01/02/2004 12:00AM

Hickey to cut back on racing operation


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Noel Hickey, the highly accomplished breeder-owner-trainer who dominated Chicago racing in the early 1990's and who won the 1998 Breeders' Cup Turf with Buck's Boy, is dramatically downsizing his racing operation to concentrate on a 150-acre training and breaking facility that he is having built in Ocala, Fla.

Hickey, under the familiar banner of Irish Acres Farm, is selling 40 horses at the Ocala winter mixed sale later this month. The consignment includes mostly 2- and 3-year-olds, along with several yearlings and mares.

Hickey, 76, said he will retain about five to 10 racehorses that he currently has in training at Irish Acres in Ocala. In the spring, "I'll turn them over to friends who are trainers, or to their assistants."

Hickey said he has wearied of the extensive travel that has kept him away from his Ocala base for much of any given year. "I do still have some wanderlust, but it is time to stay at home," he said. "I won't travel ever again with a 30-horse stable."

Hickey long has been a prominent figure in Chicago. While racing a large stable comprised almost exclusively of horses that were bred and owned in the name of his wife, Margaret, he was the leading trainer three consecutive years (1990-92) at Arlington Park. In 1991, he saddled 62 winners at Arlingon, a record that stood until Wayne Catalano won 64 races in 2002. The pinnacle of his career came on Nov. 7, 1998, when Buck's Boy led wire-to-wire in the $2 million BC Turf at Churchill Downs.

In the mid-1990's, Hickey became highly involved in horsemen's issues and often clashed with Arlington chairman Richard Duchossois. Hickey ultimately was denied stalls at Arlington because of their rancorous dealings.

At the Ocala sale, which runs Jan. 19-22, all of the Irish Acres horses will be sold on the second day, Jan. 20. Hickey said he already has dispersed most of his broodmares but that he will continue to breed horses on a small scale.

The new training facility, which eventually will accommodate 100 or more horses, will be built from scratch on land that is separate from the current Irish Acres property. That land has been purchased by a home developer.