Tuesday, November 11, 2008

From Belle Meade to Santa Anita

At the time I made my visit to the historic Belle Meade Plantation in Nashville, Tennessee, this fall, I did so because I had seen the Interstate Exit signs to it several times in the past, and I was curious to know more about it. I prepared for the visit by reading up on its history on the Internet, but the thing that I learned that was most interesting to me, was not revealed until I was inside the mansion and taking the guided tour. The docent pointed out paintings and documents showing that a well-known thoroughbred that I had become intrigued with ---Sea Biscuit---has a bloodline that can be traced back to Belle Meade Plantation. On a visit my sister and I made with one of our California cousins, we posed for photos with a life size statue of Sea Biscuit at Santa Anita Horse Racing Park in California. Horse breeding was an important aspect of the Belle Meade farm's past, and one of their prominent horses was named Iroquois, who became famous in 1886, because it was the first American winner of the English Derby. Although Kentucky is more commonly thought of as the center of horse breeding, back in the 1800's, the area around Belle Meade (which means "beautiful meadow") was also a force to be reckoned with, in terms of breeding stock. Besides the livestock raised on the farm, there were crops to be cultivated, and as was common in those days, the field labor was done by slaves. One can tour the former slave quarters, the dairy barn, the smokehouse, the large groomed lawn,and the carriage house, as well as the interior of the mansion. Of course, there is a gift shop, and even a restaurant where you can enjoy a meal while contemplating the rich history of the place where you are dining. This was a very enjoyable afternoon for me, and I would recommend it if you are ever in the Nashville area. Go to www.bellemeadeplantation.com for more information. Miles of smiles! Tricia
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