Maryland Million tour courts horse-lovers from near and far

EQUINE SPORTS

September 09, 1992|By Muphen R. Whitney

MOUNT AIRY -- You'd never know that Derby Hill Farm used to be -- in the words of its owner Bill Holmes -- "a run-down cow farm."

The view from Holmes' favorite spot high above the 80-acre facility on Cabbage Spring Road near Mount Airy, one of the highlights of last weekend's Maryland Million Horse Country Tour, shows lovingly tended grassy green slopes with well-cared-for horses peaceably grazing and playing.

Looking out to your right you see the Irish-bred Providential, winner of the D.C. International in the early '80s, strutting his stuff for the band of yearling fillies in the paddock across the lane. To the left is Hasty Spring, a son of Spring Double and the farm's other stallion, who patiently awaits kisses from tour participants.

All around you see mares with their babies, the yearling colts and the newly pregnant mares. Among these is Rollicking Queen, a daughter of Holmes' favorite broodmare Mount Airy Queen, who was one of Derby Hill's stars of the race track and is now a mother herself.

Flags fly next to the splendid white house that Holmes and his wife, race horse trainer Leslie Glazier, built a few years after they purchased this property. Flowers abound next to the barns and around the property.

"Oh, yes, I'm the gardener around here," says Holmes with his good-natured laugh. "I'm also the chef, the fixer-upper, and the leader of the Redskins Club."

Holmes and Glazier, who was off at Bowie with her current band of 14 racehorses-in-training during the Maryland Million Tour, married in 1954 and found their Carroll County dream property in 1962.

"My wife was a very successful open jumper rider when we met in 1952 in Massachusetts," Holmes remembers. "She had so many ribbons! But we couldn't figure out how to live on them. We sauteed those dang ribbons; we fried them, baked, broiled and roasted them, but we just couldn't eat them!"

Holmes and Glazier knew they did want to stay involved with horses, so they embarked on a life of training and running Thoroughbred flat racers. They raced all over the country, spending winters in Maryland and summers in the Midwest.

"When our oldest child got to be school age we needed some roots, so we decided to stay in Maryland all year round," says Holmes. "We started travelling all the side roads and that's how we found this property. It took us three weeks just to pick up the rubbish from the cows and sheep that had been raised here.

"But I wouldn't want to be anyplace else. This has really fulfilled all my dreams. It's my life. I always say that my life started when I got in the horse business."

*

Someone who is looking forward to getting into the horse business is reporter Graeme Beaton, who writes about American financial news for the London Daily Express. Beaton, his wife Emily and their sons Ben, Jack and Ezra visited Derby Hill and Shamrock Farms during the Maryland Million tour.

Emily oohed and aahed over the babies at both farms. Graeme plotted matings to the stallions. At Shamrock Farm, he and farm manager Jim Steele discussed the various merits of the farm's Thoroughbred stallions: Aloma's Ruler, Christopher R, Dancing Count, Irish-bred Rambo and Thirty Eight Paces.

"I know him," 12-year-old Ben told Steele, referring to Thirty Eight Paces. "When Dad and I go to the track we always look for his babies. They always do real well at the races."

While the Beaton boys went off with 8-year-old Michael Steele for a pony cart ride courtesy of the pony Mr. McBeeBee, Jim introduced Graeme to the farm's Standardbred stallion Super Bradshaw and to their newest attraction, the Morgan stallion DJJJ Ebony Gold.

Ebony is an interesting story all by himself, and I will write more about him in coming weeks.

Part of the mission of the Maryland Million Horse Country Tour is to interest people in Thoroughbred racing and race horses. It was an easy sell to Graeme Beaton, but not such an easy sell to Emily.

"I won't mind if Graeme gets a race horse as soon as he sells his bestseller," she said with a smile. "He has always wanted to own one. He really does love horses. Actually, we all do."

"This tour is sort of a softening up process," admits Graeme. "I hope Emily will get a nice big kiss from one of the weanlings and get hooked."

Don't be surprised if in a year or two the Beatons' farm is listed on the Maryland Million Tour.

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