horse industry--Kentucky

00:15:38 - Syndication of Secretariat

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Partial Transcript: So there you are; you've got, you've got experienced counselors around you, you've got people like Mr. Phipps and everyone else but you have to put your own stamp on it, were you aware of that?

Segment Synopsis: Seth discusses the syndication of Secretariat, the champion two-year-old, which marked his first solo syndication independent from his brother and father’s guidance.

Keywords: Chenery, Christopher; Christopher Chenery; Coach House Restaurant; Estate taxes; Lexington (Ky.); Penny Chenery Tweedy; Perry, William Haggin; Tweedy, Penny Chenery; William Haggin Perry

Subjects: Affirmed (Race horse); Bold Reasoning (Race horse); Claiborne Farm (Bourbon Co., Ky.); Gayle Mohney; Horse buyers; Horse buyers--Kentucky; Horse industry; Horse industry--Kentucky; Horse syndication; Mohney, Gayle; Seattle Slew (Race horse); Secretariat (Race horse); Triple Crown (U.S. horse racing)

00:21:39 - Yearling sales

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Partial Transcript: You say you didn't have a stake in it parti--as such, but you have, as a 23-year-old, supervised the highest syndication ever and so you must have known that the industry is looking at these kind of--'cause syndication is a new model for, for standing horses, isn't it, at this time?

Segment Synopsis: Seth explains how his father, Arthur Boyd "Bull" Hancock, Jr. left instruction in his will to sell Claiborne’s yearlings, a business move that ultimately helped keep the business on a “firm financial foundation.” Seth also recalls, in an earlier time, his father stating how the race horse Round Table “saved the farm.”

Keywords: Consignment; Death of a parent; Great man; Great trainers; Horse racing business; Horse sales; Intuition; Ireland; Irish weather; John Magnier; Legacy; Magnier, John; Maktoum family; O'Brien, Vincent; Stallions; Vincent O'Brien; Yearlings

Subjects: Arthur Boyd "Bull" Hancock, Jr.; Buckpasser (Race horse); Bull Hancock; Chenery, Christopher; Christopher Chenery; Claiborne Farm (Bourbon Co., Ky.); Damascus (Race horse); Danzig (Race horse); Drone (Race horse); Farm management; Forli (Race horse); Forty-Niner (Race horse); Gainesway Farm (Fayette Co., Ky.); Hancock, Bull; Hancock, Jr., Arthur Boyd "Bull"; Horse buyers; Horse buyers--Kentucky; Horse industry; Horse industry--Kentucky; Horses--Training; Mr. Prospector (Race horse); Nijinsky (Race horse); Penny Chenery Tweedy; Pulpit (Race horse); Round Table (Race horse); Run Happy (Race horse); Secretariat (Race horse); Sir Ivor (Race horse); Spendthrift Farm (Fayette Co., Ky.); Swale (Race horse); Tweedy, Penny Chenery; War Front (Race horse)

00:28:21 - Breeding theory

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Partial Transcript: Um, your father's belief in standing was, you know, what's that famous saying about, "a bull whose--a, a, a good bull, is half the herd; a bad bull ruins--(laughs)--ruins the whole herd."

Segment Synopsis: Seth answers the interviewer’s question, “What are you trying to achieve when you put a mating together?”

Keywords: Adele Dilschneider; Balance; Balance the athlete; Blood; Bottom side of pedigree; Dilschneider, Adele; Dirt horses; Dirt lines; Dirt racing; Elusive formula; Europe; International stallions; John Magnier; Magnier, John; Mares; Mating; Pedigrees; Perseverance; Reputation; Stallions; Turf horses; Turf lines; Turf racing

Subjects: Danzig (Race horse); De La Rose (Race horse); Face the Facts (Race horse); Farm management; Honest Pleasure (Race horse); Horse breeders; Horse industry; Horse industry--Kentucky; Horse trainers; Horsemen and horsewomen; Moccasin (Race horse); Northern Dancer (Race horse); Round Table (Race horse); Unbridled (Race horse); War Front (Race horse)

00:33:03 - Henryk De Kwiatkowski, Woody Stephens, and the purchase of Danzig / Swale

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Partial Transcript: Uh, I mentioned Danzig there, uh, uh, um, and, he's probably one of a handful of most influential stallions of, of, of that century.

Segment Synopsis: Seth Hancock recounts the histories of two influential Claiborne race horses: Danzig and Swale. In telling stories of Danzig’s purchase and Swale’s victories and untimely death, he reflects on the collaborations with horse owner Henryk De Kwiatkowski and trainer Woody Stephens.

Keywords: Blue Hen Stakes; Brant, Peter; Bucked shins; Christopher, James; Claiborne profiles; Colts; Dams; De Kwiatkowski, Henryk; Delaware; Fathers; Fillies; Filly; Florida; Foaled; Frank Wiley; Hancock, Wadell Walker; Henryk De Kwiatkowski; Horse shares; James Christopher; Mares; Mentors; Mother Goose Stakes; Mothers; New York; Peter Brant; Preakness Stakes; Puffy ankles; Race horses; Racing profiles; Shares; Stake winners; Stakes races; Stallions; Stephens, Woodford Cefis "Woody"; Stephens, Woody; Stud; Tendons; Tough sell; Wadell Walker; Wadell Walker Hancock; Walker, Waddell; Wiley, Frank; Woodford Cefis "Woody" Stephens; Woody Stephens

Subjects: Claiborne Farm (Bourbon Co., Ky.); Danzig (Race horse); De La Rose (Race horse); Horse breeders; Horse buyers; Horse buyers--Kentucky; Horse farms--Kentucky; Horse industry; Horse industry--Kentucky; Horse syndication; Horse trainers; Horsemen; Horses--Training; Kentucky Derby; Swale (Race horse); Tuerta (Race horse)

00:42:32 - The making of great horses and great trainers

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Partial Transcript: You, you, you've mentioned what a great influence Woody was on you as a, as a, as a person.

