Making more hay

Far from the sprawling stage of the Preakness, Maryland racing is experiencing a smaller renaissance in its breeding barns.

Over a 20-year period, the state dropped from producing more than 1,000 foals a year to about 400. "There was a time there when Pennsylvania seemed ready to eat us up," Goodall says.

But the trend began to reverse last year, with gambling revenues pumping up purses and bonuses for breeders and owners. Stronach brought four of his stallions to the state. A new breeding operation, Heritage Stallions, opened in Chesapeake City. Though the foal numbers aren't in, Goodall projects an additional 50 for 2013 and another 50 on top of that for 2014.

At Safely Home, a quiet 70-acre farm in Upperco, breeders David and JoAnn Hayden said the slots windfall and the ensuing increases to purses and bonuses have changed everything for owner-breeders. They stand to receive an additional 60 percent of winnings whenever one of their Maryland-bred horse wins, places or shows.

"That 60 percent pays a lot of bills," David Hayden said. It also spurs growth as more confident breeders improve their properties, buy more hay and hire more hands.

The results are already evident at Safely Home, where the Haydens are building a new two-story 14,400-square-foot barn, Safely Kept, that will house an office, seven stalls and hay storage.

A few yards away, they've also staked out a plot for a new house with the same sandstone exterior as the barn. The revenue boost made both improvements possible, JoAnn Hayden said.

At Dark Hollow, their nearby sister property, the Haydens showed off two fillies they describe as living proof of the breeder program's effects.

Plum, a 6-year-old who won a major juvenile race in 2010, walked a hillside, nuzzling a foal she birthed three months ago. Silver Ashlee, 8, tended a filly of her own.

The Haydens said they'd never have bred the mares were it not for the new revenues.

"Now, you're not just wondering, 'Are we going to be able to keep doing this?' You're thinking about ways to improve your business, your industry," David Hayden said.

"Five years ago, people were walking around like this," he added, stooping over as though carrying a heavy saddle. "Now they're dancing in the streets."

Baltimore Sun reporter Jonathan Pitts contributed to this article.