Shawan Downs gears up for opening day


September 16, 2001|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Charlie Fenwick Jr. envisions a crisp fall afternoon of steeplechase racing attended by 10,000 to 12,000 spectators for the benefit of charity and the celebration of the land and the horse.

That's how Fenwick, a leader in the preservation of Shawan Downs, sees opening day at the state's newest race course and budding equestrian center in Cockeysville.

The inaugural session will take place Sept. 29, with seven races offering purses totaling $125,000. Three are stakes, including the $25,000 Maryland Million Hurdle and the $30,000 Legacy Cup, a prep for steeplechasing's Breeders' Cup three weeks later in Far Hills, N.J.

Although the first race is 13 days away, Shawan Downs is already a success. About 300 acres near Hunt Valley - on Shawan Road between Interstate 83 and Falls Road - have been saved from development and preserved as open space.

Fenwick, who lives in Butler, and other area landowners bought the former Shawan Farms as a buffer between development to the east and farmland and horse country to the west. More than 150 people contributed at least $10,000 each to raise more than $4 million for the purchase and transformation of the farm into a horse center.

Fenwick anticipates a large crowd for the races, a mix of hurdle and timber events starting at 1 p.m. on which betting will not be offered. Tickets must be purchased in advance by calling Shawan Downs at 410-666-3676 or accessing its Web site at

Tickets are per vehicle, regardless of how many people crowd inside. The cheapest ticket costs $50. Fenwick said that is not expensive, "not by standards of these type of race meetings. This is an event, an event out in the open space that will be run once a year."

The nonprofit Land Preservation Trust owns Shawan Downs. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

"This is not set up so anybody makes any money," Fenwick said, "except charity."

The upcoming one-day meet is the only event scheduled so far at Shawan Downs, but another day of steeplechasing might be conducted in the spring. Also, Fenwick said, the goal is to create a "world-class equestrian center" for various types of horse shows, perhaps as many as a dozen per year.

In addition, the Maryland Horse Breeders Association is exploring moving its offices from Timonium into the large barn at Shawan Downs. Upon renovation, the large barn also could house an equine art gallery, museum and Maryland Racing Hall of Fame.

`Royalty' in Russia

Mike Pons, president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, returned from Russia last week, exclaiming: "It was unbelievable. We were treated like royalty."

Pons was part of a delegation representing the Maryland horse industry and state Department of Agriculture that traveled to Moscow, St. Petersburg and Krasnadar, the heart of Russian thoroughbred country. The primary goal of the 12-day trip was to drum up Russian business at Maryland horse sales.

"It was really a neat trip, far beyond anything I could have imagined," Pons said. "Just to see how much they love their horses, that was probably the most significant thing I saw on the trip."

Pons said he believes Russian buyers will attend the Dec. 2-3 mixed sale at Timonium, if not the Oct. 1-3 yearling sale.

"It's difficult to say X amount of business will come out of this," Pons said. "But if they do come to the United States to buy horses, they're going to come here."

He said Russian buyers might look for horses in the $5,000, $10,000 or $20,000 range. Also, he said, veterinarian- and worker-exchange programs between Russia and Maryland might be undertaken in the future.

Cup will be memorial

The Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships on Oct. 27 at Belmont Park will be dedicated to the families of victims lost in last week's terrorist attacks. The National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Breeders' Cup Limited and New York Racing Association hope to raise at least $1 million to assist children and spouses of the victims.

A portion of each paid admission to the Breeders' Cup will be donated to the fund, as will a percentage of other revenue associated with the event. The fund also will receive all proceeds from the Breeders' Cup Charity Gala on Oct. 26 in New York.

"We want this year's Breeders' Cup in New York to have special meaning by honoring these true heroes and innocent victims in some tangible fashion," said D.G. Van Clief Jr., Breeders' Cup president and NTRA vice chairman.

Contributions can be mailed to NTRA Charities-New York Heroes Fund, c/o Bessemer Trust Co., N.A., attention Robert Elliott, 630 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y., 10111.

Lasix reaction blamed

A severe reaction to Lasix probably compromised Disco Rico's performance last weekend in the $100,000 Paterson Handicap at the Meadowlands. In a three-horse race, Disco Rico weakened in the stretch and finished second to Say Florida Sandy.

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