09/07/2004 12:00AM

Frances spares Fla. Farms


Hurricane Frances killed nine people and left downed trees, mangled houses, and flooding as she crossed Florida. But as of Tuesday morning, the state's Thoroughbred breeding center of Ocala had no major injuries or loss of life.

A school maintenance worker in Marion County, where Ocala is located, died Monday, falling off a ladder after inspecting a school's roof for damage.

Marion County had more than 96,000 customers without power on Tuesday, and major farms were doing without electricity and, in many cases, phone service.

"The wind and rain have taken a toll on the trees" said Tom Ventura, general manager at the Ocala Breeders Sales Co., where power was on and damage was light. "We were fortunate. We have one roof that got pulled up on one of the barns, just a portion that got curled up, and some minor things like that."

Many farms were unreachable by telephone Tuesday. Ventura said that Ocala Stud was without electricity or phone service and Padua Stables sustained damage to its fencing.

The OBS facility was one of several designated as equine holding areas in case of major disaster. "There wasn't any need for us to serve in that capacity, fortunately," Ventura said.