03/07/2015 5:09PM

Adena Springs re-enters Florida stallion market

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Barbara D. Livingston
Breeders' Cup Classic winner Fort Larned, who began his stud career in Kentucky in 2014, will be the flagship stallion as Adena Springs South returns to the market.

It’s hardly breaking news to say that Frank Stronach has invested heavily in the Florida Thoroughbred program.

The head and namesake of The Stronach Group owns Florida’s marquee racetrack, Gulfstream Park, and last year he leased a spiraling Calder Race Course from Churchill Downs Inc., re-christened it Gulfstream Park West, and opened it to positive reviews.

On the bloodstock side, Stronach is a frequent business partner of Fasig-Tipton Sales Co., most recently hosting the company’s boutique sale of 2-year-olds in training at Gulfstream for the first time in 2015.

More importantly, he is the largest private property owner in central Florida’s Marion County, home of Adena Springs South. The 3,800-acre facility in Williston, Fla., is in the midst of a comeback season as a stallion operation after a six-year hiatus, in which the property served exclusively as a training center for Stronach’s runners.

If all goes to plan, the reopening of the Adena Springs South stallion operation could kick-start a cycle of positive returns between the two wings of Stronach’s Thoroughbred interests in Florida.

“The Florida breeding community has been energized the last couple years, and the timing just seemed right to re-enter the market,” said Jack Brothers of Adena Springs. “We’ve had a lot of success there in the past. We started Macho Uno down there, and it’s a great facility. The stars were aligned for a return.”

Like the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars in 1995, Adena Springs South assembled its roster for the 2015 breeding season with an expansion draft of sorts, combining rookies with veterans moved in from other franchises.

Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned came to Florida via Adena Springs’s main farm in Paris, Ky., and stands the current season for an advertised fee of $12,500. His first foals are arriving this year.

Canadian champion Hunters Bay entered stud last year at Heritage Stallions in Chesapeake City, Md., and will stand for $5,000, while Grade 3 winner and fellow second-year sire City Wolf will stand for $4,000 after debuting at Pleasant Acres Stallions in Morriston, Fla.

Grade 1 winner Capo Bastone will stand his first year at stud in 2015 after being purchased by Adena Springs as a stallion prospect for $300,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Kentucky select fall mixed sale. He is advertised at a stud fee of $4,000.

Brothers said the early response from Florida breeders has been overwhelmingly positive.

“We were very pleased with the reception we’ve had,” Brothers said. “We had our open house and our stallion show, and that was very well attended, and the comments and feedback from local breeders has been really heartwarming, to say the least. They’ve welcomed us back with open arms.”

Lonny Powell, chief executive and executive vice president of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, said the groundswell of excitement from breeders toward the new Adena Springs initiative stands to create a “rising tide lifts all boats” situation in Florida and boost the overall quality of the Florida-bred program.

“It’s a nice vote of confidence,” Powell said. “The thing about Frank is he supports his stallions, so not only is he going to send them here, he’s going to do everything he can to make sure they’re successful. Looking at it from our situation, if he’s supporting with his own mares plus some outside mares, this is all a win for Florida. It means more Florida-breds that are going to be hitting the ground and campaigning here or elsewhere, and that’s a good thing.”

Stronach has positioned Fort Larned as the flagship stallion of the revived operation, aided by the synergy between his various properties. While the 7-year-old son of E Dubai is advertised at $12,500, Gulfstream Park introduced an incentive program in which Florida breeders will receive $5,000 toward paying the fee, bringing his rate down to $7,500 for those planning to foal the mare in the Sunshine State.

“Obviously, Frank’s the common denominator between both enterprises, but the Gulfstream Park brass were looking for the opportunity to show their commitment to Florida, and these local programs begin with stallions,” Brothers said. “We wanted to come in with a big splash, and to Gulfstream Park’s credit, they came up with the formula where they participate in the fee. He was well received in Kentucky his first year at $15,000, so obviously the $5,000 stipend really has motivated people to take advantage of him being [in Florida].”

Capo Bastone, a 5-year-old son of Street Boss, was retired in the fall after winning 3 of 17 starts for earnings of $731,756, highlighted by a win in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop Stakes at Saratoga in 2013. He is out of the stakes-placed Fit to Fight mare Fight to Love, who is the dam of five other winners.

“He was a very precocious horse,” Brothers said. “He was Grade 1-placed twice at 2, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and it doesn’t hurt that he came back at 3 to win the King’s Bishop like More Than Ready, Hard Spun, and Tale of the Cat. A few champion first-crop sires have won that race, so it’s become a good barometer for future stallions. Between his earnings and his potential, he looked like a slam dunk for Florida.”

The Florida branch of Adena Springs was founded in October 1996, when Stronach bought the 453-acre Lin-Drake Farm in Williston. A year later, he added another 553 acres, and the property has steadily expanded from that point on.

Adena Springs South last stood stallions in 2009, with an eight-horse roster that included Aristocrat, Greatness, Alphabet Soup, Milwaukee Brew, Olmodavor, Red Bullet, Showing Up, and Wilko, who was the farm’s highest-priced offering with a $10,000 fee. Preakness Stakes winner Red Bullet stood at the farm for as much as $30,000 in the mid-2000s.

After the closure was announced, the bulk of the roster was moved to Adena Springs’s Kentucky farm or Gardiner Farms in Ontario, later relocating to Adena Springs North in Aurora, Ontario.

The farm’s breakout star was Macho Uno, who entered stud at Adena Springs South in 2004 and was relocated to the Kentucky farm in 2008. He was joined in the Adena Springs Kentucky stud barn by his Breeders’ Cup Classic-winning son, Mucho Macho Man, seven years later.

Other residents of the Adena Springs South stallion barn during its 13 years of operation included Indy King, Running Stag, Lucky Lionel, Lite the Fuse, Birdonthewire, Friendly Lover, Demaloot Demashoot, Explosive Red, and Wild Gold.

Brothers said Adena Springs could see future expansion of its Florida breeding operation if Stronach finds the right stallion to house in Williston.

In the meantime, Powell said the partnership between Stronach’s racing and breeding programs will see growing dividends for Florida as runners by the quartet of stallions at Adena Springs South begin showing up at the state’s racetracks.

“We run an awful lot of Florida-breds at Gulfstream Park,” Powell said. “Roughly 60 percent of the winners at Gulfstream are Florida-breds, so a strong breeding industry, which is based primarily here in Ocala, combined with a strong racing industry in the Miami and Tampa areas, just fuel each other.

“Ultimately, these foals over time should be bolstering the field sizes and quality of racing at both Gulfstream and Tampa,” he added. “I think that’s part of the master plan, and you can’t do it unless you have people take the bold step and get engaged like they are.”