Anne M. Eberhardt

Claiborne to Receive Eclipse Award of Merit

Claiborne will be honored for outstanding achievement in Thoroughbred racing.

Claiborne Farm, which is celebrating its 100th year as one of the most influential and successful international racing and breeding farms, will be honored with the Eclipse Award of Merit for outstanding achievement in Thoroughbred racing.

The owners of Claiborne Farm—Seth Hancock, along with his sisters Dell and Clay—will receive the Eclipse Award of Merit Jan. 17 at the 40th Annual Eclipse Awards ceremony at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach in Miami Beach, Fla.

“It’s more of a tribute to my grandfather and father,” said Seth Hancock in a release. “My grandfather started all this over here in Kentucky, and my dad built it up into what it was, and I’m just trying to keep it going.”

Claiborne Farm, based near Paris, Ky., came into prominence through the leadership of Arthur B. Hancock, son of Virginia Civil War Captain and breeder Richard Hancock. In the first half of the 20th century, Arthur Hancock launched a breeding program that influenced the path of American breeding. Imported European horses Sir Gallahad III and Blenheim II sired Triple Crown winners Gallant Fox and Whirlaway, respectively.

Meanwhile, Hancock's bloodstock advice to many of America's leading breeders added to his influence. Following his death in 1957, the English annual Bloodstock Breeders' Review described him as "probably the most influential breeder in the history of the American Turf." His son then stepped up to match that status in his own era.

Arthur B. “Bull” Hancock Jr. continued the pattern of breeding major winners, importing influential stallions, and conducting business with the elite among American breeders. Nasrullah led the sire list five times, and his son Bold Ruler—who led the list eight times—sired the 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat. Hancock also bred and stood Round Table, syndicated Nijinsky II, and managed the career of Buckpasser.

Following his father’s death in 1972, Seth Hancock, 23, syndicated Secretariat for a then-record $6 million and established a new era for Claiborne. Hancock continued the family’s success, managing its own and clients' high-quality broodmare bands, while such stallions as Mr. Prospector, Danzig, and Seeking the Gold continued to make headlines. In all, Claiborne stood the year’s leading sire a record 27 times.

Some of the farm’s top victories on the racetrack were recorded by 1984 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes (both gr. I) winner Swale; homebred Forty Niner, the 1987 2-year-old champion; and two-time Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Lure. Claiborne also demonstrated its international influence as the breeder of the stallions Nureyev and Caerleon, and of the dam of stallion Sadler's Wells.

In a cap to its 100th year, the 4-year-old Blame , bred by Claiborne and Adele Dilschneider, won four graded stakes in 2010, culminating with a neck victory over Zenyatta in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I).

“Like virtually all racing fans, I grew up watching horses bred and raised at Claiborne Farm win many of our sport's most prestigious races,” said Robert N. Elliston, president and CEO of Turfway Park and NTRA executive chairman of the board of directors, in a statement. “Later, having worked in the industry, I gained an even greater understanding and appreciation for the decades of sustained excellence Claiborne has compiled. As it enters its second century of operating Claiborne Farm, the Hancock family continues in an unwavering quest to raise quality Thoroughbreds the only way it knows how-—that is, the Claiborne way.”