Sale of Balto. County's farm would include nervous horse

Gelding's existence is revealed in audit

April 21, 1999|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

Saddled with a 160-acre horse farm they don't want, Baltimore County officials have now learned that the spread comes with a horse no one can ride.

The bay gelding's existence was revealed this week in a report by the county auditor, who also found that lax county oversight of the Merryland horse farm in Long Green Valley has contributed to the property's decline.

"It was a breakdown on everyone's part," said County Councilman Joseph Bartenfelder, a Fullerton Democrat who asked for the audit of the farm, which is in his district.

New York businessman Seymour Cohn donated Merryland Farm in 1993 in exchange for a $4.4 million tax write-off, and a short time later gave the county Bold American, valued at $5,000. The county administration wants to sell the farm -- and the recently discovered horse.

"I didn't know we had a horse," said County Councilman Kevin B. Kamenetz, a Pikesville Democrat. "Maybe he could bring us some money."

Not likely.

While of respectable lineage, Bold American's career earnings total $1,230, said Lucy Acton, managing editor of Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred magazine. Foaled in New York in 1990, he raced one year -- eking out a third-place finish in a race at Finger Lakes Park in New York in 1993.

"He has zero value as a racehorse," Acton said.

For six years, Bold American has grazed at Merryland Farm, once a premier thoroughbred breeding and training facility. The horse is untrained, said Carole Rigione, who manages Merryland Farm with her husband, John.

The horse is too nervous for Boy Scouts to use in seeking horsemanship badges, she said.

"I call him a landscape horse," Rigione said. "He'd be good for someone who has a field and wants to put a horse in it to look at."

The county wants to use money from the sale of the farm to preserve other farmland, but residents in the area want Merryland to remain a park. "I frankly think it is immoral to sell it," said Charlotte Pine, president of the Long Green Valley Association.

When Cohn donated the property, then-County Executive Roger B. Hayden announced plans to make Merryland an equestrian center that would play a key role in Maryland's horse industry.

But a change of administrations meant a change of plans. When County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger took office in 1995, ball fields and nature trails were needed more than an equestrian center. Last month, county officials, saying the farm needs $750,000 in repairs, announced plans to sell it.

Appraisals are expected to be complete by the end of the month, and an auction could be held as soon as June, county officials said.

Bartenfelder said several constituents are interested in operating the farm as an equestrian-related park. Rigione said she would present a proposal to the county.

Pub Date: 4/21/99

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