01/06/2006 1:00AM

Live Oak thriving with Weber at the helm


The year 2005 was a vintage one for Charlotte Weber and Live Oak Plantation. Her racing stable, usually numbering 35 or so, produced eight stakes winners: In the Gold, Revved Up, My Typhoon, Seeking Slew, Lemon Maid, Hide and Chic, Elle Runaway, and the Florida Derby 1 winner, High Fly, who has entered stud at Live Oak Stud in Ocala, Fla., for the 2006 breeding season. The overall success of the stable placed Live Oak third on the 2005 North American money-winning roster with $4.9 million.

"We're getting there," said Weber. "We don't have the numbers to compete with the gentlemen from Dubai, but they'll know, I hope, when the classic races come around that we're around, too."

Live Oak Stud, the agricultural part of the Live Oak enterprise, is approximately 4,500 acres, a few miles west of Ocala proper. There are some 900 cattle being raised, and this time of year approximately 250 Thoroughbreds are on the grounds. The farm boards two stallions and stands Eltish and the newly retired High Fly.

Weber is from an old-line Philadelphia family with ties to the Campbell's Soup Company. Her Philadelphia neighbors included the Wideners and other families with well-known ties to racing.

"I went to school in Massachusetts," recalled Weber, "and it was there where I learned to ride and love horses. But, I had no family tradition of racing horses. Some of my relations did, but not our household."

Live Oak Stud was developed by P.A.B. Widener III in the middle 1960's. The Webers were looking for property in the Ocala area and were Widener's guests for dinner. Widener had recently lost his wife in a plane crash and consequently put the farm up for sale. The Webers met the price and took over in 1968.

For the next 20 years, Weber was busy raising a family while her husband at the time, John Weber, was COO of the farm. When the Webers divorced, their children had grown up, and Charlotte was ready to take over the reins.

During those 20 years Live Oak Stud's homebred graded stakes winner Medieval Man became one of Florida's leading stallion, siring 29 stakes winners, including Mr. Sony, who was Puerto Rican champion 2-year-old, and Not Surprising, the 1995 Eclipse champion sprinter. Others who during these decades had entered stud at Live Oak were Hesabull, who ran second in the 1997 Breeders' Cup Sprint; Dispersal, a multiple Grade 1 stakes winner; and the Canadian champion turf horse With Approval.

"It's tough to stand a middle-distance horse with a turf reputation in Florida," observed Weber. "People in Florida want speed. High Fly should do well in Florida, because he had speed and could also stay. I will breed some mares to him, because he meets my criteria of being a horse who was competitive in classic company going a classic distance."

Live Oak will still continue to patronize prominent stallions in Kentucky. Giant's Causeway and Storm Cat are two stallions on its select list.

Ordinarily, with a string of 35 or so racing, one or two trainers is usually sufficient. Not so with Live Oak Plantation, which, at any given time, has six trainers in the mix.

"My methodology is really simple," said Weber. "I have six top trainers," she said, citing Nick Zito, Bill Mott, Christophe Clement, Marty Wolfson, Malcolm Pierce, and John Kimmel. "Each brings something to the table that I feel best suits the horse."

Live Oak Stud's goals, as articulated by Weber, are to breed and race classic horses. In that quest, she has much company but few peers.

* Live Oak Stud will host a stallion showing next Sunday, Jan. 15, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.