Time must have stopped long ago on these serene, idyllic 60 acres where Civil War buttons and bullets, mostly Confederate, have turned up in the fields. A couple of slow trains pass daily through the property. The railroad tracks run alongside the farm’s own depot, a whimsical miniature looking quite as quaint as a doll house from Victorian times.
One of the partners in the ownership of the farm is driving down the tree-lined road past the little train depot, checking on weanlings and yearlings by the popular stallions Gone West, Victory Gallop, Sky Classic, and Medaglio d’Oro.
Our introduction took place on a Sunday, some fifty miles from the farm at Eminence, Kentucky, at an entertainment venue called the Highland Renaissance Festival. Frederick, in kilt and leather lace-up boots, looked as medieval as many other folk who were strolling about the forest and town center of this land of make-believe.
Frederick and his partners founded the “faire” two years ago, which made this its third summer of operation. A renaissance faire is meant to resemble a medieval county fair, a place where you can walk about wearing period costume (or not) while perusing vendors’ booths for peacock feathers, jewelry, and the like. Over here you can witness a jousting tournament. Over there, a ribald comedy act of the sort that medieval faire-goers might have watched. There are sword-swallowers, fire-eaters and jugglers. There are beautiful horses turned out in medieval tack.
The question quite naturally is what a Bluegrass horse farm owner is doing running a renaissance faire. Frederick, we discover, slips easily back and forth from kaki-wearing farm-owner to kilt-wearing faire-goer because he is a renaissance man himself.
He reads history. He plays bag pipes. He trains race horses. He used to play drums in a rock ‘n roll band. Every year he travels to Scotland and once spent a night in the castle — in the very bedroom — of the overlord who annihilated Frederick’s clan of origin, the MacGregors.
“It was like the last great act of defiance,” Frederick said. “I was doing some research to find castles and just came across it, in Loch Lomond. So I called them up and asked, ‘What’s the chance of renting the guy’s bedroom? Sign me up.’”
Back in Kentucky, Frederick founded the faire with his partner in ownership of Oak Haven, Stephen Baker (owner of Baker Ranch near Iredell, Tex.), Frederick’s wife, Linda, and Mark and Ludmilla Lowery, the latter also fans of renaissance faires. Frederick and Linda had discovered renaissance faire-going while he was managing a farm in Texas about 15 years ago. They have been to renaissance faires all over the country.
“If you go to enough of these things you get to be friends with everybody,” he said. “I like going to the races. I never go to the races without seeing somebody I know. There are lots of parallels with the race track community.”
Three days later, I met up with Frederick at Oak Haven Farm. On this day, he wore the kakis favored by Bluegrass horsemen.
He drove me in his double-cab truck through the long, narrow 60-acres, along the main drive lined with oak trees. He and Baker, the Texan, “looked at probably 100 farms for sale,” Frederick said. “This was first one we looked at,” and they went back to it. “The thing that sold me was the oak trees,” Frederick said.
Last spring at Keeneland, Oak Haven Farm won two races. The farm keeps horses in training in Lexington and Frederick also manages between 40 and 50 horses with various trainers at southwestern tracks like Lone Star, Remington Park, and Louisiana Downs for Baker and other clients. As with all farms, the big goal at Oak Haven is to win the Kentucky Derby or a Breeders’ Cup race.
They thought they were on their way in 2004, with a colt named Tricky Taboo that Frederick trained. “He looked like he was destined to run in the Derby and he ran second in 2004 in the $500,000 Lane’s End Stakes (won by Sinister G). But he couldn’t take the pressure. He just fell apart.”
Baker Ranch also bred and raced Slewpy’s Storm, the leading Texas-bred older mare in 2005.
The operation at Oak Haven is small and semi-private, with horses kept for only one client besides the partnership of Baker and Frederick. Perhaps only four yearlings will go to the September sales at Keeneland. But that’s the way the partners want it on this serene, secluded property surrounded on three sides by an ancient creek and where a slow train passes through.