10/03/2003 12:00AM

Lewis leaves behind a trove of memories and affection


Marion Lewis, the farm manager for Farnsworth Farms from 1966 until he retired a few years ago, died this past week of cancer. Anyone who had anything to do with Florida's Thoroughbred industry for the past four decades had to know him personally or about him through hearsay.

He was a gracious, witty, and consummate horseman. Lewis would have been 70 this fall, and those with whom he had contact would quickly realize that Lewis had the attitude, drive, and good humor of a man half his age.

"I knew him from high school," said trainer Manny Tortora. "He was a Georgia boy, and his daddy came south to manage the broodmare band for Bonnie Heath.

"I met him when I began working at Dickey Stable, and we continued to work together when Dickey Stable was sold and became Ocala Stud. Marion became stud manager for Ocala Stud and then went to work as farm manager for Mike Sherman's Farnsworth Farms. Marion sure knew his business."

When asked about those early days working for Dickey Stable, Lewis once said, "We didn't know nothing, and there was no one around who knew anything, either. We had to learn for ourselves.

"I remember taking a boxcar down to Miami in 1954 around Thanksgiving time with the Dickey Stable horses we were trying to sell as 2-year-olds in training at Hialeah."

Needles, a champion 2-year-old and 3-year-old, was in that group, Lewis recalled.

"We worked our fannies off for $35 a week, and the horses lived better than we did. But we learned the business."

"I can say this about Marion," said Mike Sherman. "We, Farnsworth Farms, could not have accomplished what we accomplished without him. He had an easygoing nonchalance about him, and he was one sharp horseman.

"People liked and respected him. He knew the business like few did or do. We had a terrific relationship over the years. He ran the farm as if it was his. I took care of the paperwork, the business end of the operation. We were a team, a very good team."

"Marion was a friend and mentor to me," says Steve Silver, director of operations for Sez Who Thoroughbreds. "I learned a lot from him. Everybody did. He was country with street smarts."

Lewis was a past member of the board of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association. He was voted the association's Bruce Campbell Award in l997 for outstanding service to the Florida Thoroughbred industry. He was voted the farm managers' club manager of the year and served as that organization's president in 1975 and 1976. His continuing efforts with Farnsworth Farms was instrumental in the farm winning an Eclipse Award in 1996.

Lewis is survived by his wife, Gail, their four children, grandchildren, and siblings.

Plumleys geared up for Hong Kong

Harold J. Plumley, owner of Plumley Farms and current president of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association, is all set to go to Hong Kong, presuming he and his and son Mike's Australian-bred and raced Star of Florida is issued an anticipated invitation to compete in the rich November sprint offered by the Hong Kong Jockey Club. Star of Florida won his sixth race in 11 tries when he won the $100,000 Starlight Stakes at Sydney in late September.

The win in the Starlight Stakes puts the 4 year-old over $600,000 Australian in earnings. Plans are to run him one more time at the Melbourne course before the Hong Kong race.

"I would love to have Star of Florida race in America, Plumley continued. "But, he is a five-furlong turf specialist, and there are not too many of those around here. So, if we want to watch him run, Mike and I have to travel."

Yearlings have their own session

The Ocala Breeders' fall mixed sale gets under way Oct. 13 and continues through Oct. 16. The first two days of sales are consignors' preferred sessions, and there are 538 lots cataloged - foals, broodmares, and broodmare prospects.

Immediately following the Tuesday preferred session, 67 yearlings will go through the auction ring. Ordinarily, the OBS intersperses yearlings alphabetically throughout the preferred and open sessions, but because of the numbers, management elected to sell them as a class. Starting time for all four days of the sale is 11 a.m.