Anita Madden

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Anita Madden (born February 3, 1933), an American sportswoman, leader in the thoroughbred industry's high society and activist in political and economic issues in Kentucky. She was born Anita K. Myers to Orella Ferguson (died January 22, 1999) in Ashland, Kentucky. Anita grew up as a "tomboy." She played sports while in high school such as basketball and cheerleading while also being involved with the drama club. From there she attended Western Kentucky University for two years before transferring to the University of Kentucky in 1952. There she met Preston West Madden (born July 24, 1934) of Lexington, heir and grandson of horse-breeder John Madden.[1] The two dated and then married in 1955. Nine years later the Maddens' only child Patrick Winchester Madden was born. Patrick attended The Hill School, Stanford University, and then earned a law degree at the University of Kentucky.

Personal life[edit]

Anita Madden is probably most famous for her extravagant Kentucky Derby Eve gala events, inviting as many as 5,000 people. For nearly 40 years, the Maddens hosted the fundraiser until it was cancelled due to the death of Anita's mother in 1999. Every year Kentuckians and the thoroughbred industry's international high society world looked forward to the themed party. One of the themes was "Rapture of the Deep, complete with mermaids and mermen and a figure of an octopus surrounded by a dry-ice fog; The Ultimate Odyssey, with young people togged out as Greek gods and goddesses while the Trojan War was reenacted under the gaze of a sixteen foot statue of Zeus clutching a neon thunderbolt".[2]

Madden invited movie stars, authors and politicians to her social events, and often hosting famous stars in her home. For example, actor Dennis Cole is counted among her longtime friends and it is said that Burt Bacharach composed a song for her.[3]

A pink and yellow cream flower with heavily ruffled gold edges is named after her: the "Anita Madden Daylily".[4]


The Visitor's Guide for the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau highlights the historic legacy of the Kentucky mint julep with her recipe:

First, make a mint syrup. Bruise (crush with the hands) a "whole handful" of mint leaves and combine them with 1/3 cup sugar and 1 cup water. Boil for five minutes, then strain. You should end up with about 2 tablespoons of mint syrup. Pour the mint syrup into your glass (preferably a sterling silver julep cup), Add 112 to 2 ounces of bourbon and mix. Now fill the cup with crushed ice. Rub fresh mint around the rim of the cup and garnish with fresh mint dipped in powdered sugar.[5][6]

A reporter from the Los Angeles Times wrote: "One year, Anita Madden noticed some guests leaving and wondered why. 'I guess they didn't have a good time,' she said. It was 5 a.m. The Madden party has been highlighted by streakers, scantily clad women on overhead swings and a flying-carpet theme with (almost) real flying carpets."[7] Proceeds from the events reached several hundreds of thousands of dollars which went to benefit a chosen charity such as the Bluegrass Boys Ranch Scholarship Program.

Businesswoman and community activist[edit]

The Hamburg Place horse farm, nearly 2000 acres originally purchased by John E. Madden in 1898, had produced five Kentucky Derby and five Belmont Stakes winners – including the first Triple Crown winner Sir Barton; however, many great breed animals, including Shetland ponies, polo ponies and Standardbreds, came from this family farm.

The front entryway of John E. Madden's farm Hamburg Place in Lexington, Kentucky in 1911.

The last of their most famous horses came in 1987 with Derby winner Alysheba. Anita Madden made much use of the grounds for furthering the horse industry. She was always known for her business skills and was always part of her family's Thoroughbred enterprise.

In 1977 Madden was appointed by Lexington-Fayette County Urban Government Mayor Foster Pettit to the Fayette County Planning and Zoning Commission, and she continued to be appointed to this Commission for a period of seventeen years. During this time Madden was able to formulate a plan for the development of her own family farm.[8] As she told journalist and civic leader Ed Lane, "The family joke is that I'm the idea person, Preston is the detail person and Pat gets all the credit. Actually, Patrick is the person who's responsible for all the business details and decisions, and he's the attorney for the family. He keeps everyone involved in what's going on. You can't believe the paperwork that comes past all of us, and then we have regular meetings with all the family members. Preston is responsible for running all the rest of the farm and taking care of all the things he did when he was in the horse business. That's no small job."[9]

She was appointed to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission by Governor John Y. Brown and served from 1980 to 1983. Her influence on the thoroughbred industry cannot be underestimated, though the scandals associated with her gala events often overshadowed her contributions.[10] In an interview in 2000, she remembered an issue she supported regarding horse medication and was outvoted by the rest of the board. "'It's sad,' she said after the meeting. 'For all the good I did in there, I might just as well have stayed home and painted my toenails.'"[7]

