Sunday, October 5, 2003

Maryland investors plan horse center

The Associated Press

WORTHINGTON, Md. - A group of Maryland investors are hoping a joint venture with one of Kentucky's premier horse farms will bring the region's leading thoroughbred breeding center to Maryland.

The Maryland Stallion Station will be situated on 100 acres overlooking picturesque Sagamore Farm in the heart of Worthington Valley in Baltimore County.

The partnership with Lane's End Farm near Lexington, Ky., could become the most significant investment in Maryland horse breeding in more than a decade.

Maryland's racing and breeding industries are in decline, but the closely connected industries could become major beneficiaries if slot machines are legalized, particularly if the state limits them to racetracks.

That wasn't a factor in Lane's End's involvement, said Bill Farish, general manager of the Kentucky farm where chandeliers hang in the visitors' area of the stallion barns.

"We're going into this not expecting or depending on slots," Farish said. "Obviously, if slots were to come, that would be a big positive. But we think this is a very sound concept with or without slots."

Don Litz, the driving force behind Maryland Stallion Station, said legal work involving the investment group was nearly complete.

Plans call for construction of a 10-stall stallion barn, modeled after Lane's End's showcase barns; a smaller breeding barn that can accommodate two matings per stallion per day; and fenced fields for each stallion.

Construction is to begin by the end of the year and be completed next summer.

The group has already acquired five young stallions for the coming breeding season, which runs from Valentine's Day to the Fourth of July. For that one season, the stallions will stand at Shamrock Farms in Woodbine.

By the next breeding season, they would be settled into their new home in the Worthington Valley.

"We see opportunity where everybody else seems to want to play up the negative," Litz said.

"We emphasize to people that this is a regional business, not a Maryland business. There's no fence around Maryland. People will send mares from all over the country if we have the product."

It's the first major investment in a new stallion farm in Maryland since Northview Stallion Station in Cecil County was formed in 1988.

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