Mt. Brilliant Farm

Mt. Brilliant Farm
3314 Huffman Mill Pike,
Lexington, KY, 40511
Phone: 859.293.1991
Fax: 859.293.2717

Mt. Brilliant is steeped in rich history and tradition. From its first owners to the rebirth that is taking place today, the stories of the farm unfold one after another and never cease to amaze.

It all started in 1774 when Thomas Jefferson granted 2,000 acres of land north of the Kentucky River to William Russell in recognition of his brother Henry’s outstanding military service in the French and Indian War.

The land was eventually divided between William’s two youngest sons, Robert Spotswood Russell and William Russell, Jr. Shortly after the end of the Revolutionary War, young William laid claim to the smaller portion (800 acres) so he could enjoy the mystical cave and ever-flowing spring that add an enchanting ambiance to what is now known as Mt. Brilliant. Russell chose the name to commemorate the Virginia estate of Patrick Henry’s family.

In 1792, Russell built the central portion of the house. Cuming remarked in his 1807 book, “Tour of the West”, that Mt. Brilliant, surrounded by a wall with turrets at each end, lacked “only the vineyards” in its similarity to the French Provincial regions of Languedoc and Provence.

Russell died in 1824 and his heirs sold Mt. Brilliant in 1863. The farm changed hands several times, until 1905 when it was purchased by James Ben Ali Haggin. The Haggin family owned the farm for the next 85 years, and it became a fixture in the Kentucky political and social scene in the 20th Century.

In fact, it was at a political rally held near Russell Cave, which lays on the Mt. Brilliant property, that the infamous duel between abolitionist Cassius Clay and Samuel M. Brown took place. Clay, Henry Clay’s cousin, was saved by a stroke of astonishing fortune when the bullet aimed directly for his heart ricocheted off the silver-lined sheath of his Bowie knife.

Mt. Brilliant was also well known for its beautiful gardens. Owner, Greg Goodman, has returned the gardens of Mt. Brilliant to their splendor. The gardens include a vineyard, a kitchen garden full of berries, herbs and vegetables, a formal English flower garden surrounding a pond, lines of dogwood trees and rose bushes, and a twisting and winding taxus maze that reveals a Horsemania horse at its center. The gardens at Mt. Brilliant were recognized in 2002 by the American Society of Landscape Architects Design Awards.

Today, Mt. Brilliant sprawls over 760 acres of well-manicured grasses, lined with horse fences and dotted here and there by several newly, renovated buildings.

Man O' War

From the prominent sire Fair Play, out of the mare, Mahubah, Man O’War was owned and bred by August Belmont, Jr. (1851-1924). August Belmont Jr. joined the United States Army at age 65 to serve in France during World War I. While overseas, his wife named the new foal “Man o’ War” in honor of her husband. However, when the Belmonts made the decision to liquidate their racing stable and at the Saratoga yearling sale in 1918, Man O’ War was sold to Samuel D. Riddle for $5,000 who owned him during his racing and stud careers.

Man O’War stood his first stud season at Hinata Farm, then the following year moved to Faraway Farm where he joined an old acquaintance Golden Broom. His groom at Faraway was Will Harbut who came to be closely associated with the horse. Harbut gladly showed the stallion to farm visitors and spoke at length of Man O’War’s victories. Before long, Harbut’s words were picked up through national magazines, and the whole country was quoting his now famous phrase “He wuz de mostest hoss… “

Man O’War was an outstanding sire, and might have been even better if Riddle had offered more than a handful of public seasons each year. Some of his famous offspring are WAR ADMIRAL, CRUSADER, AMERICAN FLAG, BATEAU, MARS, MAID AT ARMS, CLYDE VAN DUSEN, WAR RELIC, and BATTLESHIP (who won the Grand National Steeplechase at Aintree England even though they said he was too small to be a good jumper). One of his famous grandsons was SEABISCUIT.

Man O’War died quietly on November 1, 1947 at the age of 30. He was embalmed and lay in state for three days while his final resting place was prepared in a portion of his old paddock. He was lowered into a moated enclosure, beneath a green marble pedestal from which rose Herbert Hazeltine’s heroic bronze statue of the champion. Man O’War was eventually moved to the Kentucky Horse Park, where the original burial site was faithfully recreated. More than 50 years after his death, he still attracts thousands of visitors annually. And they still consider him to be the “mostest hoss.”

Man O’War Facts

Chestnut colt, 1917.
By Fair Play – Mahubah by *Rock Sand.
Born: March 29, 1917, at Nursery Stud, Lexington, Kentucky
Died: November 1, 1947 (age 30), at Faraway Farm.
First buried at Faraway and subsequently moved and buried at the Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington, Kentucky

Racing Record

Year Age Starts 1st 2nd 3rd unp. earnings
1919 2 10 9 1 0 0 $83,325
1920 3 11 11 0 0 0 $166,140
total 21 20 1 0 0 $249,465

Stakes Record:

at 2:
won – Keene Memorial Stakes
won – Youthful Stakes
won – Hudson Stakes ………… (carrying 130 lbs)
won – Tremont Stakes ……….. (carrying 130 lbs)
won – United States Hotel Stakes (carrying 130 lbs)
won – Grand Union Hotel Stakes.. (carrying 130 lbs)
won – Hopeful Stakes ……….. (carrying 130 lbs)
won – Belmont Futurity ……… (carrying 127 lbs)
2nd – Sanford Stakes
Champion 2yo Colt

at 3:
won – Preakness Stakes
won – Belmont Stakes ……….. (won by 20 lengths)
won – Dwyer Stakes
won – Withers Stakes
won – Stuyvesant Handicap …… (carrying 135 lbs)
won – Miller Stakes
won – Travers Stakes
won – Lawrence Realization ….. (won by estimated 100 lengths)
won – Jockey Club Stakes ……. (won by 15 lengths)
won – Potomac Handicap ……… (carrying 138 lbs)
won – Kenilworth Park Gold Cup
Horse of the Year
Champion 3yo Colt

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