Maryland Cultivates Relationship With Russia

Representatives of the Maryland horse industry and the state Department of Agriculture are on a 12-day trip to Russia. One objective is to secure Russian buyers for Maryland horses.

The Marylanders hope the Russians will attend the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic yearling sale Oct. 1-3 at Timonium to buy Thoroughbreds for upgrading their racing and breeding operations. That could begin a relationship in which Russians buy Maryland Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds, and even veterinary medicine and feed. Marylanders might buy Russian show horses.

"I've got more questions than answers at this point," said Mike Pons, a member of the Maryland delegation and president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association. "But this is the beginning of possibly an interesting relationship. Who knows where it will go?"

Tim Capps, executive vice president of the breeders' association, said the seed for the exchange was planted about four years ago when Judith Robinson contacted him about starting a "mission-building process" with Russia. Robinson works for the U.S. Department of Commerce and owns horses in Sykesville, Md.

A five-person equine delegation from Russia traveled to Maryland in May for Preakness week. The Russians visited farms, racetracks, and a horse auction. They spent Preakness Day in the state corporate tent in the Pimlico Race Course infield, where, Capps said, they displayed a keen knowledge of conformation and handicapping.

Russia has four racetracks, Thoroughbred and harness. The country's breeders are renowned for their show horses.

Led by Hagner R. Mister, secretary of the Maryland Department of Agriculture, the delegation left Aug. 29. Capps, who played host to the Russians in May but did not make the trip, said he would expect the Russians, if they return for the October sale, to buy yearlings in the mid-range of $10,000 to $30,000. If they come back Dec. 2-3 for the mixed sale, they would likely look for broodmares and stallion prospects, he said.

"They're not going to be the Maktoums," Capps said in reference to the Middle Eastern family that spends millions for top-grade Thoroughbreds each year. "It's just part of an effort to get Maryland exposed a little more widely."

Marylanders cultivated a similar relationship by which Koreans have purchased several hundred Maryland horses in the past four years. Capps said similar initiatives might take place with Turkey and South American countries.