Discover Vintage America - MAY 2017
Kansas's only Kentucky Derby winner
For many of us with roots in Kentucky, the first Saturday in May always gives us reason to remember our home state, as the annual Run for the Roses, otherwise known as the Kentucky Derby, goes off late in the afternoon.
And once upon a time the Kansas City area, if not the entire state of Kansas, had more than a passing interest in a horse named Lawrin, who won the Kentucky Derby in 1938, the only Kansas-bred horse to ever win the race.
Lawrin wins the 1938 Kentucky Derby with trainer Ben Jones and jockey Eddie Arcaro. (Associated Press photo)
Lawrin's owner was Herbert Woolf, president of
the Woolf Brothers clothing stores, which were founded by his father and uncle in Leavenworth in the 1870s. By the early 20th century Woolf Brothers was one of the largest clothing retailers in the Midwest. Herbert Woolf, in addition to becoming a retail magnate, was an avid horseman and operated Woolford Farms on about 200 acres just to the west of the state line in Johnson County in what is now the city of Prairie Village. The building that comprised the stables for Woolford Farms now houses the Mission Road Antique Mall, distinguished by its tall, pitched roof.
Woolf had purchased a stallion named Insco on the cheap. Insco sired Lawrin, born in 1935. Woolf also hired Ben Jones as trainer, who had already developed a reputation for turning out winners by that time. Jones later went on to be the resident trainer at Calumet Farms in Kentucky. Jones, in turn, hired jockey Eddie Arcaro to ride Lawrin, which turned out to be the first of five winning Derby rides for the soon-to-be legendary jockey.
Lawrin did not race in the ensuing Preakness or Belmont Stakes. He was able to lead a life of leisure on bucolic Woolford Farm, which had the look of a classic Kentucky bluegrass horse farm with white fences.
Lawrin died in 1955 at the time that developer J. C. Nichols was creating the housing and commercial developments that became Prairie Village. Herbert Woolf sold Woolford Farms to Nichols that year and it was soon divided into tidy neighborhoods and the Corinth Shopping Center at 79th and Mission Road.
Lawrin is buried next to Insco in a gravesite surrounded by a wrought-iron fence surmounted by a sign that reads "Woolford Farms." It is located inside the gated Corinth Downs community at 59 LeMans Court. It's not open to the public, but Lawrin is remembered fondly at Mission Road Antique Mall in Lawrin's Loft, where they are happy to welcome you.
Leigh Elmore can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leigh Elmore's Refurbished Thoughts Archive past columns