Oldham County and the Kentucky Derby


Oldham County’s Contribution to the Kentucky Derby


Louisville is not the only place where you can experience the Kentucky Derby. You can find many tie-ins to “the fastest two minutes in sports” right here in Oldham County. The state’s horse racing heritage is spread across the county and can be enjoyed through many events, attractions and the little known history visitors can discover while exploring Oldham County. You don’t have to look very far to find a special link to the state’s best known event. And the best part is that these tie-ins are found ONLY in Oldham!


Oldham County has earned a reputation as the Farm Tour Capital of Kentucky with its 13 uniquely hands-on Farm Tours – yes, even their horse farms – which run from April – November and entertain over 40,000 guests each year. A program known as Oldham Farm Tours, four of those tours center around horse farms where you can get up close and personal with these majestic animals:  Windy Meadows Farm, Hermitage Farm, Second Stride Retired Racehorse Farm and the TRF Sanctuary Farm at Chestnut Hall, their newest retirement horse farm, owned by the CEO of Churchill Downs and operated by the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.


“Day After Derby” Race Horse Farm Tour

Sunday, May 8th, 2022     10:30am – 12noon    Adults Only


$55 per person      Limited Tickets Available

Location of this private Farm Tour will be given with emailed reservation and payment confirmation. The Farm is located in La Grange.


Request Your Tickets HERE

Invoices will be emailed for online payment. A paid ticket is a reservation.


Mother’s Day is the perfect time to spend a quiet morning behind the scenes of this renowned 235-acre race horse farm in Oldham County! This farm walking tour includes a visit to the barn, the paddocks, and the stalls, where you’ll meet horses training for upcoming races!


You’ll experience the life of a race horse through the eyes of a Thoroughbred Trainer while learning the rich history of past and current winners from this farm in Oldham County, Kentucky. The walking tour will conclude on the grandstand with a close-up view of running race horses on the six-furlong dirt track, before enjoying a Private Mead Tasting at the farm’s gazebo with Kentucky’s ONLY Meadery.  Tour includes a souvenir!    


Tour Duration:  90 minutes         *This is a walking tour with uneven terrain that should be considered before reserving space.



Oldham County is the “Farm Tour Capital of Kentucky”



Oldham County’s Hermitage Farm is no stranger to the Kentucky Derby and can fall under many Derby categories. This historic property has a long been home to a working thoroughbred horse operation. From the Henshaw/Waters family who held the original land deed, to its ownership by thoroughbred horse owner and breeder, Warner Jones, this 600-acre farm has produced winners for over 80 years. One of our best-known champions was Dark Star, who defeated Native Dancer in the 1953 Kentucky Derby. They’ve also foaled more recent champions, including Jack Sullivan, C.S. Silk, and the Bob Baffert-trained West Coast. Once visited by Queen Elizabeth II, Hermitage Farm has added a farm-to-table restaurant known as Barn8, a bourbon tasting room like no other in Barn6, the ArtWalk experience, and features many tours and events that highlight its importance in the thoroughbred world. More can be learned about the history of Hermitage by visiting the Oldham County History Center which contains an exhibit devoted to Hermitage with items from the Henshaw/Waters family depicting daily life at the farm.


Hermitage tells the stories of the people connected with the landmark’s 1835 mansion and outbuildings on the History and Hermitage Tour. Get a closer look into the inner workings of Kentucky’s famed racehorse farms on the Thoroughbred Tour, or experience the excitement of Combined Carriage Driving and get up close and personal with a different type of equestrian athlete, the lippizan horse, on the Sport Horse Tour. Hermitage showed its philanthropic side by recently updating the Hermitage Farm Exhibit at the Kentucky Derby Museum.


The last two horse farms on Oldham County’s Farm Tours are directly related to thoroughbreds and their aftercare. Second Stride provides professional rehabilitation, retraining and placement of retired thoroughbred racehorses. The program specializes in giving retired thoroughbreds the proper care and quality training they need to succeed in something new. Visitors can see firsthand how these special thoroughbred horses start down the path to new careers after racing, as they get a new lease on life. And all of the horses are adoptable – visitors can help spread the word to find a home for a horse-in-waiting.


At TRF Sanctuary Farm at Chestnut Hall visitors will meet ten retired thoroughbred racehorses who are living out their retirement days in peace and quiet in the beauty of the Chestnut Hall Farm. This Farm Tour relates information on the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF) and the Thoroughbred Aftercare industry that cares for these majestic equine athletes when their racing careers are finished. Interact with the herd which ranges in age from 16 to 22 years old. Each horse at Chestnut Hall is an Ambassador for the 500 horses cared for by the TRF and each horse has its own story to tell. This Oldham County Tourism Farm Tour is the ONLY TRF farm in the country that is open to the public for tours! Most TRF horse farms can be found on prison properties where they contribute to the rehabilitation of prisoners.


