What's love got to do with it?

April 22, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Sun Staff Writer

CHESAPEAKE CITY — Because of an editing error, a story in yesterday's editions incorrectly identified the stallion Two Punch as the country's leading thoroughbred sire. He is the leading sire in number of wins by his offspring this year. He ranks 21st in the nation in amount of money earned by his offspring.

* The Sun regrets the error.

CHESAPEAKE CITY -- Like the campus of some quaint coeducational boarding school, residents are divided by sex at the Northview Stallion Station.

The stallions live on one side of the road. The mares occupy stables on the other side.

The 220-acre farm, located on a parcel of land formerly occupied by the renowned Windfields Farm in Cecil County, has been open six years and already is judged to have one of the most impressive groups of stallions anywhere in the country, outside of Kentucky.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Its stallion lineup includes Private Terms, who might be represented in the Kentucky Derby by Soul Of The Matter, and Two Punch, the country's leading sire.

Tomorrow, in a series of five stakes races at Pimlico Race Course, some of the quickest and hardiest of the horses bred in the state the past few years compete in the inaugural Maryland Spring Breeders' Challenge. It is a spinoff of the Maryland Million, which has become a fixture on the racing calendar each fall.

It's fitting the Breeders' Challenge will be run in the spring, when the mating ritual is in full bloom at farms such as Northview.

Once, or sometimes twice a day, each of the nine Northview stallions is led by a handler across the road to a large, airy building known as the breeding shed. In the shed awaits the mare. She is teased by a male horse whose sole role is sexual arousal. Two men hold her, and if she's known as a kicker, she might have her hind legs tied together.

The stallion, also held by two men, then mounts the mare.

"There's no love involved," said Northview's manager, Junior Clevenger, who will oversee the breeding of 450 to 500 mares at the farm this spring. "It's like a factory."

Already, Private Terms has bred 55 mares and might cover 25 more before the season ends in June.

The success of Private Terms, who already has sired 16 winners from his first 30 starters, is adding excitement to Northview's hectic spring. "We're all keeping our fingers and toes crossed that Soul Of The Matter makes it to the Derby," said David Hayden, one of the Maryland horse owners who paid $100,000 four years ago to purchase 1/30th of Private Terms. "It's got all of us involved in the horse really jacked up."

Private Terms spent most of his career running at Maryland tracks and was unbeaten in eight starts before finishing ninth as the favorite in the 1988 Kentucky Derby. He earned $1 million at the track, and he was valued at $3 million when he first was syndicated as a stallion. Marylanders own about 75 percent of the horse, but the largest shareholder is New York-based corporate raider Carl Icahn, who owns 20 percent of the stallion.

Already, some of Kentucky's largest breeders are entertaining thoughts of squiring away Maryland's newest sire success.

"But we're not creating stallions to be sent to Kentucky," said Richard Golden, one of the four partners who established Northview in 1989. The others are Thomas Bowman, Alaire duPont and Robert Levy.

"We're trying to create a healthy breeding industry for Maryland," Golden said.

That industry was hit hard in 1988, when Windfields closed down. It had been home to one of the most influential sires in thoroughbred racing history, Northern Dancer.

Bowman, a prominent Eastern Shore veterinarian, said Golden "had just a bought a beautiful new farm in the area. One of his neighbors, Mrs. duPont, was certainly not going to gear down her horse operation, and Bob Levy was also just starting to move into the area."

The four of them banded together and bought the main Windfields stallion division, renaming it Northview.

The first priority was to keep "a nice base of stallions here," said office and booking manager Linda Bench, who has spent her life living or working at the farm.

The new partners met with the syndicates that had stallions at Windfields, and they retained such top sires as Caveat, Smarten and Two Punch at the farm.

"Then each year, they have added interesting new horses," Bench said.

Golden conceived the idea of spotting stallion prospects among horses that are running and buying into them before they are retired.

Bowman said that in the first five years of operation, Northview has exceeded the owners' expectations.

"We're now a solid farm," Bowman said. "We're increasing our business each year and are attracting new [mare] owners. The )) challenge is to turn our short-term into long-term success and plan for the next 15 to 20 years."

Bowman and Golden see the breeding industry rebounding after its late 1980s crash. As the supply of horses has dwindled, "demand has gone up," Golden said. "At the same time, stallion owners dropped stud fees and have made it possible for breeders to make some money again." He added that purses also have stayed at a high level nationally.

"I think people have come to realize that the horse breeding industry, like any other business, is cyclical. It's had its bad moments, but also its good moments. If foal crops don't get out of hand, stud fees are kept in line and racetracks realize they are in the gambling business and do whatever they have to do to stay in business [such as adapting alternative forms of gaming], then I'd say the industry is here to stay."

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