The history of Arthur Hancock III's family and the history of Thoroughbred breeding in America have parallels. Both began in Virginia, then migrated across the Cumberlands to settle with permanence in Kentucky.

Hancock's great-grandfather, Capt. Richard Hancock, was wounded while serving with the Army of Northern Virginia at the battle of Gettysburg. He was taken to Charlottesville in a mule-drawn ambulance. While recuperating, Capt. Hancock met and fell in love with Thomasia Overton Harris, whose father owned Ellerslie Farm. The two were later married and settled in the area.

Capt. Hancock was drawn into racing by the Virginia horseman Maj. T. W. Doswell. A trip to see Doswell's Eolus in a race at Pimlico in Baltimore rekindled boyhood images of court-day races back in North Carolina. Capt. Hancock began purchasing Thoroughbred mares, and Ellerslie became the home of the first distinguished racers bred by the Hancocks.


Arthur Boyd Hancock Sr., son of Capt. Hancock, inherited the same devotion to agriculture. A few years after his marriage to Nancy Tucker Clay in 1908, A. B. Hancock Sr. expanded his breeding operation beyond Ellerslie, establishing a division on the Kentucky property inherited by his bride. They named the farm Claiborne, and in his lifetime and through succeeding generations, the farm has been an international leader in breeding, sales, and racing.


Arthur B. Hancock Jr., known to the world as "Bull," was at one point sent back to run Ellerslie with an arrangement from his father, "If you make a profit, I'll hire you back at Claiborne; if you don't, just stay over there." The younger Hancock succeeded, and in later years he created a similar opportunity for his own eldest son, Arthur B. Hancock III.

 

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