The Health of the Horse World: Sheikh Buys Saratoga Springs (NY) Landmark

Darley Stable, owned by Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, has purchased the 106-acre landmark training farm known as Stonerside Stable, a stone’s thrown from the stabling area of 150-year-old Saratoga Racecourse. In the opposite direction, the farm is near Saratoga’s new “racino” gambling palace at the harness track. Stonerside literally straddles the two worlds of horseracing, past and (what some believe to be) future.

Stonerside, known as Greentree when it was owned by the fabled Whitney racing family, is an expanse of green along Nelson Avenue. The farm’s old stables have been preserved and the farm is nestled among tall, old trees. A one-mile private training track dominates the property.

It’s too early to tell what changes Darley might make to the property or if restrictions may be in place to prevent changes to the scenic spot. Or if they will change the name.

The commitment of a farm like Darley to the brief racing season at Saratoga is an indicator of the appeal of the town and its racing culture. As far as I know, Darley currently does not breed mares or raise any foals for New York’s in-state breeding program but the planting of an internationl racing corporation’s flag in the soil of a new state has to be seen as good news for the local economy and the future of summer racing at Saratoga.

Darley’s homebred Bernardini won the Jim Dandy and Travers, two of Saratoga’s richest stakes races, in 2006.

“We noticed that the horses seemed to thrive mentally and physically up there,” said Jim Bell, Darley’s president of American operations, in yesterday’s Saratogian newspaper. “It’s just a tremendous training facility. That was the driving force behind the purchase. Our investment has truly been for the horses.”

Who wouldn’t thrive at Stonerside? I have been fortunate to stroll its grounds many times in my Saratoga adventures. I have always called this place “Horse Heaven on Earth.” If the essence of the farm could be bottled, it would be a top-selling supplement. And I’d buy some for myself.

To read an excellent article about Darley’s acquisition of Stonerside, read Sunday’s Saratogian summary of the transaction.

A note about Darley: Education plays an interesting role at Darley, which operates an innovative Thoroughbred industry education program called “Darley Flying Start.”

Once accepted, a group of 20 or so adult students spend two years touring the world of racing–Australia, Kentucky, Newmarket (UK), Dubai, etc.–while completing formal courses and work-study internships in various areas of breeding, farm management and racing, with a large emphasis on horse health and management. Perhaps Stonerside in Saratoga will become a stop on this top-class educational circuit.

? 2006-2007 The Jurga Report: Horse Health Headlines. All rights reserved.

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