A Place to Rest
The Lane’s End stallion complex comprises several buildings, but its foundation sits under a patch of grass and ivy on its outskirts.
A half-circle of hedges to the southeast of the stallion barns conceals the farm’s graveyard; a finely manicured resting place for champions, and the ancestors of champions, that resided at Lane’s End and contributed to the farm’s ascent into one of North America’s leading Thoroughbred operations.
For all the living stars on the Lane’s End property, farm tour and hospitality manager Ande Farish Day said the memorial to the stars of the past is one of the most popular destinations for visitors.
“During COVID, we did some virtual tours through Facebook, and it was one of our most requested virtual tours,” she said. “It was one that we weren’t sure we wanted to do, because it seemed kind of sad, but it was really fun for us to go through and make notes on all these horses that were here before I was here and learn about them.”
The graveyard was constructed and landscaped before it was needed, but as the farm’s stallion operation opened and expanded in the mid-to-late 1980s, the natural order of life meant it would eventually have residents.
The first was Fappiano, who arrived at Lane’s End in 1987 after beginning his stud career in Florida, and succumbed to laminitis in 1990. The newest members are sire City Zip and broodmare Private Status, the dam of Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Status, who both died in 2017.
As much as the graveyard is a tribute to the horses within it, the plot of land is a salute to symmetry and serenity.
With the brick entryway under one’s feet, the graveyard consists of three curved rows, with 13 foundation broodmares on the left and 15 stallions on the right, with a grass walkway down the middle.
Pedigrees crisscross the aisle and loop around the swaying Japanese Zelkova trees. Weekend Surprise, one of the breed’s greatest blue hen mares, rests just a few steps away from her Preakness Stakes-winning son Summer Squall. Both were born at Lane’s End and spent their reproductive careers there before ultimately sharing a resting place.
The rows are separated by gender, but blood stays close in the Lane’s End graveyard. Weekend Surprise is buried next to her dam, the cornerstone broodmare Lassie Dear. To the left of Lassie Dear is another of her daughters, Charming Lassie, who produced the champion and pensioned Lane’s End sire Lemon Drop Kid. Dixieland Band, one of the three original members of the Lane’s End stallion roster, resides next to his son Dixie Union.
No matter what a horse achieves to merit a place in the graveyard, their monument is the same as the horse next to them. Each horse gets a limestone marker signifying their name, sire and dam, and their year of birth and death. The stones are made by Clark Monuments in nearby Versailles, Ky.
Tradition has often seen a horse’s head, heart, and hooves interred in their final resting place, while the best of the best are buried whole. Lane’s End chooses cremation for its graveyard roster, both for a simple interment, and to ensure that every property that was touched by a great horse has a chance to properly memorialize them.
“We like cremation, because it’s a way to share the ashes,” Farish Day said. “These horses impacted a lot of people before they got to Lane’s End, so we can share the ashes with them. Gulch has a portion of his ashes buried at Old Friends.”
For all the prominent names tied to the Lane’s End legacy that reside in the graveyard, there is one name whose absence from the enclosure is impossible to ignore.
A.P. Indy, perhaps the farm’s greatest son, did not get a headstone in the Lane’s End graveyard following his death in 2020. Instead, his limestone marker was placed in front of the life-sized bronze statue of the 1992 Horse of the Year that oversees the courtyard between the stud barns.
For a horse that did so much to advance Lane’s End on the racetrack and in the breeding shed, Farish Day said it was only fitting.
“A.P. Indy was just so important to the farm, and we’d already had the statue made long before he passed away, so it just made sense to bury him at that center spot in the stallion complex,” she said.
When a place feels like it’s on a different plane from the land around it, it’s hard to ignore what one can see of the outside world, and how it ties into what is inside the bubble. The attraction is what is under foot, but it’s hard not to look up and notice how quietly the clouds move across the blue sky during an unseasonably warm March day.
The barriers, both visible and invisible, also provide a link between Lane’s End’s past and its present and future. From the graveyard, one can see the paddocks of active stallions including Honor Code, The Factor, Accelerate, and Game Winner.
Even as a natural bubble from the world of the living that surrounds it, the reminders of what the graveyard’s residents built are made clear in the senses one experiences inside of that bubble. Each sense is felt in that particular spot because the horses buried there made it so.
It’s just some landscaped headstones, but it’s also so much more.