For decades it has been a Maryland landmark. Drive out Green Spring Avenue to Worthington Road and feast your eyes on Sagamore Farm, the famed horse center where Native Dancer, one of the equine sport's great performers, once galloped. The white fences surrounding the 400-acre showplace farm and the romping thoroughbreds in the pasture came to signify all that was grand about Maryland's long racing tradition.
But in recent years, Sagamore Farm has come to signify all that has gone wrong with Maryland racing. The farm was sold by its longtime owner, Alfred G. Vanderbilt, in 1987 to Baltimore entrepreneur James Ward. His efforts to make a go of it in the horse business foundered when revised federal tax laws and an economic recession staggered the horse-racing industry. No longer was it profitable to own and race thoroughbreds. The industry has been trying to stage a recovery ever since.
Many well-known horse farms in Maryland were forced to close their doors. That included Sagamore, which ceased being a horse farm three years ago. Its white fences haven't been painted in ages, lending an air of disuse and disrepair to the crown jewel of the Worthington Valley. A large for-sale sign jolted drivers on their way to Glyndon and Reisterstown.
But now Sagamore -- and the state's racing industry -- is showing new and promising signs of revival. The farm has been reopened as a combination thoroughbred breeding and training facility. Mr. Ward has signed leases with two different groups for much of the property. Trainer Kim Godwin and former jockey J. K. Adams are using the 90-stall training barn and the training track for breaking, rehabilitating and conditioning horses. They have about 20 horses at Sagamore and are renting space to other local trainers. If Pimlico Race Course closes part of its track to winter training, Sagamore could be a prominent beneficiary.
Adding to the farm's comeback is a breeding operation there run by trainer Carlos Garcia, his wife and bloodstock agent Joe Hamilton. They have about 33 horses on the farm already.
All of this has taken place since Sagamore reopened Aug. 1. As the farm's popularity with trainers and owners grows, there should be money available to put Sagamore back in tip-top shape. Who knows? They might even paint those blackened and fading fences pure white once again.