Historical Marker #2285 in Lexington notes the famous thoroughbred named for that Kentucky city.
Kentucky has long been associated with horse racing in the United States, and the city of Lexington and the farms surrounding it have produced some of the most well known thoroughbreds in the history of the sport. One horse that brought prominence to the area was named for the city.
Lexington was originally named Darley and was bred on the farm of Dr. Elisha Warfield, the father-in-law of emancipationist Cassius Marcellus Clay. Darley was foaled at Warfield's stud farm, The Meadows, in 1850. Darley’s direct sire was Boston and he came from Alice Carneal.
Darley ran his first race as a three-year-old and left a lasting impression on those who saw and read about his abilities. Louisiana horseman Richard Ten Broeck, along with a group of other investors, including Kentuckians Abe Buford and Junius Ward, purchased Darley for $5,000. It was Ten Broeck who named the horse Lexington after eventually purchasing him outright. Lexington won six of the seven races he ran during his career. The lone race Lexington lost was to his half-brother, Lecomte. Lexington's stamina was unique, as races then were much longer than today, with many consisting of four-mile heats.
The rapid onset of blindness cut short the racing career of Lexington and likely swayed Richard Ten Broeck to sell the thoroughbred to R. A. Alexander of Woodburn Farm to stud. Alexander paid $15,000 for Lexington in 1856. At the time it was the highest price paid for a thoroughbred horse. During the Civil War, Lexington, along with a number of Alexander's other valuable horses were moved to Illinois so they would not be captured by Confederate guerillas and raiding outlaws.
At Woodburn Farm, Lexington sired hundreds of foals, many of which turned into prize winners. For sixteen years Lexington headed the sire list, which notes the horse that produces the most race winners. Lexington's stud success caused him to become known as the "blind hero of Woodburn," and his notoriety led to central Kentucky being established as the horse breading center of the racing industry. Lexington died in 1875 and was buried at Woodburn. Interestingly, in 1878, his bones were exhumed and sent to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. Lexington recently returned home to Kentucky when his skeleton was displayed at the International Museum of the Horse in Lexington from 2010-2013.