Richard Golden became a savior of the Maryland thoroughbred horse breeding industry in 1988 when he teamed with Allaire du Pont and later Tom Bowman to open Northview Stallion Station in Chesapeake City, eventually revitalizing farmland that had been home to one of the most influential sires of all time, Northern Dancer.
As Maryland's racing program crumbled and surrounding states boosted purses and the racetrack experience with slot machines, Golden became one of the state's most vocal critics. He grew frustrated as the state where he chose to pursue his horse racing dreams grew stagnant.
A native of the Bronx, Golden made a career in the women's apparel business — with Dorby Frocks — rising to CEO before buying and then selling the company. But horses and breeding — his wife is a champion dog breeder — have long been his passion.
Golden still serves as CEO and president for Northview, which opened a second site in Pennsylvania in 2010 to take advantage of the more lucrative racing program there.
With leaders in the Maryland racing industry touting the stability brought on by a long-term racing agreement and growing purses seeded with slots money, Golden offered his thoughts on how the breeders will respond. Only four of the Northeast's top 16 sires in 2012 came from Maryland — and all belong or belonged to Northview (Two Punch died in 2011).
Many breeders were forced to chase better purses in neighboring states. What has the influx of casino revenue into Maryland purses done for the industry?
I believe that it is a little too early to answer that question definitively. Most breeder/owners that I know look for the most advantageous race in which to run their horses, and many times that is not predicated on purse money. Winning a $30,000 race is a lot more satisfying and lucrative than finishing fifth in the same race for $50,000.
Bigger purses are wonderful, but those purses also attract better connections, with better horses and better trainers. Until Maryland provides its breeders/owners with a restricted race program along with larger purses as New York and Pennsylvania does, those superior horses from other states will be bringing home a large share of the casino revenue that is now enhancing Maryland's purses.
Maryland's horse racing interests — the tracks, horsemen and breeders — came to a 10-year deal in December to ensure at least 100 days of racing per year through 2024. How has this changed your long-term business plan?
I am very happy that a 10-year deal was finally struck. Unfortunately, a lot of the damage has already taken place with our breeders and owners, and now more rebuilding will be required. One hundred days of racing is nowhere near [the schedule] they enjoy in Pennsylvania and New York.
From my point of view, this has certainly heightened my long-term outlook regarding our Stallion acquisitions for our Maryland division. It is now up to the Maryland Horse Breeders Association to furnish those restricted races that will make Maryland-bred and -owned horses a more valuable commodity.
What has to happen next for Maryland to once again become a leader in the horse racing industry?
Maryland will only become a leader in the horse racing industry when their breeders, owners, stallion farms and breeding farms begin to see an industry that is flourishing. Growth is a result of prosperity, and that is something that has been absent from the Maryland horse industry for many years. That could very well happen in the next 10 years, but it all depends on governance from our racing committees.
The new casino revenue that has finally enhanced Maryland's chance to rebuild its depleted racing industry must now be directed to remain in our state so that our racing industry can prosper from that revenue and not enrich other surrounding states.
What sort of future do you see for horse racing as a whole? Where does it fit in a crowded sports landscape?
From a sports fan's point of view, the niche that horse racing has as a sport in our country is gambling. Every once [in] a while, a remarkable thoroughbred will come along and thoroughbred racing will be included in our conversations about other sports in the country, but only then.
The problem with racing is that in all other professional sports in our country, every day is like our Breeders' Cup. Every game, in each sport, has the greatest athletes in those sports on the playing field. Not so in horse racing. Except for meets like Saratoga, most racing days at all racetracks are comprised of mediocre fields of racehorses. That will never change.
A typical day at the races for most racing fans is the hope and thrill of picking winners and going home with more money than you came to the track with. The more that racetracks can do to enhance that dream, the larger the crowds will get. The bottom line is that every racetrack should attempt be a mini-Las Vegas. It might not be a bad idea to have one pari-mutuel ticket from each race be worth $500 to $1,000 to the holder of that ticket.
Of all the horses you've owned and bred, who has been your favorite and why?
My favorite horse that I raced and owned was Tenski. She won the Grade I Queen Elizabeth at Keeneland, the Grade II Lake Placid and Grade 11 Lake George, both in Saratoga. In total, she won seven times and placed twice in 11 races.
The best horse that I have bred and sold was Spanish Drums. He won the Pennsylvania Derby, the Ohio Derby and the Grade II Seminole Handicap. He was also second in the Withers.
Richard L. Golden
Title: President and CEO of Northview Stallion Station
Education: Graduate of Boston University; majored in public relations and communications
Residence: West Palm Beach, Fla,. and Chesapeake City
Family: Wife, Ann; son, Dr. Michael Golden; and daughter, Lisa
Hobbies: Golf and growing orchids