History of Manchester Farm

Manchester Farm was purchased by Mike G. Rutherford in 1976 from Duval Headley, a nationally noted horseman and member of the Hal Price Headley Family, (a founder of Keeneland Race Track). Rutherford is a native Houston, Texan with his main residence still in Houston. Manchester Farm is located on the north boundary of Keeneland Race Track at 2500 Rice Road.  The famous Gray Mansion, built around 1789 still sets on Manchester Farm facing Rice Road. The original Headley land was comprised of 125 acres, and Rutherford later added approximately 180 acres on the west side of Rice Road.  In 1782 the Manchester Springs Farm was reported to be 1400 acres, which Col. Robert Patterson, founder of the City of Lexington, was quoted as saying "Manchester Creek is a noted place in the 1770s to find buffalo".  John Keene, who went by Jack, was gifted the southern half of Manchester Springs Plantation by his father Frances Keene, and it later became part of Keeneland Race Track.

The columns on the Gray Mansion were added in the 1930's and Manchester Farm has been used as a background for scenes in the famous movie "Gone With the Wind" and the movie "Kentucky". In recent years, Manchester Farm has been the setting for many magazine, billboard and television productions, including: Toyota, Corvette, Master Card, Ashland Oil, Hilton and US Airway ads. The farm also anchored the cover of a Lexington phone book and Travel and Leisure Magazine, and it was featured in National Geographic, Southern Living, Kentucky Derby programs, Keeneland Bluegrass programs, photographed for Playboy Magazine - featuring a fold-out model, University of Kentucky Cheerleaders, and many more.

The main barn features 16 stalls, horse washroom, feed room, tack room, bath and restrooms, and a kitchen and a TV area for workers. The barn is a towering three-story structure with columns on the front and all solid oak on the inside.  If all the oak boards on the inside were laid down end-to-end, they would stretch over 15 miles.  The barn was built in 1984 by Rutherford and is considered "the most photographed barn in Kentucky". The main barn has offices on the west side to match the Gray Mansion. The old Gray and Headley Stallion Barn was moved in 1984 from on the hill over-looking Keeneland to the east side of Manchester Farm, and it has been completely restored.  The Stallion Barn contains five large 20x20 stalls, and it once had a complete still in the upstairs compartment.  The still has since disappeared.

The first famous horse raised on the rich soil of Manchester Farm was Saxie Weimar, owned by Richard Gray in 1810. Duval Headley had Champions Tom Fool, Aunt Jinny and Dark Mirage. His last comments to Rutherford were: "the soil was so strong it had made him a good living and would do the same for Rutherford". After the sale, Duval was invited by Rutherfod to visit Manchester any time he desired, night or day. After Rutherford took over Manchester, Duval's daughter, Sally said: "he could never bring himself to visit his beloved Manchester again".

Rutherford, who as of 2013 has been the owner of Manchester Farm for 38 years, understands what Duval meant. Rutherford has also had great success raising top horses on the rich soil of Manchester Springs Plantation.  

In February of 2016, Manchester Farm was sold to Brad Kelly, owner of the famous Calumet Farm. Mr. Kelly was very gracious to allow Rutherford to retain possession of the main 126 acres of Manchester Farm for five years or until February of 2022. Rutherford’s passion in life, besides his family, is horses and his years of friendship with many Kentucky friends. After spending so much time in Kentucky, he considers Lexington his second home.

In five years, Rutherford plans to board a few horses at another farm and concentrate more on his racing. Some of Rutherford's favorite mares that were foaled on the farm and are now in retirement will be buried at Manchester Farm. The main reason Rutherford will keep Manchester for five more years is to provide a home for those mares as Rutherford always puts his horses and labs first.

Horsemen and Horsewomen are invited to visit Manchester Farm by appointment. Please contact us here for more information.