ANNAPOLIS – If one Maryland lawmaker has his way, a stallion known for its strength and speed will take the calico cat’s place as the newest official state symbol.
The thoroughbred horse, with a long history in Maryland, could join the ranks of the state’s other notable creatures, including the Oriole bird, Chesapeake Bay retriever and terrapin.
A bill introduced Thursday by Sen. Leo E. Green, D-Prince George’s, pays tribute to the thoroughbred, an animal that will undoubtedly receive more attention this spring as lawmakers decide whether to allow slot machines at Maryland racetracks.
Green, however, contends the bill is not meant to draw attention to slots or tracks. He said he drafted the legislation after receiving a request from a fourth-grade class at St. Pius X Regional School in Bowie.
“I think it has redeeming value,” Green said. “I place an emphasis on horse racing – Bowie particularly. A lot of the bloodlines for thoroughbred horses in this country started there.”
Some say the horse deserves to be a state symbol because it is often overlooked or underappreciated.
“Maryland has a state flower and a state tree. The horse is something we haven’t adopted as a symbol,” said Pat Connolly, whose fourth-grade class proposed the idea as part of a lesson on state government.
“The thoroughbred has contributed a lot to the history and the economy of Maryland.”
In a letter to Green earlier this year, Connolly wrote that the thoroughbred has deep roots in Prince George’s County. Bowie is the home of Belair Estate, the colonial plantation of former Maryland Gov. Samuel Ogle.
Historical accounts indicate Belair Stable, known as one of the premier racing stables in the mid-1900s, was home to Gallant Fox and Omaha, father and son horses that won the Triple Crown, the nation’s chief horse racing event that combines wins in the Kentucky Derby, Maryland’s Preakness and New York’s Belmont Stakes.
“I would love it,” said Tom Bowman, a veterinarian and president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association. “What’s the downside?”
A new state symbol could help draw attention to the racing industry, Bowman said.
“In my opinion, the monkey is on the horse industry’s back to demonstrate what the horse industry does for the state,” Bowman said. “I think it’s appropriate.”
Recent bills designating state symbols have drawn mixed reactions from legislators, however, and some have complained that the list is becoming too long. In all, the state is represented by 20 symbols ranging from flowers and trees to songs and drinks.
Most recently, a bill designating walking as the state exercise died in committee last year. But Delegate William A. Bronrott, D-Montgomery, who defends the bill’s promotion of exercise and disease prevention, said he plans to bring the bill back next week.
Similarly, a bill designating apple-oatmeal as Maryland’s cookie of choice died last session as well.
Green admits the state’s list of symbols already is plentiful, but he’s hoping legislators will find a place for the thoroughbred.
Either way, Connolly said her class stands to learn from the legislative process. “If that’s what it comes down to, we’ll just deal with it as it comes.” – 30- CNS-1-16-03