05/16/2003 12:00AM

Fla. breeding: Industry lost true pioneer in Heubeck

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The late Carl G. Rose had the vision. Elmer F. Heubeck Jr., whom Rose hired in 1945, was the man who made it happen. Together they were the real pioneers of Florida's Thoroughbred breeding industry. Heubeck died Monday in Ocala at the age of 85.

Sales for 2-year-olds in training are ubiquitous nowadays, but before Heubeck took his wiry, unfashionably bred Florida 2-year-olds in training to the south Florida market, there was no established place for them to be sold.

"Rosemere Farm" - Rose's farm - "was a nuts-and-bolts operation," Heubeck would tell you. "Mr. Rose was a poor boy as a youngster, and later, when he made money, he still couldn't spend it on frills. He had a few cheap mares on his farm when I arrived in 1945, and I bought more cheap ones at old Sunshine Park," now Tampa Bay Downs. "Bought those mares in the $100 to $250 range."

The resulting Rosemere Farm homebreds were not worth the cost of preparing and shipping to the Northern yearling venues. It was Heubeck who came up with the concept of selling them early in their 2-year-old years as racehorses broken and trained. Among the top-class racehorses Rosemere Farm and Heubeck turned out in that era were Indian Maid, a major-league stakes winner, and Heroshogala. Each won more than $300,000 in a time when a $10,000-added stakes race was big-time.

Rose's health began to wane in the early 1960's, and Heubeck, knowing that Rosemere Farm's days were numbered, developed his own Quail Roost Farm.

No sooner was it completed than Heubeck had a new client in Jack Dreyfuss, for whom he developed Hobeau Farm. Heubeck spared no expense in developing Hobeau Farm, but his largess did not extend to breeding stock. He still populated Hobeau Farm with broodmares who were Sunshine Park castoffs.

Yet these broodmares, mated to Beau Gar and placed with the young and not-yet-legendary H. Allen Jerkens, made Hobeau Farm a formidable outfit on the New York and Florida racing scenes. Later with his wife, Harriet, Heubeck bred more than 20 stakes winners, and earners of $12 million-plus.

"When Elmer got on a train and left Maryland for Ocala," Harriet fondly recalled, "it was Nov. 30, 1945. And it was our fifth wedding anniversary." She and Elmer had nearly 58 more of them. It was a good run.

Meadowbrook may scale back after fire

The devastating fire this month that destroyed Meadowbrook Farm's state-of-the-art stallion barn has already affected the business plan of the LaCroix family, which owns Meadowbrook.

"The fire was a catastrophe for everyone," said Barbara LaCroix. "It was horrendous, and we feel so sorry for the five stallions that died. I am coming back to the farm to live. No more California. My son David is the operational manager for the farm, and he will continue to commute to Ocala from his California base. He's made a lot of contacts on the West Coast, and David wants to continue the selling end of the business.

"I am not sure what we are going to do. I don't mean we are getting out of the Thoroughbred business - it's how much we want to take on. We have four stallions left of the nine before the fire. We have interests in Lexicon and Impeachment. Wind Whisper and Reprized are boarders. David and I have not decided if we want to look for more stallions, but if a new stallion proposal does come along, we'll certainly take a look at it."