Industry's worth to Md. seen as $1.5 billion

On Horse Racing

February 23, 1997|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

The horse industry in Maryland is a $1.5 billion business that provides 20,000 jobs, according to a yearlong study by a Washington research firm.

Conducted by the Barents Group, an economics and fiscal consulting firm with no ties to the horse industry, the study determined that 82,900 Marylanders participate in the industry as owners, employees, volunteers or providers of goods or services.

An earlier volume of the study focused on the horse industry nationwide. It reported that 7.1 million Americans are involved to varying degrees, that the industry produces goods and services valued at $25.3 billion and that it provides the equivalent of 338,500 full-time jobs.

The study was commissioned by the American Horse Council, the national lobbying arm of the horse industry. It is the first comprehensive analysis of equine economics since 1987.

In the recently released volume devoted to 11 leading horse states, the study said about Maryland:

The horse industry produces goods and services valued at $614 million.

Its impact on the Maryland economy is $1.5 billion after factoring in spending by industry suppliers and employees.

The number of Marylanders involved in the industry, 82,900, does not include patrons of the racetracks.

The horse industry directly provides the equivalent of 6,700 full-time jobs. Spending by suppliers and employees generates another 13,300 jobs -- for a total of 20,000.

Maryland has 82,000 horses. More than 60 percent are for showing and recreation.

Two Md.-breds sold

The state recently lost two of its more popular horses: the Maryland-breds Miss Slewpy and Stormy Cloud.

Russell Jones, general manager of Morven Stud in Charlottesville, Va., bought Miss Slewpy from her owner and breeder, C. Oliver Goldsmith. A longtime breeder and well-known figure in Maryland's racing industry, Goldsmith is recovering from recent surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The day after Jones bought Miss Slewpy, a consistent stakes winner, the 6-year-old mare came down with a fever, Jones said. She underwent treatment at the University of Pennsylvania New Bolton Center near Philadelphia.

"She's making good progress," said Jones, who wouldn't expound on the illness. "We definitely bought her to breed her this year, but we thought we might run her a few times first. Now I'd say it's unlikely she'll race anymore."

Jones declined to say what he paid for Miss Slewpy. "She wasn't cheap," he said.

She will join 24 other broodmares at Morven Stud, owned by John Kluge. Jones said that they hadn't yet decided on Miss Slewpy's first mate, but that she'd probably be bred in Kentucky.

As for Stormy Cloud, the 3-year-old colt by Smarten out of Arctic Cloud, Phyllis A. Fitzgibbons sold him to Equistock Limited, a bloodstock agent in Florida.

William T. Fitzgibbons, the colt's breeder and Phyllis' husband, said they don't know who the new owner is. But Fitzgibbons said they hated to part with the horse. After he won the Maryland

Juvenile Championship on Dec. 26 at Laurel, the Fitzgibbonses said it was their dream to run Stormy Cloud in the Preakness.

"We got an offer we couldn't turn down," said Fitzgibbons, declining to reveal the price. "It was a very sizable amount of money."

Colonial Downs extension

Colonial Downs, the track under construction in Virginia, has received a two-month extension for the start of its inaugural thoroughbred meet.

State leaders agreed to push back the deadline from July 1 to Sept. 1. O.J. "Jim" Peterson III, president of Colonial Downs, said it's impossible to say exactly when the track will open -- other than between June 29, the scheduled opening, and Sept. 1, the last day it can open without losing its license to operate OTBs and forfeiting a $1 million performance bond.

Workers building the track between Richmond and Williamsburg have lost 29 days to wet weather, Peterson said. Colonial Downs is to run a 30-day thoroughbred meet as part of a Maryland-Virginia circuit. A 50-day harness meet is to follow.

Peterson said he and other track officials, including general partner Jeffrey Jacobs, will embark soon on a multi-city tour to meet with brokers, insurance companies and mutuel-fund operators. The racetrack officials will try to sell 4.25 million shares of stock at a projected $9 to $11 per share.

The money raised, approximately $42 million, plus a $10 million bank loan, will pay the remaining construction costs of the track and future OTBs, Peterson said. He added that $10 million has been spent already.

Colonial Downs operates two OTBs in Virginia and has received a license for a third -- in Hampton. It will open this summer, Peterson said.

Betting is lively at the OTBs -- $2 million combined for each of the past two weeks -- and expectations for a successful opening season are high, Peterson said.

"Things couldn't be going better," he said.

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