Henrietta George To Buy Camden Training Center

For almost a year some residents of Camden, S.C., have feared the Camden Training Center could become the next Camden subdivision. They can now breathe easy. Henrietta George has a contract in place to purchase the 385-acre facility from William S. Farish.

George has been considering the purchase since June and is expected to complete the transaction later this month. At present, the purchase price is unavailable. However, when locals were working to raise money to buy the property themselves, the asking price was estimated between $1.5 and $2.5 million.

Farish purchased the Camden Training Center in 1985 from the estate of Marion du Pont Scott. The property includes a mile dirt track, a seven-furlong turf track, a half-mile training oval, a polo field, plus stall space for about 200 horses. It backs up to another parcel of land previously owned by Scott, the Springdale training track, which she left to the state of South Carolina. It continues to be used mainly by steeplechase trainers.

High season in Camden is from September until May, when a number of trainers bring a large number of soon-to-be 2-year-olds to South Carolina for the winter. Previously large private stables dominated the tenant roster, but gradually that has shifted in recent years to the point where more public trainers occupy the stalls. George's husband, Laird, has been among the trainers with stall space in recent years. Currently the Georges live in Wilmington, Del.

Henrietta George has been active in racing and breeding most of her life and trained her mother's Serape to a win in the 1992 Ballerina (gr. I). She is one of five granddaughters of Robert Kleberg Jr., the former head of King Ranch.

"Camden would lose its whole flavor (with housing on it)," said Camden resident Dale Thiel in March. Thiel was one of a small group of local residents working to raise money to purchase the property if a single buyer was not found.

"It's a marvelous racetrack. That mile track is probably as fine a racetrack to train over as there is. (The training center) means an awful lot to me and I think it means an awful lot to the community. It's where the environment and business meet. It provides a lot of jobs, and it's good for the city."