Horse racing finds a home in Reisterstown-Owings Mills area

Horsemen and equine fans in the Glyndon-Reisterstown area were cheering this month for American Pharoah, that marvelous 3-year-old thoroughbred, when he won racing's coveted Triple Crown and broke a 37-year drought.

The attention of sports fans was riveted on the convincing victory of trainer Bob Baffert's horse in the Belmont Stakes. Finally, a superstar had emerged who could help revive interest in racing.


Restoring good health to the Maryland horse industry is of prime importance in the Worthington Valley, a bucolic setting dominated by large horse farms and rolling hills of verdant fields on the outskirts of Reisterstown and Glyndon.

There are signs that after decades of decline, the local equine industry is slowly regaining popularity.

Large crowds still flock each year to view the Maryland Hunt Cup at 2700 Tufton Ave. in Reisterstown — the most daunting steeplechase race in the world.

This year's event, the 119th, held April 25, saw a remarkable and unusual finish.

By the last half-mile of the four-mile course over 22 foreboding fences, the first-place horse, Imperial Way, had somehow dislodged its lead pad. This meant that over the last three fences, Imperial Way had a 24-pound weight advantage.

As a result, Imperial Way was disqualified and Raven's Choice, an 8-year-old Maryland-bred jumper, was declared the winner.

A few weeks later, the 140th running of the Preakness Stakes took place at nearby Pimlico Race Course.

A record crowd of 131,680 saw American Pharoah sweep to victory in a torrential downpour. It set up the horse's impressive Triple Crown win at Belmont on June 6.

A recent study concluded that Maryland horsemen are experiencing a "historic turnaround." After a long, steep slump, more stallions are being re-located to Maryland stables and more colts are being foaled here.

It's the result of legalizing slot machines in Maryland.

Nine percent of slots proceeds goes to the horse industry: 7 percent adds to race track purse awards and 2 percent is dedicated to track improvements.

One of the farms leading the comeback is Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank's Sagamore Farm, the historic equine estate that dominates the road to Glyndon along Greenspring Avenue and Butler Road.

Eighteen young colts were bred at Sagamore this season and the farm's thoroughbreds won two Pimlico races on Black-Eyed Susan Day, the Friday before the big Preakness event.

All told, some 600,000 green acres are preserved in Maryland by the horse industry. The more interest and excitement generated by thoroughbred stars such an American Pharoah, the easier it is to save this open space from development.


Horse farms help Glyndon and Reisterstown retain some of their rural character. Many children practice equestrian riding on farms in the valley.

At this time of year, those acres are filled with romping horses, young and old. This beauty is surpassed in the fall with the colorful changing of the leaves.

The owners of Pimlico are talking about moving the Preakness to the Washington suburbs. Fortunately there is law on the books that forbids such a shift of Maryland's largest sporting event.

Political leaders from Baltimore City and Baltimore County will furiously resist any move of the historic thoroughbred race.

At the same time, the Stronach Group is in the final stages of figuring out how it might renovate Pimlico and its newer Laurel Race Course.

Much is riding on the ownership's plan. Communities surrounding Pimlico have been waiting for the track owner to commit to expanding the facility and turning the historic track into a more appealing, multi-entertainment complex.

Barry Rascovar's blog is