Updated: Nov 16, 2020
Established Woodburn Stud in Kentucky as the premier thoroughbred and standardbred horse farm.
1819-1867 | Artist: Robert Wadsworth Grafton (1876-1936); original portrait by James R. Stuart
Impact & Accomplishments
Robert S. C. (Spreul Crawford) Aitcheson Alexander was born in Frankfort, Kentucky, and raised on Woodburn, the farm his father established in Woodford County. He enrolled in Trinity College, the University of Cambridge, England, around 1837.
While abroad, Alexander inherited the estate of his Scottish uncle, and was transformed, overnight, into one of the wealthiest men in the world. He returned to Kentucky in 1849 and used his financial resources to establish Woodburn Stud as a leading Thoroughbred and Standardbred farm. Two of Alexander’s former slaves (both of whom remained at Woodburn after they were freed) trained winners of the Kentucky Derby; and fifteen of his horses were famously stolen by Confederate General John Hunt Morgan’s raiders during the Civil War.
Alexander made several trips to Great Britain to obtain foundation stock, establishing some of the finest Shorthorn and Jersey cattle and Southdown and Cotswold sheep herds in the United States. Woodburn remained in the hands of his brother, A.J., after his death in 1867.
Did You Know?
Woodburn Stud - American horse breeding farm located in Woodford Co., KY. It was established in the 18th century as an original land grant property of Gen. Hugh Mercer to whom it had been granted for his military services during the American Revolutionary War. Robert Alexander (1767–1841), a Scottish immigrant, came to VA from Scotland in 1786. In 1790 he purchased the Mercer estate in KY. During the 19th century, Woodburn Stud became the birthplace of Kentucky's Thoroughbred industry. Photo credit: Bruce D. Bryant.