No Horsing Around

Photography by Jeremey Theron Kirby

There are only a few reminders left of Prairie Village’s equestrian past. We’ve got a few noble-looking horse heads marking the Town and Country subdivision entry, and there’s the Paddock Court neighborhood. Oh, and then, of course, there’s a horse gravesite smack in the middle of a very quiet cul-de-sac.

It turns out that the two large tombstones mark the spot of Lawrin, the only Kentucky Derby winner to have been bred and raised in Kansas, and his sire, Insco. The very well-maintained graveyard and memorial are circled by a wrought iron fence and sit on a little island in the middle of a cul-de-sac in Prairie Village’s Corinth Downs subdivision (downs is also an English reference to horse racing).

Lawrin made Derby and Kansas history in 1938 when he became Kansas’ only thoroughbred to win America’s most celebrated horse race. It was Herbert M. Woolf, a well-to-do Kansas Citian, who brought horse racing fame to the area, according to information set forth in a substantial display case at the memorial.

Woolf, who was president of the Kansas City-based department store chain Woolf Brothers, owned a rambling two hundred-acre spread called Woolford Farms. Woolf did not come from a horse racing family; it became a passion that he cultivated on his own. He eventually turned the farm into an active facility where he bred and trained horses for the racing circuit.

Looking to bolster his stable of racing horses, Woolf headed to a Kentucky auction. He arrived early, before other bidders, and was able to purchase Insco for only $500. It was considered a steal at the time. Despite Insco having suffered serious training injuries, he was still a highly coveted horse due to his bloodlines, according to reporting by the Kansas City Star.

Insco was brought back to the farm, where he sired several horses, including Lawrin. The jockey that won the Derby on Lawrin’s back was legendary jockey Eddie Arcaro, who was not Lawrin’s regular rider. His normal jockey had recently suffered a serious racing injury and was unable to race.

The 1938 Derby win with Lawrin would be the first of five wins, albeit on other horses, for Arcaro. Arcaro is in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame and is the only jockey in history to have won the U.S. Triple Crown twice, according to the museum.

Insco’s racing years were not long. He spent his final days on the Woolford Farm and was buried there shortly before the land was sold and became what is now known as Prairie Village, according to the memorial literature.

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