05/28/2004 12:00AM

New historical magazine delivers dish


In honor of its 75th anniversary, the Maryland Horse Breeders Association has offered a blast from the past - a 36-page commemorative magazine highlighting the association's many milestones since its founding in 1929, along with significant achievements in Maryland racing and breeding.

Ever wonder how the MHBA came to be founded? Or what role, exactly, the legendary Humphrey S. Finney filled in those early years? How the Maryland-bred Fund was developed? What led to the creation of the Maryland Million?

The answers to those questions, and many more, are all in the magazine.

"We wanted this volume to be a keepsake that would evoke pleasant memories for many of our members," said MHBA executive director Cricket Goodall. "It also is designed as an informational resource, detailing the history of the association in a way that has never been done before."

The Maryland Horse Breeders Association has always been proud of its "firsts." It was:

* The first state breeders organization to be founded in this country.

* The originator of the first breeders' organization publication, The Maryland Horse (which debuted in 1936 and in the 1990's evolved into Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred).

* The driving force behind the creation of the Maryland-bred Race Fund - the nation's first incentive program for statebreds, in 1962.

* A close affiliate of the Maryland Million, which pioneered the concept of state showcase racing days, in 1986.

In the late 1920's, the Maryland Horse Breeders Association fulfilled the creative vision of four men - Louis McLane Merryman, Dr. J. Fred Adams, Janon Fisher Jr., and Breckinridge Long, the association's first president - who sought "the fostering and preserving of traditions pertaining to the horse everywhere and particularly the fine traditions of the horse in Maryland."

Early board members were H. Guy Bedwell, a National Racing Museum Hall of Fame trainer; Howard Bruce, renowned sportsman and owner of the famed jumper Billy Barton; Sylvester Labrot Sr., whose Holly Beach Farm ranked among Maryland's premier Thoroughbred establishments; Goss L. Stryker, distinguished as both a horseman and veteran of the Spanish-American War; and Edwin Warfield, son of a Maryland governor and ancestor of numerous modern-day horsemen, including former MHBA president Katy Voss.

The MHBA was nurtured throughout its early decades by Humphrey S. Finney, who left his job as manager of Holly Beach Farm to become the association's field secretary in 1937. Also the founding editor of The Maryland Horse, Finney set the tone for the MHBA with his encyclopedic knowledge and way with people. The MHBA office was set up in his Towson home, and horsemen were invited to "drop in and have a chat" with Finney.

Finney established Maryland as a Thoroughbred auction center before moving on to become president of Fasig-Tipton Company in 1953.

The MHBA carried on with Stewart Sears running the office and the one of racing journalism's great wits, Raleigh Burroughs, serving as editor of the magazine.

Then in the early 1960's, Snowden Carter, up to that time a racing writer for the Baltimore Sun, stepped into the role of editor and general manager, and helped to usher in an era of unprecedented growth within the state's racing industry and the association.

The Maryland Fund was established through the efforts of many individuals, especially southern Maryland attorney Hal C.B. Clagett, who drafted the original legislation.

Carter brought new vibrancy to The Maryland Horse, winning numerous national awards.

The MHBA staff expanded exponentially, to around a dozen members, providing an array of services to the horse community, as it continues to do today.

Succeeding Carter upon his retirement in 1986 was Rich Wilcke, who took on an additional role, implementing sportscaster Jim McKay's idea for a local race day modeled after the Breeders' Cup - The Maryland Million. Wilcke, as founding editor of Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred, also built upon an increasing regionalism within the industry.

Wilcke was followed by Tim Capps, now executive vice-president of the Maryland Jockey Club, who headed the association from 1995 to 2002.

Cricket Goodall, who has risen through the ranks as a MHBA employee since 1987, recently was named executive director of the association.

For a copy of the MHBA's publication, "Celebrating 75 Years," call (410) 252-2100 or visit the association's website, marylandthoroughbred.com.