The Next Generation of Derby Contenders

Just call it the spring foal-age: From January till May, foaling season dawns in the bluegrass hills of Lexington, Kentucky, and wobbly youngsters by the dozen begin springing up at local horse farms.

All of the foals born in the northern hemisphere share the same official “birthday”—January 1—based on the way Thoroughbreds are categorized. So horses born earlier in the year have the advantage of a longer maturation period before they begin competing in races restricted by age (the Kentucky Derby, for instance, is open only to three-year-olds).

Indulging in this cuteness overload comes easy—you can book tours of Lexington horse farms through the nonprofit Horse Country. And if you head to Mill Ridge Farm, just southwest of downtown, your guide might well be Price Bell Jr., whose grandmother founded the farm in 1962. Her winning horses not only brought acclaim to Mill Ridge but to Kentucky stock in general. Today, the farm still breeds and boards mares and raises foals—since 2000, says Bell, Mill Ridge has raised or sold thirty-four grade-one race winners, an impressive number considering most horses have just a 0.5 percent chance of ever winning one of these top-tier races. “We’ve been very blessed this year to have mostly uncomplicated births,” Bell says. Click through these photos of Mill Ridge’s newborns, and you’ll start to feel pretty lucky, too. Lucky enough, perhaps, to start placing your bets.

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