Segment Synopsis: Seth Hancock explains what he believes makes a good trainer, as well as what makes a good race horse.

Keywords: "Gypsy touch"; Arnold, Clay; Arthur Boyd "Bull" Hancock, Jr.; Bull Hancock; Cannon bones; Claude "Shug" McGaughey; Clay Arnold; Common denominators; Fences; Fillies; Filly; Hancock, Bull; Hancock, Jr., Arthur Boyd "Bull"; Herd leaders; Hugo Lascelles; Lascelles, Hugo; McGaughey, Claude "Shug"; O'Brien, Vincent; Rules; Stallions; Stephens, Woodford Cefis "Woody"; Stephens, Woody; Strides; Vincent O'Brien; Woodford Cefis "Woody" Stephens; Woody Stephens; X-ray; Yearlings

Subjects: Buckpasser (Race horse); Hoist the Flag (Race horse); Horsemen; Horses--Training; Nijinsky (Race horse); Run Happy (Race horse); Swale (Race horse); Thoroughbred horse; Veterinary medicine

00:47:06 - Mr. Prospector

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Partial Transcript: Mr. Prospector did start in Florida. That's another not-a-typical profile for the farm. How, how did that come about that--

Segment Synopsis: Seth Hancock explains how Claiborne Farm came to own the race horse Mr. Prospector, including recounting the cost of shares, vote to move the horse, and the influence of Peter Brant on the sale and purchase.

Keywords: Belmont Stakes; Brant, Peter; Butch Savin; Cox, Edward; Dirt horses; Edward Cox; Florida; Horse shares; Mr. P; Mr. Prospector (Race horse); Odgen Mills Phipps; Peter Brant; Phipps, Ogden Mills; Savin, Butch; Shares; Speed; Spendthrift Farm (Fayette Co., Ky.); Stallions; Turf horses; Yearlings

Subjects: A Wind is Rising (Race horse); Horse breeders; Horse buyers; Horse buyers--Kentucky; Horse farms--Kentucky; Horse industry; Horse industry--Kentucky; Horse syndication; Horse trainers; Miswaki (Race horse); Mr. Prospector (Race horse); Thoroughbred horse

00:49:58 - Risky syndicates / Female family bloodlines

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Partial Transcript: And, so, for instance when Conquistador Cielo won, won, the Belmont, um, you syndicated him for like six times the syndication cost of Secretariat.

Segment Synopsis: Seth Hancock discusses the risky syndication of race horse Conquistador Cielo and attributes the horse’s shortcomings to its poor female bloodlines. Seth goes on to discuss the importance of strong female bloodlines in horse breeding.

Keywords: Blood; Bottom side; Bottom side of pedigree; Broodmare sires; Broodmares; Daughters; De Kwiatkowski, Henryk; Fast track; Female families; Henryk De Kwiatkowski; Influence; Jim Dandy Stakes; Off track; Routers; Sire of sires; Speed; Spendthrift Farm (Fayette Co., Ky.); Sprinters; Stallions; Travers Stakes; Turfers

Subjects: Conquistador Cielo (Race horse); Distorted Humor (Race horse); Forty-Niner (Race horse); Horse breeders; Horse syndication; Mr. Prospector (Race horse); Myrtlewood (Race horse); Secretariat (Race horse)

00:52:55 - Claiborne Farm legacy--The next generation

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Partial Transcript: Is that--that is, something, people--that is a Claiborne trademark that you could, almost, like Pulpit--or you know, you, you're not just getting a horse, who, who, was a very good runner.

Segment Synopsis: Seth Hancock confirms interviewer Chris McGrath’s statement that horse family lines, are, by and large, the Claiborne Farm trademark. Seth continues on to discuss the importance of Claiborne’s culling process, broodmares, and staff dedication—detailing their dedication and stating that his family have never been absentee owners. He completes his interview discussing the future of Claiborne under the leadership of his son, Walker Hancock.

Keywords: Absentee owners; Adele Dilschneider; Bass, Ramona; Brant, Peter; Broodmares; Calumet Farm (Fayette Co., Ky.); Claiborne Farm (Bourbon Co., Ky.); Clay, Nancy; Culling process; De Kwiatkowski, Henryk; Dilschneider, Adele; Fillies; Filly; Hancock, Walker; Henryk De Kwiatkowski; Horse shares; Janney, III, Stuart; Legacy; Mares; Nancy Clay; Odgen Mills Phipps; Partnerships; Perry, William Haggin; Peter Brant; Phipps, Ogden Mills; Ramona Bass; Reputations; Shares; Stallion books; Stuart Janney III; Thoroughbred Daily News (Publication); Trademarks; Walker Hancock; William Haggin Perry

Subjects: Blame (Race horse); Danzig (Race horse); Flatter (Race horse); Horse breeders; Horse buyers; Horse buyers--Kentucky; Horse farms--Kentucky; Horse industry; Horse industry--Kentucky; Horse trainers; Horsemen; Horsewomen; Mr. Prospector (Race horse); Pulpit (Race horse); Round Table (Race horse); Run Happy (Race horse); War Front (Race horse)