What better place to serve as the backdrop for a movie about a horse racing legend? No other region in the world can match our record of producing horses of super-star status. Almost 80% of Kentucky Derby winners were bred and born here. And we continue to produce the horses that will capture the imaginations of future generations.
Here's a guide to the locations where the Kentucky footage was shot, and some must-sees for Seabiscuit movie fans. The film crew spent about a month filming in Lexington and Paris. Spend a few days among the rolling hills of Central Kentucky and you'll see why Hollywood fell in love with us.
Kentucky Horse Park. Arrive by 10 am. You could easily spend an entire day exploring this working horse farm with its two museums, special exhibits, seasonal shows, tack and farrier shops, trail rides, and more! Don't miss seeing celebrity residents Cigar and Funny Cide. Rich In Dallas, one of the equine actors that "played" Seabiscuit, once called this State Park home. Rich In Dallas was the horse that carried Tobey Maguire at a gallop over a stone bridge and along an open field with brilliant fall foliage in the background in the scene filmed at historic Xalapa Farm near Paris. If you are looking for Seabiscuit merchandise, check out the gift shop. On your way out, don't forget to pay your respects to Seabiscuit's great rival, War Admiral. He's buried at the feet of his father's famous statue, alongside the great Man o War himself.
Driving Tour. From the Kentucky Horse Park, take Iron Works Pike to Paris Pike and head into Bourbon County where much of the beautiful fall landscapes from the movie were captured. Right away you will see Normandy farm to your left, the site of the reconnaissance mission to spy on War Admiral in his paddock. This farm does accept visitors if you make your arrangements well in advance. You can make a picturesque loop past some extraordinary farms by turning left on to Hughes Road, just past Normandy, and left again on to Kenny Lane. One more left on to Ironworks puts you back at Paris Pike. As you continue on Paris Pike, notice the beautiful stone fences. As Paris Pike has been improved, all of the existing stone walls have been preserved, restored or rebuilt. Take a right on 627 just before town, and you'll drive past Claiborne farm where Seabiscuit was born. A trip down Stony Point Road, your second left, will take you past Stony Oak and Stoner Mill farms, who provided some of the most breathtaking scenery in the film. Red Pollard rides Seabiscuit over hill and dale, until the horse seems to take heart from his beautiful surroundings and is inspired to run again. Other scenes were filmed in a barn and on Stoney Oak's training track. These farms are not open to the public, but driving these back roads will certainly give you a taste of horse farm country. A left on to Thomas and another left on to Spears Mill will return you to 627. Take a right to return to Paris. The Stiff farm, used as the Pollard family home, is west of town on US 460. The interior was used for Howard's San Francisco apartment.
Explore Paris. You might want to spend some time antiquing in this quaint town. The set director for Seabiscuit certainly did. Many period pieces used in the movie came from Graham's Antiques on 4th street. Owner Dan Graham also helped set up a vacant store front on Main Street across from the Courthouse to be used as a backdrop for Jeff Bridges. Several Main Street antique stores provided set pieces for locations here and around the country. Stop in at the Visitor's Center at the courthouse (main floor) for suggestions about shopping. And for some inside scoop from Jeanine of the Tourist Commission. The production crew rented her driveway to set up equipment for the shoot at the 1st Presbyterian Church at 6th and Pleasant. Head back to Lexington via Paris Pike. It turns into Broadway as you approach the city.
Dinner. Why not go where Lexington's horsey set goes? Try Dudley's on Short Street. Or Le Deauville on North Limestone, our popular French restaurant, named for our sister city-a city almost as horse crazy as we are! Saul Good, near Triangle Park at the intersection of Short and Broadway, is a good choice for families.
Evening. Check out the Calendar of Events to see what might be going on when you are here. Monday nights you can be part of a live radio show, WoodSongs Old Time Radio hour. On Wednesdays, hear Bluegrass Music at the performance space at ArtsPlace. Take a carriage ride, catch a movie at the Kentucky Theatre or hit one of the downtown night spots. Don't have the Seabiscuit book yet? Head over to Joseph Beth Booksellers at Lexington Green, one of the largest bookstores in the Southeast. They are open till 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Keeneland Race Course. Santa Anita and Saratoga race tracks both star as themselves, but any time you see Baltimore's Pimlico on screen, it's actually Lexington's own Keeneland Race Course. Head out to Keeneland early in the morning, 7 am is good, and you can watch horses working out on the track. Imagine the stands filled with 4,200 extras in period clothing to film the pivotal match race between War Admiral and Seabiscuit. (Universal studio took over an empty Lexington warehouse, the Wilkerson Building, to house all the costumes.) Don't have breakfast before you set off, wait and take advantage of the hearty, inexpensive breakfast at the track kitchen. It's not just for the trainers and jockeys; you are welcome too.
Calumet. Be sure to notice this world-famous farm adjacent to Keeneland Race Course. Locals easily recognized the distinctive red and white barns of Calumet as Seabiscuit's barn on the Ontario horse farm. World-famous Calumet Farm has produced nine Kentucky Derby winners. Two of them, Whirlaway and Citation, carried the farm's red and blue silks to Triple Crown victories. This farm is not currently accepting visitors.
Downtown Lexington. Many areas of Lexington would make wonderful locations for a period film, but no downtown locations were integral to the movie, unless you count the Gold's Gym (now Proof on Main) at 230 West Main Street where Toby McGuire went to work out nearly every afternoon! Lexington got to see Seabiscuit before its Tinseltown debut at the lovingly restored Kentucky Theatre, also on Main Street. Built in 1921, this grand movie house was the site of the Lexington premiere, a full week before its nationwide release on July 25. Historic Eastern State Hospital did make it to the big screen as a stand in for the Baltimore hospital where Red Pollard recuperated from his fateful spill. Standing on its beautiful grounds at 627 West Fourth Street, Eastern State has been operating continuously since opening on May 1, 1824, making it the second oldest institution for persons with severe/chronic mental illness in the United States. Some of the original buildings still stand. The hospital relocated in 2013 to nearby Coldstream Park, and the campus is now being developed as the new home of the Bluegrass Community and Technical College.
Don't leave town without seeing Thoroughbred Park at the intersection of Main and Midland. You'll be amazed at the life-sized bronze statues of horses frozen in time as they approach the finish line. Mares and foals graze on the knolls behind the "track". Wander the paths through the park and learn about the Bluegrass region's unequaled contribution to Thoroughbred racing. (Walking and driving tour maps are available through the Lexington convention and visitors bureau: VisitLEX.)
For more information, contact the Lexington Visitors Center at (800) 845-3959. Call between 8:30 and 5 (Eastern Daylight Savings), Monday through Saturday, and you'll get to talk to a real, live, Visitor Information Specialist.
For more information about Universal's Seabiscuit, see www.seabiscuitmovie.com
Farms are private property. Don't enter farms unless you have previously received permission.
Written by Lu Ann Pelle
If you loved the movie Seabiscuit, don't miss Dreamer also filmed in the Horse Capital of the World.