Revving Up Racing Revenue Print E-mail

Daily Local News
December 11, 2006

When hundreds of patrons charge through the doors this winter to pull the first levers on Philadelphia Park's slot machines, it will be a welcome sight to thoroughbred horsemen in Chester County and throughout the state.

The revenue produced by the Las Vegas-style slots will allow the Bensalem facility to increase purses for winning races and attract owners of some of the country's top thoroughbreds. Twelve percent of each dollar stuffed into the slots will be earmarked for horsemen.

"It's going to take some time to come to maturity, but it's a win-win for the people who make their living with horses in this community," noted Larry Ensor, owner of Gumtree Stables in Cochranville. "Purses will climb significantly and the (Pennsylvania-bred) bonus checks will be quite generous."

The Benefits of Grass-Fed Cattle Print E-mail

Daily Local News
January 13, 2007

EAST FALLOWFIELD - If we are what we eat, then Dr. Bill Elkins is doing his part to keep us healthy.

At the Buck Run Farm located off Route 82, Elkins' cow and calf operation goes against the tide of the modern corn-fed beef industry. Most of his Black Angus cattle are grazed year-round on only grass, a throwback to ranches 50 years ago when the cows came in daily contact with the earth, sun and the gaze of a farmer.

Striding up a pitched hillside over plentiful grasslands, Elkins comes upon several clusters of Black Angus cows. He calls to a pair of mammoth bulls, round as a barrel through the middle. They lumber over, stopping a couple feet from an electric fence.

On some of the pastures the cattle are supplied with water pumped by solar electric power from Buck Run, a tributary of the Brandywine Creek. There are no artificial fertilizers and the animals are not treated with hormones or antibiotics to enhance their growth.

Breeding Money Print E-mail

What could a shiny new casino along the Delaware River possibly have in common with Chester County pastures and the foals that feed on them? More than you'd think.

Main Line Today
December 8, 2006

Leaning against a fence rail, Rick Abbott is surrounded by rolling fields as far as the eye can see. These pastures have produced corn and soybeans for 25 years.

No more. Abbott’s 20 acres have been replanted with native bluegrasses. He will soon host a dozen pregnant mares.

Up until three years ago, Abbott counted about 10 foals a year born on his land in southern Chester County. Then, in 2005, 50 pregnant mares arrived at the 160-acre farm for the spring foaling season. They came from 12 states, including almost 20 from Kentucky. Abbott says requests have been pouring in from more than 100 mare owners, but he just can’t handle that many animals. Most of the neighboring horse farms are also fully booked. The mares were shipped to Charlton Farm by forward-thinking owners hoping to cash in on a Pennsylvania-bred bonanza.

Classic Ride Print E-mail

America’s oldest equestrian tailor shop is built on presidents and perfection.

Main Line Times
August 19, 2008

Attired in a classic navy-blue blazer, Bob Ermilio stands among the vintage wooden shops that are scattered around the lower grounds of the Devon Horse Show.

“Years ago, I went riding out past Newtown Square and got pitched into a seriously overgrown briar patch,” Bob says, chuckling at the memory—something he does quite often when spinning tales from the past. “The police had to come and cut me out of it. That’s when I realized riding wasn’t in my best interest.”

Apparently, some are born to be riders, while others are born to dress them.

A third-generation master tailor, Bob is the current patriarch of Ermilio Clothier & Specialty Shop. The Haverford store is considered America’s oldest and most venerable equestrian tailor shop.

Numbers Game Print E-mail

Horseracing partnerships offer the thrills of thoroughbred ownership at a more affordable price. Is it any wonder they’ve become so popular around these parts?

Main Line Today
April 21, 2008

Four years ago, Phoenixville resident Chuck Zacney and four friends pooled their funds and purchased an unproven 2-year-old colt for $75,000. They called their partnership Cash Is King Stable, and their horse, Afleet Alex.

In two seasons of racing, Afleet Alex won eight of 12 starts and earned $2,765,800 before retiring after a leg injury. The horse launched a lucrative breeding career in 2006, commanding a $40,000 stud fee. Incredibly, Afleet Alex was the group’s first runner.

“People spend millions trying to get a horse to a Triple Crown race or a Grade 1 stakes, and don’t get a whiff,” says Zacney, founder of the Sirrus Group medical billing company in Oreland. “It’s a game of patience, so we realize how very, very lucky we were.”

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