The Maddens started making plans in 1986 to subdivide approximately 100 acres of the farm into a large shopping center (named Hamburg Pavilion in 1995 when ground was first broken) and residential as well as commercial lots. The first residential development was named "The Shetlands" because that was the field where they kept their renowned ponies. "Our last stallion there was a beautiful white pony named Gunpowder and we are using his likeness on information materials concerning The Shetlands. Our next phase is named West Wind. This area was named for Preston and Uncle Pat's grandmother's residence in New York."[9]

Anita Madden has become an important leader and contributor to Kentucky business and progress. Some of the events she organized were:

  • In 1991 donated her time to a charity auction to benefit AIDs patients; items to be auctioned were donated by celebrities such as Yoko Ono, Kenny Rogers, Scott Bakula and Elizabeth Taylor.[11]
  • In 2006 served as honorary chair of the Blue Grass Farms Chaplaincy and Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF) Benefit Proceeds benefited farm workers served by the BGFC and retired racehorses in the care of the TRF Maker's Mark Secretariat Center—with sponsorships of $5,000.[12]
  • In 2008 was honorary host for the "Justice for All" gala—over 1000 donors for Just Fund Kentucky, advocating awareness for social justice in Kentucky, especially for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens.

Anita Madden explained why she felt business leaders should participate in the JustFund KY fundraiser: "Just like in sports, we should have a fair playing field; .... if it isn't fair, it's no fun!" When asked if she felt if Lexington discriminated against anyone, she replied with her characteristic forthrightness: "I think it's still not fair for women... and it's our responsibility to get the word out... that you will be more successful when you make it fair for everyone."[13] In 2008 the Lexington Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners honored her as recipient of their prestigious Winner's Circle Award. Madden continues to serve on several statewide and local boards, for example, the Foundation Board for the Kentucky Historical Society; the Advisory Board for the Kentucky Equine Humane Center, and the LexArts HorseMania Committee. Anita and Preston Madden spend their time living in Florida and New York – coming back to Kentucky during the "Derby Season."


  1. ^ Madden was known as the "Wizard of the Turf: John E. Madden of Hamburg Place," by Kent Hollingsworth (Private Printing, June 1965). Also, see the high school graduation picture of Preston West Madden at Culver Military Academy in 1952 Archived July 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine..
  2. ^ Coughlin, Kelly "Social Scene at Derby Time Archived March 4, 2006, at the Wayback Machine." Horse Hobbyist. Retrieved December 5, 2010.
  3. ^ Paul Sanders, "Serving up Justice at 100-dinner Event," Business Lexington, Smiley Pete Publishing (September 5, 2008). Accessed December 5, 2010. [1][permanent dead link].
  4. ^ "Anita Madden Daylily"
  5. ^ A mint julep recipe "from a famous Bluegrass hostess, Anita Madden," in "The Idea Guide: Kentucky Derby Traditions" Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau Visitor Planning Guide. Accessed December 5, 2010.
  6. ^ Coughlin, Kelly. "Social Scene At Derby Time". Archived from the original on 2006-03-04. 
  7. ^ a b Christine, Bill. "Dark Now, Party Once Was a Dazzling Event," Los Angeles Times (May 3, 2000). Accessed December 5, 2010.
  8. ^ Pack, Todd. "Maddens Sign First Tenant for Hamburg Place Project." Lexington Herald Leader February 11, 1995, Print.
  9. ^ a b Lane, Ed G. "One on One: With the Possible Exception of my Clothes, our Family is a Very Conservative Group," The Lane Report (July 2000). Accessed December 5, 2010. Archived July 13, 2011, at the Wayback Machine..
  10. ^ See for example the gossip about Madden published in journalist Sally Denton's book, The Bluegrass Conspiracy (Lincoln, NE: iUniverse Inc., 1990), 20-25.
  11. ^ Holman, Connie. "Horsewoman has Gavel at AIDS Auction." Lexington Herald Leader 6 February 1991, Print.
  12. ^ "Madden to Serve as Honorary Chair at BGFC and TRF Benefit," The Blood-Horse (August 2, 2006). Accessed December 5, 2010.
  13. ^ Listen to the podcast of the interview of Anita Madden, by Business Lexington, Smiley Pete Publishing Podcasts, Interviews with Lexington business and community leaders Archived January 1, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.. Accessed December 5, 2010. Archived September 23, 2008, at the Wayback Machine..

Additional resources[edit]

  • Cohn, Jones, Truman, John, David, Cheryl. "A Closer Look at Others Indicted." Lexington Herald Leader 20 January 1984, Print.
  • Edwards, Don. "Madden Eve a Scratch." Lexington Herald Leader 12 February 1999, Print.
  • Fortune, Beverly. "Anita Madden." Lexington Herald Leader 26 April 1998, Print.
  • Isaacs, Barbara. "Life Beyond Revelry, There's more to Anita Madden than Annual Party." Lexington Herald Leader 30 April 1995, Print.