Bull Dog’s gravestone stands in a pastoral setting on the ground of Carnahan House. This house was once the grand residence in the center of Coldstream Farm, which grew as its success did by acquiring land of other nearby farms, including McGrathiana Farm, where the winner of the first Kentucky Derby, Aristides, was bred.
McGrathiana was purchased later by C.B. Shaffer, along with a nearby farm called Coldstream. Shaffer gave the name Coldstream to all the holdings that made up the farm he purchased. He was also the owner of the farm when the house that would later be called Carnahan House, after the University of Kentucky purchased the property, was built.
It is likely Bull Dog’s stone was moved to its present location but not his remains. Still, it was awe-inspiring to stand before this homage to him and reflect upon what he contributed to the Thoroughbred breed.
According to Avalyn Hunter’s American Classic Pedigrees website, Bull Dog had a strong opportunity at stud due to his full brother Sir Gallahad III’s success as a sire. Of course, Bull Dog sired the incomparable Bull Lea, and that alone would be enough to ensure his name lived on. He earned standings in the top tier of the sire rankings numerous times, and also was a top broodmare sire later in his stud career.
Interestingly, Bull Lea became one of only four stallions to sire three Kentucky Derby winners, with his sire’s full brother Sir Gallahad III being one of the others.
In addition to Aristides, over the years and varying ownership, other top horses came from this land surrounding the last remnant, the grand home referenced above, of when it was devoted to raising horses. Hindoo, Jet Pilot, Myrtle Charm, and of course Bull Dog were some of the most notable horses that were bred and raised on the property, whether it was called McGrathiana, Coldstream, or Maine Chance Farm at the time those horses were bred.
Returning to the grounds of Carnahan House a week later, on May Day, fields surrounding what had been McGrathiana Farm, where Aristides was bred and raised, were beginning to be awash in yellow flowers. The older trees on the land immediately surrounding the house had sprouted leaves.
The surroundings were lovely and appreciation grew that so much of this land had been left undeveloped. As I first walked the grounds of Carnahan House, I wondered if broodmares had once roamed those fields while their foals played, and I could almost see it in my mind’s eye, even though the trees seemed old enough to have been on the grounds since it was a farm and therefore had been unlikely to be a pasture. Still, in a city that grows in leaps and bounds and overtook many sites that had once been on the outskirts of Lexington, I liked seeing this land remain mostly untouched.
I had also been curious if I could find Rose Leaves’ grave site and a few others of horses that once had lived at Coldstream Stud, but I also saw another source that said Bull Dog’s grave site had been moved and it was not clear if his remains also had.
I realized that must be the case, since the website I had consulted to try to find his grave site had an inaccurate location, and perhaps Rose Leaves’ grave site is no longer marked. If it is, it would likely be too difficult to find.
However, I drove around a little more and came across a historical marker denoting that I was standing in the midst of the land where Aristides had been raised. Many times in the past as I drove by that site, knowing it was the general vicinity of where he once lived, I had wondered how it looked when he was a resident. As it turns out, except for the road running through the land, and a business nearby, it is not that hard to envision how it may have been in that era, for it is mostly open land. Another nearby marker mentioned that Cane Run Creek had run through the property then as now. And what stood out to me, standing there, was how lovely and great it was to see a site that was a haven for birds and probably a few types of aquatic life, even near a heavily-traveled road in Lexington. There was a deep serenity in the flowing water and the bird songs, and I loved the coincidental discovery of the site where Aristides had once lived, for all the time I had wondered about it.
I also loved that it was on May Day I discovered this, blooming flowers cropping up on the land, a harbinger of spring that the day marks.
Before leaving the grounds of Carnahan House, I also looked inside of what had once been a grand home and it was still evident on the outside how it had though it had fallen into some disrepair and disuse.
With another attempt to locate the grave sites of horses besides Bull Dog, I found what appeared to be another grave stone. If it was, it was inscription-side down, and yet still confirmed what I had begun to suspect, given that Bull Dog’s gravestone was no longer where a website I had consulted mentioned it as being, and also since it had been moved, it was likely the other gravestones had too.
It is too difficult to identify if this stone I found is that of Rose Leaves, Etoile Filante, or Reaping Reward, yet it seems likely it is one of those. While it has not been left standing in a place of honor like Bull Dog’s, it still reclines in a peaceful site beneath a tree that had honeysuckle flowers growing alongside and stretching down towards the gravestone.
One other interesting note about this property, as its historic reign continued in the racing world, part of Coldstream Stud later became Maine Chance Farm. Part of the property retains that name, with another part being a research farm, both part of the University of Kentucky’s holdings, along with the nearby Coldstream property. As one who appreciates racing history deeply, it always stood out to me that there was a significance to getting to be on the Maine Chance property to take classes while enrolled in the University of Kentucky’s Equine Science and Management degree, with their resident horse herd, and later to work on the research farm and go past that part of the property on the way to work.
One of the barns on the Maine Chance property was one I could envision just as it would have been when Elizabeth Arden Graham’s horses resided there. The university still raises Thoroughbreds on-site, with the foals being handled by students through their yearling year to learn everything about raising a young horse and sales prep. It also stood out that where a training track had once been left a path evident near the entrance, traces of what once had been, much as Carnahan House, Aristides’ birthplace, and Bull Dog’s gravestone have their own stories to tell of the enduring significance this land gave rise to in the racing industry.