WOODBINE -- Jerry Hoffberger formally left the horse breeding business yesterday when his 120-acre Sunset Hill thoroughbred farm was auctioned off at a public sale.
The new owner, who is from Maryland, did not want his name disclosed. He owns show and draft horses, and he plans to stand a Clydesdale stallion named Spike and a Percheron stallion named Adam at the farm that was once home to such well-known thoroughbred sires as Run The Gantlet and Northern Jove.
Hoffberger, former owner of the Baltimore Orioles, bought the farm in western Howard County approximately 12 years ago. He had almost instant success there with Run The Gantlet, a stallion he imported from Ireland after one of the horse's sons, Providential II, and a daughter, April Run, finished 1-2 in the 1981 Budweiser International.
But Run The Gantlet died of a heart attack in 1986, and the farm never found a suitable replacement.
"I'll be 73 in April," Hoffberger said. "I can buy 2-year-olds in training and not wait four years to breed and raise a horse to race. It's time for me to get out [of the farm business] and to cut back."
Sunset Hill had been for sale for about a year. By 1 p.m. yesterday, a large circle of people, including six potential buyers, had gathered in front of the Hoffbergers' home.
The farm was sold in two parcels. The first parcel, an unimproved 3 1/2 -acre lot, was purchased by James Major of Linthicum for $80,000.
The main farm, which included 116 acres, five houses, stalls for 54 horses and numerous run-in sheds, brought $780,000.
Hoffberger said the farm had been placed in the state's farmland preservation program and that he had already sold the development rights for $800,000.
Joe Cooper, president of Alex Cooper Auctioneers Inc., the Towson company that handled the sale, said Sunset Hill is the third large horse farm his company had auctioned off recently. "But those other two sales were [bank] foreclosures," Cooper said. "The Hoffberger farm is not a foreclosure."
Sunset Hill was formerly known as Helmore Farm and was first developed into a major thoroughbred facility by Edgar Lucas.
Kevin Bowie, a former jockey who is now a trainer, leases the farm and has 40 horses there. The new owner said he hopes Bowie will remain there "so we can keep part of the farm for thoroughbreds."
NOTES: Bud Delp, who has about 20 horses at Laurel, has been in Florida for a month with a one-horse stable -- Sunny Sunrise. The year-old speedster drew the outside post in the nine-horse field for tomorrow's $500,000 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park. The stakes is the first race in the lucrative American Racing Championship Series and will be simulcast at Laurel. Fly So Free and Strike the Gold are listed as morning line co-favorites at 5-2 odds. . . . Mike Luzzi rode four winners on yesterday's Laurel card, including the feature race aboard Ameri Valay. Luzzi previously rode five winners on one Laurel card on Jan. 10. . . . Jon Levinson, vice president of Alex Cooper Auctioneers, assisted in the Hoffberger farm sale yesterday. While he was taking bids at the auction, one of his horses, T.T's Glory, won the second race at Laurel. . . . Hoffberger, and his wife, Alice, have purchased a new home in Baltimore and plan to move there after settlement at Sunset Hill. . . . Track record setter Northern Wolf is now a father. The 6-year-old horse's first foal, a filly, was born Jan. 22 at Thornmar Farm in Chestertown and is a half-sister to stakes winner Never My Love and recent winner Jazzy One. Northern Wolf, upset winner of the De Francis Dash in 1990, stands at Corbett Farm in Monkton.