Established in the 1940s, Rokeby Stables in Upperville Virginia, housed both flat and steeplechase horses. The stables are now part of the Oak Spring Farm estate. A property rich in history and considered to be one of America’s most important horse properties. Rokeby Stables is beautifully set in over four hundred acres, the property was first purchased in 1931 by US secretary of the treasury, Andrew Mellon and was gifted to his then ex-wife. His son Paul Mellon purchased the property five years later in 1936 where he went on to turn it into one of America’s most successful horse properties.

Over the years Paul went on to expand this estate by acquire neighboring properties and when he died his estate amassed to be over 3600 acres and even included a runway for his private jet. On this estate he bred and raised multiple champion racehorses.

How did Paul afford such a property?

As you can probably tell Paul by the mention of a runway for his private jet, Paul was not your average person, he was the co-heir to the Mellon bank. In the 1960s he and his 3 other co-heirs were said to be worth around 400 and 700 million dollars each. They individually were in America’s top 10 richest people.

Paul Mellon and his success in Horse Racing

Paul Mellon is a legendary breeder of thoroughbreds and is one of only five to be in the Exemplars of Racing by the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. With over one thousand wins and over thirty million dollars in winnings, this horse property has housed some world-famous winners over the years.

One of the most successful horses bred at Rokeby was Sea Hero, who was responsible for
$2,929,869 of the over 30 million in earnings. If you ever get the chance to visit Saratoga Park Racecourse in New York there is a statue of Sea Hero overlooking the park but not many people know there is actually a second statue at the National Sporting Library. Sea hero was responsible for Mellon’s first Kentucky Derby win and this made Mellon the first owner to win at the Kentucky Derby, The Derby, and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, an impressive feat and a testament to the breeding program at Rokeby Stables.

As you can probably tell by the list of wins while Mellon’s property was in Virginia and he had great success in the American race scene his horses also went on to great successes around the world including in the European horse racing circuit.

None were more iconic than Mill Reef, a horse you will recognize if you ever visit the Rokeby as there is a statue in the center of the property. Mill Reef was the winner of twelve of his fourteen races between 1970-1972. Including winning twice at Ascot and also the prestigious Epsom Derby.

Unfortunately his career was cut short after being found to be suffering with a virus, this was after the Coronation Cup (which Mill Reef won) at Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey.

Mill Reef was honored with being named the 4th best European racecourse of the 20th century and is a name that is still heard at English racecourses.

Rokeby Stables Now

The Oak Spring Garden Foundation acquired the Rokeby Estate in 2017. Part of the foundations’ mission is to include seminars and workshops to take place in the beautiful gardens and surroundings. The Oak Spring Library, which is full of rare documents and books, remains the same to this day, untouched from when the Mellons resided there and is open to both scholars and researchers by appointment.

The property is under the easement with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, and some of the many barns and pastures are currently leased by an equine operation. There are opportunities to house foundation staff in the cottages that reside on the four hundred plus acres of land, along with the added ability to accommodate scholars and artists, wishing to visit the library to browse over the collection of books and manuscripts of Bunny Mellons.

The foundation plans to utilize Mellon’s gardens and production greenhouses, fitting into their sustainability, science and education purposes.

All of this along with his legendary name in the racing scene Paul Mellon’s legacy lives on.


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