08/15/2002 11:00PM

Darley slowly getting old Jonabell into shape

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - It's been a year since Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum's Darley operation announced it had bought the Bell family's Jonabell Farm near Lexington. The Darley team has been busy with the farm since then, but more with renovation projects than handling horses.

"Geographically, the farm is being redeveloped," Darley agent John Ferguson said recently at Saratoga. "It had been a very busy public stud farm, but now it's had 12 months almost without a horse on it. We'll probably leave it another 12 to 18 months before we start to restock. The reason is two-fold. First, the farm needed some refurbishment, so we are re-fencing and refurbishing barns as necessary. Second, leaving horses off it gives the land a wonderful opportunity to rest."

The only horses still at the farm, Ferguson said, are the Jonabell stallions whose careers are overseen by Jimmy Bell. Their ranks remain unchanged, and they covered mares as usual during the 2002 breeding season. The Jonabell stallion roster this year includes Jill Robinson's Cherokee Run, partnership-owned Holy Bull, and syndicated Old Trieste.

"We're looking to stand more horses in the future," Ferguson said, adding that Darley hasn't yet determined which of its stallions might eventually stand at Jonabell.

The Darley program in England, which stands such popular horses as Machiavellian, has attracted the attention of North American breeders with a range of marketing schemes, including foal-sharing agreements and arrangements for commercial breeders to pay stud fees when a stallion's progeny sells, rather than on foaling.

"As far as stallions go, the way Darley operates in Europe and will continue to operate at Jonabell is along the lines that Sheikh Mohammed has decreed, that one must do everything one can to help the customer," Ferguson said. "The point Sheikh Mohammed has made to me is that if you look after your customers, they come back.

"We hope to achieve that here by setting stud fees in a way that is fair to everyone, and to be transparent."

Machiavellian has proven popular with North American breeders despite his location in England, but Ferguson said that the 15-year-old Mr. Prospector horse would not come to Jonabell.

"He is syndicated and is very popular with European breeders," Ferguson said, adding that due to a drop in fertility this year Machiavellian would have his book cut back. "The fact that 25 American breeders came over with their mares this year suggests that he need not move."

For now, there are no Darley mares at Jonabell, either, but that will change within the next two years. Darley has about 80 mares in Kentucky, and all of them eventually will relocate to the 800-acre Jonabell property.

Darley down under

Darley's expansion isn't limited to the Northern Hemisphere. The operation also plans to develop its own farm in Australia's Hunter Valley and is considering purchasing the Kelvinside Stud there.

The Kelvinside property covers about 1,330 acres and operates as a commercial breeding farm.

Darley already stands stallions during the Southern Hemisphere breeding season but not at its own property. Darley leases the stallion facility at Collingrove Stud in New South Wales.

Illinois breeder Yapp dead

Illinois breeder and owner Donald Yapp died in Illinois on Aug. 13 at the age of 79. He had suffered a series of strokes in recent years. Yapp is best known as the owner of Spankey's Seconds, a stakes-winning mare who became Illinois's top-priced mare at auction in 1990 when she brought $130,000 at Yapp's dispersal sale.

Spankey's Seconds is the dam of stakes winners Barefoot Dyana and Groovin' Time and Grade 3-placed Kutsa. Yapp also raced homebred stakes winner Temphillary.

Yapp also owned a farm in Rockford, Ill., which he sold in 1999.

Etc. . . .

* The University of Kentucky announced this week that it will receive $1.4 million in funding from the United States Department of Agriculture for continued research related to forage and grazing livestock. UK's forage-animal research initiative includes research into mare reproductive loss syndrome but also will examine such topics as forage genetics. The research program, in collaboration with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service, already has conducted research into pasture mycotoxins and the Eastern tent caterpillar's role in mare reproductive loss syndrome.

* Equineline.com announced that it is offering a new internet-based farm management program that allows users to maintain confidential horse records on a central server and offers electronic messaging for mare owners, among other services. Users can access the program through any internet connection for a monthly subscription cost starting at $29.95 for 20 horses.

* The Racing Post in England has reported that Hubie De Burgh, longtime general manager at Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum's Derrinstown Stud in Ireland, will leave that post to start a new bloodstock investment venture with his family. The new bloodstock firm will be based in Kill, County Kildare, Ireland.