10/21/2008 12:00AM

Breeder-owner Harry Mangurian, 82, dies


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Longtime Thoroughbred breeder and owner Harry T. Mangurian, Jr., founder of Florida's Mockingbird Farm, died Sunday of leukemia in Ft. Lauderdale. He was 82.

Mangurian also was a former owner of the National Basketball Association Boston Celtics, which he acquired in a trade for the Buffalo Braves.

A New York native and World War II veteran, Mangurian made his fortune in a number of businesses, starting with the expansion of his family's retail furniture stores, Mangurian's, Inc., from his hometown of Rochester, N.Y. He eventually also ran a real estate construction firm, Drexel Investments; the jet charter company Southeastern Jet Corporation; and the First National Bank of Rochester, among his varied business interests.

Mangurian first attended the races at Bay Meadows in 1946 while on shore leave from the Navy, but he didn't buy his own horses until 1966, after the building of Finger Lakes gave him a more local outlet for the sport.

In 1970, Mangurian acquired a parcel of Florida's storied Tartan Farms property in Ocala. Named Mockingbird Farm, it grew from about 300 to 1,100 acres and became one of the most prolific breeding farms in the nation. The farm was home to such stallions as Valid Appeal, Rizzi, Storm Creek, End Sweep, Diablo, and Val id Expectations.

Mangurian bred and/or raced more than 150 stakes-winners, headed by two-time champion and Hall of Famer Desert Vixen; 1992 Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Gilded Time; Canadian champion and Grade 1 winner Exciting Story; and Grade 1 winners including Dark Ending, Miss Iron Smoke, Nany's Sweep, Swept Overboard, and others.

He sold many of those runners, but their victories contributed to his standing as a breeder. He topped the North American breeders' list by earnings from 1999 - '02 and by wins from 1999, 2000, and 2002. He received the Eclipse Award of Merit in 2001. He also was six-time Florida Breeder of the Year.

Interestingly, two of his biggest successes came early and from another breeder's program. In 1972 at Hialeah, he bought the mare Desert Trial, in foal to In Reality, from Mrs. Vanderbilt Adams's dispersal. He also bought the mare's 2-year-old filly, also by In Reality. The filly was Desert Vixen, and the foal in utero was Valid Appeal, who went on to become one of Florida's outstanding sires and Mockingbird's foundation stallion.

In 1999, Mangurian began reducing his bloodstock holdings with a 258-mare dispersal. He sold his farm, now named Winding Oaks, in early 2002 to Eugene Melnyk.

"It's been over 50 years since I first went with shipmates to Bay Meadows racetrack," he told Daily Racing Form in 1999 on the eve of his broodmare band's dispersal. "I have prospered in my business endeavors, but the business of breeding and racing Thoroughbred horses has been the most challenging."

He was a member of The Jockey Club, Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association, and founding chairman of the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company, among other affiliations.

Mangurian's survivors include wife Dorothy and daughters Terry Skuse and Tracy Jenkins. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations to Michael and Diane Bienes Cancer Center, Holy Cross Hospital, 4725 North Federal Highway, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., 33308. Service arrangements were being handled by Baird Case Jordan Fannin Funeral Home at (954) 492-4000.