Coming Soon to Oldham Farm Tours!   Highpointe Farm and Training Center in L’Esprit is a top thoroughbred training center with 300 horses on 235 acres of rolling landscape, barns and paddocks. The farm has active racing horses and daily training for future racing on a 6 furlong dirt track, uphill track and indoor training track. The farm boasts a strong history of past and current winners with its training partners in Kentucky and beyond. Some of the past results include these Triple Crown Races:  2010 Kentucky Derby Winner: Supersaver, 2010 Belmont Stakes: Drosselmeyer, 2011 Preakness: Shackelford, and the 2010 Breeders Cup Winner, Drosselmeyer.


Horse lovers of all ages will enjoy the stories about life on the Windy Meadows farm seen and told through the eyes of its animals. This fabulous horse farm tour showcases horses of ALL breeds and tells the story of each gorgeous one. You will learn the REAL story about living the life being part of the Kentucky horse industry…not just about racing!


A favorite farm for actors Jon Vioght, James Caan, and Raquel Welch, you will love this Hallmark® film favorite showcasing the latest movies, “The Ultimate Legacy” Series and “J.L. Family Ranch.” Not only is Windy Meadows a film favorite that you’ll recognize, you can also meet the characters of the owner’s book, “The Tails of Windy Meadows.” Saddlebreds, thoroughbreds, friesians, race horses, and all are found at Windy Meadows, along with one of the most gorgeous special event barns complete with hundreds of pounds of hanging crystal chandeliers.



Oldham County’s Derby Milliner


Oldham County is elated to be the home of one of the businesses of Jenny Pfanenstiel, Master Milliner & Featured Milliner of the 147th and 148th Kentucky Derby. After relocating to Kentucky, Jenny established Forme Millinery Co. in 2007 in Louisville to sell her custom made couture hats. She has since branched out even further to open Judith M Millinery Supply House on Main Street in La Grange. From this location Jenny gives workshops and hosts special events such as her annual Derby Hats on the Tracks.


Jenny has also been a Featured Milliner at Keeneland, and featured on CNN, NBC Sports, FOX News, and The Oprah Show. She was even selected to be one of four distinguished milliners for the 2022 Derby Hat Showcase, the Kentucky Derby Museum’s one-of-a-kind hat fashion show event. Throughout the year, Jenny will also be one of five featured hat designers showcased in the Kentucky Derby Museum Store at Churchill Downs. She said the goal for both her businesses is to “create an experience,” which she certainly does.



Oldham’s Derby Mixology & Mint Juleps


Kentucky Artisan Distillery in CrestwoodIf you’re still craving a mint julep, sip on one during the The Boozy Brunch & Bourbon Bonanza offered through Mint Julep Experiences. This brunch takes guests on a morning and afternoon tasting experience that includes a tour of the Kentucky Artisan Distillery in Oldham County. The distillery is the ONLY farm-to-bottle distillery that produces by-hand bourbon and spirits literally from the roots to the bottle. It’s also the home of Jefferson’s Reserve Bourbon and multiple Jefferson’s brands. Enjoy a tour and check out their unique gift shop while there.


Although official promotion of the drink at the Derby did not begin until 1938, the mint julep became a staple of the racetrack as early as the 1820s. At that time, jockeys were gifted sterling silver julep cups as trophies a half-century prior to the running of the first Kentucky Derby. Since then, it has become the most sought-after drink of the Derby season.


Hermitage Farm offers seasonal mixology classes. The class for April will feature the mint julep, of course. The farm also hosts a Mint Julep Sunset Social. This is a high-end culinary experience on the Thursday before Derby, or Thurby, that includes a sunset horse farm tour, mint julep bar and farm-fresh Southern dinner.


The Signature Drink of this year’s Kentucky Derby will be the “Diane Crump Blackberry Mint Julep.” The glass will feature the silks of W.L. Lyons Brown, worn by Diane Crump, when aboard Fathom, a son of Hermitage Farm’s stallion Barbizon. Brown was part of the family who founded the Brown Forman distillery legacy and he made his home in Oldham County at Ashbourne Farms. Today the farm functions as the agricultural legacy of Brown and his wife, Sally Shallenberger Brown. Ashbourne hosts a variety of events, fundraisers, galas, and farm-to-table options and a CSA program.




