If you haven’t been to the Middleburg Training Center in recent times, you may not recognize it today — in a good way!
The 149 acre facility in Loudoun County is nearing the finish line of a multi-million dollar upgrade courtesy of owner Chuck Kuhn, a Purcelville, Virginia businessman who purchased the property in 2017. The 7/8ths mile track was fitted with a new Duralock race rail and all barns have received or are receiving a facelift. Chuck’s son Steve (pictured below) is GM of the Center and has overseen the renovations.
“It’s been pretty rewarding, said Steve. “At the beginning, it seemed like a never ending, impossible task but now, I feel good about the progress we’ve made. We tackled the barn roofs, siding, gutters and their overall cosmetic appearance. The biggest renovation challenge has been figuring out the underground infrastructure which has been in place for 60 years or so. There are no schematics or maps available, so trying to find everything has been difficult. It’s got good bones though,” he added. “Now we’re getting to know the people and tenants that train horses here and making sure their requirements are met. ”
Renovation work to 10 of the 11 barns on the property has been completed. The final one (shown below) should be completed by spring.
Kieran Norris, who along with Madison Meyers, operates Ballyerin Racing which has been based at Middleburg for the last two years. Norris, who was born into dairy farming in his native Ireland, has been based in the U.S. now for the past eight years.
Together, Norris and Meyers have 17 horses at the Middleburg Training Center and another five at a nearby farm they rent which they rotate horses in and out of. Florida-bred Crimson Hayes (above) gets prepped for some indoor exercise on a cold morning. The 7-year-old gelding is a son of Red Giant, who won the 2007 Virginia Derby (and paid $76 to win). Crimson Hayes has bankrolled $152,974 from 37 starts, has won at five different tracks — Gulfstream, Tampa Bay Downs, Pimlico, Monmouth and Delaware Park — and most recently competed over fences at Montpelier last November.
Meyers, from Lexington originally, said they have a number of babies in their barn that are in the Virginia Certified Residency initiative. “The program has been a real help. It’s been a major factor in keeping Virginia’s racing industry relevant. After Colonial Downs closed, steeplechase racing kept it going here but since this program came along, it has moved a lot of horses into the state.”
Two-year-old Kentucky-bred filly Mary Jane Chrome (above on the left), by California Chrome, will make her racing debut later this year. “We have some that could be ready for Colonial Downs this summer,” said Meyers. “They did such a good job welcoming horsemen back to New Kent last year. There were so many small touches they did to make horses comfortable, like providing easy access to water and putting fans all around the paddock.”
Ballyerin Stable has been based at Middleburg for two years now. “We actually are in the first barn that was renovated,” added Meyers. “It’s been great so far and has been neat to watch the progress come along. Now that construction and repairs are almost done, the track and facilities are in much better shape and it’s getting back to where this place once was.”
The Middleburg Training Center was built in 1956 by Paul Mellon as a private picturesque facility. A local contingency of trainers led by Paul Fout bought it in 1975 then in 2006, Randy Rouse acquired it. Before the complex was most recently purchased, it was in the hands of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. 1979 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Spectacular Bid even trained at the Center which features 11 barns , 220 stalls and 22 paddocks.
The Center, which had been on the market for years though, was ringing up losses, was run down and in disrepair before Chuck Kuhn purchased the property. “It was all about conservation easement and protecting open space,” said his son Steve. “The property is valuable to my father. He wants to run it as a business and make a go of it.
“Currently, stalls are about half occupied,” added Kuhn, “But come spring and summer once renovations are complete, we hope to see more horses on the grounds. We might even try having another discipline like show horses on the other side of the property.”
For more information, visit www.middleburgtrack.com. For details on stabling horses there, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 540-687-3041.