Celebrating Darby Dan connection to the Derby

Messenger photos by Noell Wolfgram Evans
Dressed in her handmade Kentucky Derby hat, a visitor to “Derby Creek Day” at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park looks at the collection of horseshoes won by some of Darby Dan Farms’ championship horses.

(Posted May 3, 2017)

By Noell Wolfgram Evans, Staff Writer

When you think of sports and central Ohio, what comes to mind? Ohio State? The Crew? The Blue Jackets?

How about the Kentucky Derby? Yes, there is a unique connection between one of the premier sporting events in the world and a quiet section of countryside, just outside of West Jefferson.

John Galbreath was a national business fixture in the first half of the 20th century. While he had business dealings everywhere, he called Columbus home. In 1935, he purchased 85 acres of land in Galloway near Big Darby Creek and named it Darby Dan Farms, after Darby Creek and his son, Daniel.

Shoes worn by some of the champion horses trained at Darby Dan Farms were on display for “Derby Creek Day” at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park. Darby Dan produced two Kentucky Derby winners—Chateaugay in 1963 and Proud Clarion in 1967.

In short time, Galbreath was using the location to pursue one of his passions—horse racing. His other sporting passion, baseball, was satisfied soon after when he purchased the Pittsburgh Pirates and oversaw their run of three World Series titles.

As Galbreath’s involvement in horse racing grew, so did Darby Dan Farms, becoming a world-class, 4,000-acre facility for training horses.

The Galbreath became synonymous with winning in racing circles. Darby Dan horses took top prizes in the Epsom Derby, Preakness, Belmont Stakes, Breeder’s Cup and in what’s been billed as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports,” The Kentucky Derby.

In fact, Darby Dan Farms produced two Kentucky Derby winners—Chateaugay in 1963 and Proud Clarion in 1967.

Today, the Galloway farm has a different focus, as a facility for hosting weddings and other special events. As the focus changed, the Galbreath family looked to other ways the land could continue to be enjoyed. In 2003, they sold 1,300 acres to Columbus/Franklin County Metro Parks to expand Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park. Six years later, the acreage was developed into a hiking area where people can commune with nature, as well as explore some of the area’s equestrian history. The park grounds features a round barn, essentially an indoor race track/horse hotel, as well as an outdoor track and an original grandstand, all remnants of Darby Dan Farms.

On April 30, this now shared history was celebrated with “Kentucky Darby Day” at the Battelle Darby Metro Park Nature Center. Visitors that day made Kentucky Derby hats, tried mint juleps “mocktails,” and perused Darby Dan Farms memorabilia, including jockey jerseys, horseshoes, press clippings, and Chateaugay’s Kentucky Derby trophy.

The name of Darby Dan Farms is still known and respected in racing quarters. In 1949, Galbreath bought a portion of a farm in Kentucky and also named it Darby Dan. That location has been heavily involved with horse racing from the start, training many of the horses raised at the Galloway location. While they no longer train horses, they do offer other services, such as breeding. In fact, in this year’s derby there may be as many as three Darby Dan bred horses running. The 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby was set for May 6 at Churchill Downs.

Other upcoming programs at Battelle-Darby Creek Metro Park, 1775 Darby Creek Dr., Galloway, are as follows:

  • Preschoolers: Nature Walk. 9:30 or 11 a.m. May 8. Take a short walk to look for signs of spring. Meet at the ranger station.
  • Photo Group: Member Image Review. 10 a.m. May 13. Enjoy a discussion and review photos by group members. Meet at the nature center.
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