Once again the fields of Sagamore Farm, one of Maryland's great thoroughbred breeding and training establishments, are filled with mares and foals and there are horses galloping on the historic six-furlong training track.
After sitting empty for nearly three years, Sagamore, near Hunt Valley in Baltimore County, reopened for business Aug. 1.
The 400-acre showplace, home and final resting place of Native Dancer, one of the sport's great equine performers, was sold by its longtime owner Alfred G. Vanderbilt to Baltimore developer Jim Ward in 1987.
Ward, who placed the property in farmland preservation, never could make a go of it in the horse business, however, and shut the place down about three years ago. Stallions such as Oh Say, Hay Halo, Salutely, Jane's Dilemma and Another Reef were relocated by their manager Don Litz Jr. at Green Willow Farm near Westminster.
Now Ward has had a change of heart and has reopened the facility, leasing it in a package deal to some well-known local horse people.
Trainer Kim Godwin and her partner, former jockey J. K. Adams, have leased the 90-stall training barn and track for use as a breaking, rehabilitation and conditioning facility.
Trainer Carlos Garcia, his wife, Carol, and bloodstock agent Joe Hamilton have rented much of the rest of the farm for use as a breeding operation.
Godwin said that her previous training center in Sparks had outgrown its facilities. Through clients and veterinarian Mike Harrison, she learned that Ward was considering re-opening Sagamore.
"But it was too big of an operation for John and I to handle by ourselves," Godwin said. "So we put together a joint proposal with Garcia."
Godwin and Adams have about 20 horses at Sagamore for various clients such as King T. Leatherbury, Leon Blusiewicz, Jon Levinson and Paul and Tom Obrecht.
They also are renting space -- in five-stall segments -- to other local trainers.
Garcia, perennially one of Maryland's leading trainers, said he has about 33 horses on the farm, including 15 broodmares, 10 sucklings and eight yearlings.
"I think it's good for the neighborhood that we're here," Garcia said. "Little by little the farm is getting fixed up and it might not be long before it's back in the shape it should be in."
Godwin, who grew up in Glyndon, is a graduate of Villa Julie College and was educated to be a court reporter.
"But somehow I ended up in the horse business," she said. She first rode dressage horses and eventually gravitated to the racetrack.
She has leased Sagamore on a yearly basis and figures that if Pimlico Race Course operator Joe De Francis closes half of the Baltimore track for winter training this year, Sagamore could be a convenient stabling facility for local trainers who are squeezed out at Old Hilltop.
"Horses love being at this farm," Godwin said about the facility where hundreds of stakes winners have been conceived, foaled or trained. "It's got a good atmosphere."