05/05/2005 11:00PM

Eclipse-winning Farnsworth closing


Farnsworth Farms, winner in 1996 of an Eclipse Award as the nation's leading breeder, is going out of business.

The liquidation of Farnsworth Farms and its breeding and racing stock will come in three stages. The yearlings, 109 of them, will sell at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's August yearling sale. The broodmares, 175 total, will sell at the OBS fall sale in October, and the foals of 2005 will be entered for next January's OBS winter mixed sale.

Mike Sherman has been the CEO of Farnsworth Farms, owned by the Sherman Trust, for the past four decades.

"The farm itself is for sale and is on the market," said Sherman. "The Farnsworth stallions will be sold or relocated, and the racing stable will continue until the horses are sold or claimed."

The Sherman Trust is the legacy of a Bostonian, Isidore Sherman, who set up the trust on behalf of his son, Mike, and Mike's sister, Dayle Silver.

"The farm is being liquidated for estate purposes," said Mike Sherman. "The tax codes have changed over the years, and as none of my father's grandchildren are interested in continuing the business, it's time to call it a day. I am not getting out of the business - not by a long shot. I intend to race some horses, partner in horses, perhaps do some breeding, and do consulting work as well."

Sherman is at this time uncertain about the future of the Farnsworth stallions. Currently the farm stands Double Honor, Suave Prospect, Adcat, and Line in the Sand. Best of the Rest and Sir Leon are boarders and will doubtlessly be relocated.

"If the right offer comes along," said Sherman, "we'll sell them. If not, we'll stand them with another farm."

Farnsworth Farms was developed in 1962 and began acquiring stallions and broodmares starting with the 1962 Keeneland fall sales. Over the years, such stallions as Bolinas Boy, Diplomat Way, Baldski, and Fortunate Prospect were instrumental in making Farnsworth Farms into a multiple-award-winning enterprise.

At last count, Farnsworth Farms has bred 220 stakes winners. Among the better-known racehorses foaled and developed at the Ocala nursery were Wayward Lass, the champion 3-year-old filly of 1981; Jewel Princess, champion older female of 1996; Beautiful Pleasure, champion older female of 1999; Mecke, a multimillionaire Grade 1 winner; Frisk Me Now, a millionaire grade stakes winner; and Imperialism, third in the 2004 Kentucky Derby.

Remembering the beginning

In the fall of 1962, I was living in Massachusetts and working for a Boston advertising agency. Among the agency accounts were Suffolk Downs and Lincoln Downs. A fledgling breeder, I had one mare at the time, a daughter of Noor whom I had purchased from Peter Fuller, later to become the breeder and owner of Dancer's Image and the 1985 filly champion Mom's Command. My mare had a 1962 Massachusetts-bred foal on the ground

Winter in Massachusetts, I had deduced, was not an optimum time nor climate to raise a yearling. I had heard about Ocala and the booming horse business developing there, and thought it just might be the right environment to raise my yearling. One reference led to another, and soon I was put in touch with fellow Bostonian Isidore Sherman who, with his son was developing a breeding, boarding, and training facility 20 miles north of Ocala. I asked Sherman about boarding rates and what stallions he stood. Sherman, instead of answering, said something like, "Why don't you come down with me next week and see for yourself?"

Columbus Day in 1962 was my first visit to Ocala. We motored from the airport to Farnsworth Farms, named after a Sherman family business located on Farnsworth Street in Boston. We passed Lou Wolfson's Harbor View Farm. The Harbor View breeding and training center was state-of-the-art then and picture-pretty as well.

The 425-acre Farnsworth Farms had barns, fenced pastures, and a training track. The only thing missing was horses. Sherman said that his goal was to become an industry leader in the growing 2-year-old market. To this end, he was going to Keeneland in November 1962 to begin building the necessary broodmare band. Sherman asked me if I wanted to become part of the Farnsworth Farms team. I answered in the affirmative.

George Swinebroad, certainly one of the sales industry's all-time flamboyant auctioneers, was Keeneland's man at the helm in those days. Sherman and the Farnsworth Farms delegation were assigned seats in the back of the sales arena during that 1962 fall sale, seats that barely qualified as under cover. Sherman was not exactly ignored early on, but he did have to bid in a demonstrative way in order to be recognized.

Farnsworth Farms bought 19 broodmares for approximately $200,000, and the farm was an underbidder on dozens more. The following year, Swinebroad made sure that the Farnsworth seats were in the second row, front and center.

Of those original 19 Keeneland purchases almost all produced stakes winners or stakes-placed runners. Farnsworth was off to a running start and into the record books.