Central Kentucky has been simply buzzing this week with surprise over the sale of 2,000-acre Stonerside Farm to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the leader of Dubai. The news caught everyone off guard because the sale came up so unexpectedly. The locals have also wondered about the ramifications, since the Maktoum family already owns more horse farm land in the Bluegrass than does any other entity.
Stonerside Farm actually represents a classic example of the turnover in Central Kentucky horse farm land. Rare is the horse farm that is locally-owned, has remained in a single family for multiple generations, or that has been owned by the same individual for more than 20 years. Turnover has been the historical trend in horse farm properties. Fortunes change, owners die or lose interest in racing, and the parade passes on.
“Outsiders” and absentee owners are nothing new in the continuing story of Kentucky’s horse farms. Since the latter nineteenth century, some of the most significant farms have been owned by outside capitalists who invested in Central Kentucky land as a result of their interest in horse racing. They bought land; they improved it; they held it for some time and then they departed the business, generally leaving the land more beautiful or functional than when they arrived on the scene.
These outsiders did not live on their Bluegrass farms. They lived elsewhere and visited once or twice a year. They employed managers, many who were native-born Kentuckians, and it was these managers who formed an elite class of “horsemen” within the local community. More recently, Irish-born horsemen and other “outsiders” have replaced a good number of the old-time hardboots as managers of horse farms.
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