A Visit to Fair Hill Training Center- training grounds of Barbaro and Animal Kingdom

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Barbaro trained here.  Twelve miles from Delaware Park in Elkton, Maryland, is the Fair Hill Training Center.

“Some of the best horses in the country are here in 18 barns,” said Fair Hill Manager, Sally Goswell. “The percent of winners that train out of FH is high.”  Sally, a fresh faced blond with a sprinkling of sun on her cheeks met us at the Clocking tower with her constant companion, a Golden lab named Woody.  Both she and husband, Mike, work at Fair Hill, managing the office and keeping riders safe on the tracks.

Originally the property of avid equestrian, William duPont, Jr., Fair Hill was first used for seasonal fox hunting for his family and friends. His love of race horses led him in that direction and he put in a training race track at Fair Hill.  In the early 1930’s he designed over 25 flat and steeple chase race courses while working to establish Thoroughbred horse breeding and the track at Delaware Park, which opened in 1937. Fair Hill was purchased by the state in 1975 from Mr. duPont’s estate. In 1975, the property was purchased by the State of Maryland which converted the then 5,700 acres (23 km2) property into a natural resource center. Dr. John Fisher had the innovative idea of the present Fair Hill Training Center in 1982 and negotiated a long term lease with the State of Maryland. The next ten years were tumultuous ones as the Training Center struggled to survive financially. In 1995, not wanting to lose their investment and seeing great potential, several Barn Owners pulled together and reorganized the Condominium Association which is working so well today that all barns are privately owned and occupied. The 300 + leased acres of Fair Hill Training Center now is home to 18 barns that house from 350 (during the winter months) to more than 700 horses during peak season. Barns can be built and individualized to suit and all include space for large turn outs and paddocks.  The Association’s generous public areas and the tracks are maintained with the funds generated from per stall Condo fees.  At one time, Delaware Park leased barns for Arabian trainers, but most have moved back to Delaware Park at present.  The property has two training tracks: a one mile dirt track and a 7/8ths mile Tapeta artificial surface track with the use of a 7/8’s mile turf track on the public sector.  On the surrounding 5,000 acres, horses can benefit from off track excursions through wooded glens and fields of grass. 

Dr. Kathleen Anderson, a energetic woman with a competent air, has been at Fair Hill since 1992 and regularly treats many of the hundreds of onsite horses.  Her Doctor to the horse stars list includes Breeders’ Cup winners Da Hoss (two times)m Round Pond, A Heuvo, and Master of Disaster as well as the brave and ill fated Barbaro.  Recently she has taken as partner, Dr. Charles C.M. Arensberg and their facility, Equine Veterinary Care, adjacent to Michael Matz’ barn, includes the latest medicines and diagnostic tools for performances issues.  For injury recovery or well being maintenance, the Fair Hill Equine Therapy Center, owned by Bruce Jackson, is a unique equestrian sports spa.  The menu of

Kathleen Anderson and Sally Goswell

modalities reads like any blue blooded spa and include the above ground underwater treadmill, the Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Chamber, and the cold saltwater Spa, with reviews stating that it is as good for reducing swelling and inflammation as a stand in the sea.

Many top trainers, names you would recognize, have barns on this graciously green property, including Mark Shuman and Chuck Lawrence. John Kimmel leased here a number of years ago, Barclay Tagg has owned and leased over the years though neither are here now.  Down the road is the 45 stall horse barn of Steve Klesaris , part owner and trainer of Diabolical, bought by Darley Stud in 2007 and now standing at stud in New Mexico.

Graham Motion

Perhaps the two most well known trainers at present are Michael Matz, trainer of 2006 Kentucky Derby winner, Barbaro, and Graham Motion, trainer of Team Valor International’s 2011 Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom.  Motion has the largest number of horses in training at FHTC with over 100 horses under his direction at present. We caught up with Motion, dressed in casual attire and speaking in a relaxed manner, at his Herringswell Stables barn. Animal Kingdom is a favorite at the barn with a good chance at a continued racing career. “He’s an easy and kind horse to work with,” said Motion.

The day of our visit, Animal Kingdom was recovering from surgery for an injury he had sustained in his Belmont bid, a small fracture in the lower bone of the left hock joint. Although Animal Kingdom’s stall stood empty, a cheery Get Well card was pinned to the door.  Shackleford bested Animal Kingdom in the Preakness and across from the aisle, facing the Get Well card are both Shackleford’s and Animal Kingdom’s 1/2 brothers, also under Motion’s training.

Motion said he’s still on course for Animal Kingdom’s return to racing for the March 2012 Dubai World Cup.  “Ultimately that’s where we’ve been looking forward to running him since we realized how good he was,” Motion said.

After having 2 screws inserted into the bone, Animal Kingdom is recovering now in Team Valor International’s barn at Fair Hill.

Full Photo Gallery:  http://photos.horsereporter.com/Racing/Fairhill-Training-Center/17840348_n89D7W

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