Northview to expand breeding farm to Pa.

Owner: `Rewards cannot be ignored'

October 18, 2007|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN REPORTER

Two years after beginning a search for property near their Cecil County breeding farm, the owners of Northview Stallion Station are expanding into Pennsylvania.

"I'm Maryland born and bred," said Tom Bowman, who owns the Northview Stallion Station near Chesapeake City with partner Richard Golden. "I've never had it in my mind to leave Maryland. And we're not leaving Maryland.

"I think a lot of people would like to scream that we're leaving because of the slots, but we're not leaving. We're not jumping ship. We're expanding to a nearby area, like any other business would do, when drawn by obvious opportunities."

The partners announced yesterday that they have purchased a 171-acre farm in Peach Bottom, Pa., in Lancaster County. There is little doubt it is Pennsylvania slots money that has created the opportunity of which Northview is going to try to take advantage.

"The rewards of the Pennsylvania breeding program cannot be ignored," Golden said.

Northview is one of a fairly small group of breeding farms outside of Kentucky that is annually ranked highly by independent sources. It is also home to Not for Love, perennially the highest-ranked stallion outside of Kentucky, based on progeny earnings.

Not for Love is one of 10 stallions at Northview that Bowman and Golden said will continue to stand at the Maryland farm, while new stallions will be acquired for the Pennsylvania facility. Plans for the Pennsylvania farm include the construction of an eight-stall stallion barn, state-of-the-art breeding shed and three large broodmare barns.

The expansion news didn't surprise Maryland officials and horse breeders.

"It's just another sign of where we are here in Maryland," said Jim Steele, president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association. "I don't blame them. You have to do what you have to do to make money. It's what we've been telling the governor and the legislature. If we don't get the slots ... more horsemen are going to move."

Steele said he hopes something is worked out in the coming legislative special session for the racetracks and breeding farms so the industry can plan for next year.

"Pennsylvania has taken a fraction of its slots money and invested it in an industry," Steele said. "The perception is we need to say we've got slots. I think there are a lot of people trying to decide where to breed and where to foal, who are sitting on the fence, waiting to see what Maryland does. I'm afraid if there isn't a decision, they'll make decisions that are not favorable to Maryland."

Maryland Racing Commission chairman John Franzone said the decision by Northview was inevitable.

"I think everyone has just kind of been holding out," he said. "It's just a normal progression. The Northview owners are stalwart Maryland people, but eventually you have to go where the money is.

"I think if we had the House bill in place that was passed a couple years ago, they'd be expanding in Maryland right now."

Asked if they would have expanded in Maryland had the playing fields been equal, partner Golden laughed.

"[Maryland] is so far from [what's going on in Pennsylvania] it's not comparable," Golden said. "It's like asking would I be retired if I could play golf like Tiger Woods. No, I'd be playing golf. It's two different worlds.

"But if Maryland had slots, we'd still be looking to expand in Pennsylvania," he said, "because we don't know what kind of program Maryland will have, while Pennsylvania's program has been worked on for a long time and it benefits breeders, owners of broodmares and owners of stallions."

Northview breeds about 675 mares a year, and many of them -- 25 percent to 30 percent -- are from Pennsylvania, an easy van ride away. Golden and Bowman said they did not necessarily expect their Maryland operation to lose business to the Pennsylvania operation.

"People breed to the stallions they think will get them to the winner's circle," Golden said. "People with farms in Pennsylvania can breed to Maryland stallions like Not for Love and be eligible for the Maryland Million and take their mares home to foal in Pennsylvania and be eligible for all the Pennsylvania purses and bred funds. They'll get two shots at the bull's eye."

The new farm, to be named Northview PA, is expected to be ready to receive mares by the end of next year for the 2009 breeding season.

sandra.mckee@baltsun.com

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