05/26/2006 12:00AM

For Hickey, living is easier at new farm

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Bulldozers, graders, and tractors are daily sight at the original Irish Acres Farm in northwest Ocala, Fla. The machines are transforming the once rolling pastures into one- to three-acre lots, which are destined to become home sites. Gone are the barns, the fences, the dirt track and turf course, and gone is the house that Noel Hickey and his wife, Bobby, built and lived in for three decades.

The Hickeys have moved to a smaller farm, about five miles west of the original.

"It's a pretty place and it's only half the former farm's size," said Noel Hickey. "You can call it a work in progress."

The horse population of the new Irish Acres Farm is only a fraction of what it used to be. From 110 broodmares and several stallions, the count is down to a dozen or so producers belonging to Irish Acres Farm and a modest band that belongs to clients who made the move when Hickey relocated. Hickey no longer stands any stallions. Bucksplasher, who is 29, still whinnies from time to time at passing fillies and mares, but his legs can no longer support his libido.

Making the van ride from the first Irish Acres Farm to the current one was Molly's Colleen. When she was mated to Bucksplasher in 1992, she produced the Eclipse champion turf horse Buck's Boy. Looking younger than her 24 years, Molly's Colleen is one of several pensioners living at Irish Acres. Another is Paul Muller's Cherry Flare, by Mr. Washington. Her daughter Take D' Tour, by the late Irish Acres stallion Tour d'Or, won the Grade 2 Shuvee Handicap at Belmont last Sunday.

Hickey is no longer the traveling man he used to be.

"I have a string of horses at Mountaineer Park," said Hickey. "But the new farm demands much of my time. Both Bobby and myself will leave the traveling to a younger generation. To be sure I will go to the track to see what's what, but that's about it."

One of the horses Hickey will travel to see is his 3-year-old by Tour d'Or named Gebreselassie. Only those familiar with the sport of long-distance running will pick up on the name of the Kenyan world-class marathon man. Hickey in his younger day was a middle-distance runner. And he still follows the sport with interest and enthusiasm, so much so that he and his wife have not missed attending an Olympiad in the past 30 years.

Gebreselassie is a half-brother to Buck's Boy and, according to Hickey, has some of his half-brother's youthful silliness. "When he matures mentally, I think he'll prove to be a quality racehorse," Hickey said.

With no stallions standing at Irish Acres, Hickey has made local and out-of-state stallion choices that reflect his knowledge of pedigrees and his intuition. When questioned about some stallion choices that appear to be off the commercial path, he will quickly remind the questioner that he "breeds to race." Hickey's Florida selections for '06 are Marco Bay, sire of Buzzards Bay; Concerto, standing at Ocala Stud; and the Adena Springs South stallion Greatness, by Mr. Prospector.

Hickey shipped several mares to Kentucky for this year's breeding season, and the stallions he selected for his mares are Awesome Again, Pleasant Tap, and Afleet Alex. John Silvertan, breeder of Afleet Alex, is a longtime Irish Acres client.

"I have had a hell of a run," said Hickey, summing up his half-century in the game, "and it's not over yet. I'm training as many as 15 horses every morning and enjoying every minute."