Alice Headley Chandler

Alice Headley Chandler’s association with thoroughbred racing and breeding started out small and away from the spotlight, but her bloodlines suggested she would have a significant impact on the sport — and she certainly has.

Alice Headley Chandler (Keeneland Library)
Inducted

2020

Born

Jan. 15, 1926, Lexington, Kentucky

Biography

Alice Headley Chandler’s association with thoroughbred racing and breeding started out small and away from the spotlight, but her bloodlines suggested she would have a significant impact on the sport — and she certainly has.

Born in 1926 in Lexington, Kentucky, Chandler’s father, Hal Price Headley, was an influential racing figure, credited as a driving force behind the establishment of Keeneland Race Course, where he served as president from its opening in 1936 through 1951. Headley also earned great admiration within the game as a prominent owner and breeder. His influence and lasting legacy was recognized in 2018 when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Pillar of the Turf.

Chandler represents the fourth generation of her family involved with the sport. Her great-grandfather, George Washington Headley, had ties to Kentucky thoroughbreds as early as the mid-1850s. He bought the land that became the La Belle and Beaumont farms, which were further developed by his son, Hal Pettit Headley, a successful owner and breeder in his own right, prior to Hal Price Headley evolving the family business into a famous one.  

Upon her father’s death in 1962, Chandler inherited four of his broodmares and 286 acres (a section of the Beaumont property) upon which she built her own legacy through the name of Mill Ridge Farm. With the land and foundational mares, the then 36-year-old mother of four went right to work and began establishing her foothold in the sport. Chandler was well prepared for the challenge. She spent her childhood observing her father as he oversaw the construction of Keeneland while at the same time raising and racing his own horses.

“I just kept going. I knew there wasn’t anything else to do, and nothing else that I wanted to do,” Chandler said.

Chandler expanded Mill Ridge’s acreage to more than 1,000 at its peak size. The farm’s breakthrough into the big time was the breeding or Sir Ivor, a foal of 1965 from the second crop of Sir Gaylord, a half-brother to Secretariat. Out of the Mr. Trouble mare Attica, Sir Ivor was purchased at the 1966 Keeneland July sale for $42,000 by Raymond Guest, the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, who named the horse after his British grandfather, Sir Ivor Guest. Attica was one of the original mares bequeathed to Chandler by her father.

Sent to Ireland to be trained by Vincent O’Brien at Ballydoyle, Sir Ivor went on to be a multiple stakes winner as a juvenile and won the Epsom Derby, 2,000 Guineas, Champion Stakes, and D.C. International as a 3-year-old in 1968. Sir Ivor’s success and status as the first American-bred sold at public auction to win the Epsom Derby put Mill Ridge on the map. It also started the trend of American-bred European classic winners and was a major turning point for Keeneland and the American commercial market. Foreign buyers began traveling to the United States seeking out potential classic winners as a result of Sir Ivor’s success.

Chandler went on to become a respected leader in American racing and breeding and lent her time and knowledge to many of the sport’s organizations. She has served as chairperson of the University of Kentucky’s Gluck Equine Research Foundation, president of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, and as a director of the Breeders’ Cup, Keeneland Association, and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association. In 2005, Chandler was honored by the Thoroughbred Club of America as the Honored Guest at its Testimonial Dinner. The following year, she was recognized by the Kentucky State Senate for her lifelong dedication to the community and to the equine industry. In 2009, she received another of racing’s highest honors, the Eclipse Award of Merit.

Chandler has passed on her passion for racing and breeding to subsequent generations of her family. Her four children — Mike, Reynolds, Headley, and Patricia — the fifth generation of the family involved with thoroughbreds, all have connections to Mill Ridge. The farm is currently under the direction of managing partner Headley Bell, who also operates Nicoma Bloodstock with his son, Price Bell, Jr. Nicoma is named after one of the first mares Chandler purchased when she established Mill Ridge.

Mill Ridge has raised or sold 34 Grade 1 winners since 2000, including six Breeders’ Cup winners. Among the horses Mill Ridge has raised are 2001 Horse of the Year and Hall of Fame member Point Given, 2004 champion filly Sweet Catomine, 2005 Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo, and 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace. La Ville Rouge, the dam of champion Barbaro, is among its charges; Barbaro’s brothers, Nicanor and Lentenor, were foaled and raised at Mill Ridge. The farm, which was home to prominent sires Diesis (GB) and Gone West, today stands 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Oscar Performance.

“I have lived a blessed life, doing just what I want to do — associate with the finest horses, clients, friends, and an industry that I love,” Headley Chandler said.

Achievements

Eclipse Award of Merit — 2009

Media

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