Ag Grad Among World's Top Thoroughbred Breeders
Farms Seth Hancock 71
Represents Best of Equine Industry
By Haven Miller
Not many graduates
of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture begin their
careers by spearheading a business syndicate that acquires one
of the top Thoroughbred stallions in history. But thats
what 23-year-old Seth Hancock did in 1973. The horse was Triple-Crown-winner
Hancock with horse, Unbridled.
Secretariat was a great thrill and a very big deal, but when youre
23 years old you tend to think thats the way things are
supposed to be, said Hancock, owner of central Kentuckys
renowned Claiborne Farm. Then you get a little older and
get knocked around a bit, and you realize if it ever happens again
youll appreciate it more.
his family have had much to appreciate. For nearly a century the
Hancocks of Claiborne Farm have been in the forefront of the worlds
Thoroughbred breeding, racing, and sales industry. The names of
stallions that have stood at Claiborne are a whos
who of racing royalty: Sir Ivor, Nijinsky, Danzig, Swale,
Unbridled, Go for Gin, Seeking the Gold, and Forty Niner. During
its history the horse farm has raised more than 54 champions and
hundreds more stakes winners.
of the biggest thrills for me was our success with that horse
up there Forty Niner, Hancock said, gesturing toward
a painting mounted above the mantel in his office. Forty
Niner won the Travers Stakes in New York. The person who trained
him for us was Woody Stephens, who was getting along in years
and had won the Derby but had never won the Travers.
Like his grandfather,
Arthur B. Hancock, Sr., and his father, A. B. Bull
Hancock, Seth Hancock has combined a strong work ethic and a talent
for the business to maintain the highest level of quality. His
down-to-earth take good care of the horse philosophy
and remarkable record of achievement have placed him among the
worlds most-respected Thoroughbred breeders, a distinction
officially recognized by the Thoroughbred Club of America when
it honored him in 2000 for his outstanding contribution to the
his early years on the farm in Bourbon County. It was during his
senior year in prep school that he first thought about possibly
attending UK, but he actually began his college career at the
University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.
Farm owner Seth Hancock, with Gus Koch in front of a portrait
of Forty Niner, Hancocks favorite horse.
gone to Woodberry Forest School for two years in Virginia and
knew I was interested in agriculture, but Daddy had other ideas
for me, recalled Hancock. I applied at Vandy and Centre
and Sewanee, and finally decided on Sewanee. But I never really
settled in, and was coming home to Kentucky nearly every weekend
for football and basketball games. So finally I said Listen,
Daddy, I can either quit school or come back here to Kentucky,
and he said, Youll pay your own way, and we
talked some more and finally reached an arrangement where I ended
up coming to UK.
about his student days at the College of Ag, Hancock recalled
that they were good ones. He credits three classes
in particular for providing him information and skills that would
prove valuable during his career.
I had a Feeds and Feeding class with Dr. Buck that was excellent.
I also had a Farm Management class with Dr. (James E.) Criswell
and a Vet Science class with Dr. (M. Ward) Crowe that were both
outstanding, he said. The faculty at the College of
Agriculture were a great group of people, and the students there
were regular folks, studious and interested in learning, and I
really enjoyed being there. Now some people might have thought
I was going to stroll over there on campus and say, My father
owns a big farm in Paris and here I am, but I went over
there to try to learn something. And I did learn something.
practical experience is also a good education, and one that should
never be underestimated.
Growing up on the farm and working there in the summers
was some of the best experience that I could have, he said.
I dont care if youre in agriculture, or studying
to be a doctor, or pursuing some other field, practical experience
is hard to beat.
years after his spectacular beginning, Hancock today credits three
groups for his success: his clients, his fellow breeders, and
his employees at Claiborne Farm.
vets, our foremen, our managers, and all the other employees have
played a huge role in our success because they take pride in what
they do and know the value of the work ethic, he said.
And his advice for the would-be Seth Hancocks now enrolled in
the College of Agriculture?
For the younger students Id say dont go to ag
school and think, Well, Ive got this ag degree so
now Im going tocome
out of here and set the world on fire, because if you dont
know how to work, youve got no chance, he said. And
it doesnt make any difference whether youre in ag
school or some other school, youve got to be ready to pay