Oldham County’s Derby Foodie Fixes


Now a staple when visiting Kentucky, the first ever Derby Pie was created by Leaudra and Walter Kern, along with their son George, in 1954 at the Melrose Inn in Prospect, KY. They spent countless hours trying to come up with just the right blend of flavors to make this classic dessert. Once they accomplished this mission they still lacked a name for their oh-so-sweet confection. Because each family member had a favorite, the name “Derby Pie” was literally pulled from a hat and registered with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office and the Commonwealth of Kentucky.


The home of the first Derby pie, the Melrose Inn, was an iconic Derby locale in its day. No longer around, the Melrose Inn was owned by Ann Barickman Smiser and her husband, Jack, and located in Oldham County off of Hwy. 42 near the Jefferson County line. Nestled in the heart of horse country, the inn earned a reputation for its fine home cooked meals and reasonable prices. It became quite popular for its Derby parties as well. Smiser would serve mint juleps and bake country hams and fresh homemade bread to make country ham sandwiches.



Oldham’s Horse Farm B&Bs


If you need a little R&R before or after all of the Derby events, you can find it at one of Oldham County’s award-winning horse farm B&Bs, if they are not already booked! Bluegrass Country Estates B&B, Pillow and Paddock, and The Inn at Spring Run Farm offer special Derby Packages that tie Oldham County to the Kentucky Derby in a memorable way.


Bluegrass Country Estate B&B is located in L’Esprit, a unique equestrian development that was developed in the mid-1980s as a 5,000 acre Arabian Horse Farm development. Arabian horse farms have since given way to include different breeds of horses and disciplines including thoroughbreds, hunter-jumpers and dressage. It now includes a Thoroughbred Training Center and is home to several thoroughbred training farms that prepare equine athletes for the track at Churchill Downs. On the same street as Bluegrass Country Estate, you will find Highpointe Farm and Training Center (above).



Oldham’s Derby Artist


Mike Prather is the official artist of the Kentucky Derby Museum Winner’s Circle Exhibit, and owner of PRATHERdesign. As a result of a very unique relationship with Churchill Downs and the Derby Museum, Mike has painted several murals and illustrated a children’s book entitled, The Adventures of Churchill Charlie. Mike, an Oldham County native, was commissioned in 1999 to paint a full-size horse statue that stands in the front of the Derby Museum in the likeness of the Derby winner. Each year, a couple of weeks after the big race, Mike re-paints the horse to look like the newly crowned Kentucky Derby champion.





My Old(ham County) Kentucky Home


Many individuals connected to the Kentucky Derby in some way call Oldham County, KY home. Bill Carstanjen (CEO of Churchill Downs) and horse trainer Greg Foley are two of them. It was Carstanjen who purchased the Oldham County property known as Chestnut Hall and offered it to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation as a place for retired race horses, thus saving a historic farmhouse and pastureland from development.


© Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos

Greg Foley and his family have lived on the land around Sleepy Hollow Golf Course in Prospect for years. Foley grew up on the racetrack and his late father, Dravo, was a jockey-turned-trainer who recorded 1,123 wins in a training career that spanned nearly a half-century. Foley trained the 2021 Derby hopeful Major Fed, who was born and raised in Oldham County’s city of Goshen.



You Can Still Travel Oldham’s “Derby Highway”


Scenic US Highway 42, where the Melrose Inn was, and Ashbourne Farms and Hermitage Farm are still located today, earned the nickname, “Derby Highway.” In its heyday, traffic was bumper to bumper and a Greyhound bus ran on schedule every three hours. Everything culminated the week of Derby when several small motels, restaurants and gas stations were overflowing with visitors. In addition to the Melrose Inn, other popular spots along US 42 were Ashbourne Inn (owned by Lyons and Sally Brown), the Chicken Trail Inn, and Goshen Gardens, owned by William Belknap.



Just off Highway 42 you will find all sorts of Oldham County tourism attractions such as Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve, Hermitage Farm & Barn8 Restaurant, Woodland Bison Farm, Ashbourne Farms (event space), Land O’ Goshen Event Center, and Highway 524 to Westport where you will find Oldham County’s access to the Ohio River and Knock on Wood Mercantile & Cafe and our Underground Railroad history.

Also, coming July 2022 to Highway 42 will be Oldham County Tourism’s new program, the Oldham County Lewis & Clark Trail, as part of the national historic Trail.


Contact Kim Hydes, Executive Director of Oldham County Tourism & Conventions for more information and personalized Derby-themed outings.