09/14/2007 12:00AM

Live Oak's resurgence continues

EmailIt has been four decades since Charlotte Weber motored to Ocala from her Florida retreat in Hope Sound. The purpose of her trip was to visit her close friend Peter A. Widener III. They were neighbors in Philadelphia.

Widener had an Ocala estate that he had named Live Oak Plantation. The 4,000 or more acres was home to deer, rabbits, foxes, and other animals that one usually finds in forests. It was also the home of a modest breeding operation. The Wideners of that era were still ranked among the elite of racing.

Peter Widener's wife died in a plane crash and he could not emotionally endure living where they had shared and enjoyed so much. He wished to sell Live Oak Plantation, and Charlotte Weber accommodated him.

Live Oak has had its moments of fame through the years. Two farm alumni, Sultry Sun and Solar Splendor, won the Grade 1 Man o' War and the Gradeo1 Woodward on a September afternoon in 1992. Solar Splendor had won the Man o' War a year earlier.

In 1976, the Live Oak homebred Medieval Man was ranked the best 2-year-old in North America until Seattle Slew came along. And in 1982 another homebred, Laser Light, finished second in the Kentucky Derby to Gato del Sol.

Racing fortunes ebb and flow. The good times come and go. The Live Oak white jacket, red polka dots, and black sleeves were infrequently seen in the winner's circle through most of the late 1990s and early 21st century, but all that has changed.

Live Oak has been a finalist for Eclipse honors as America's leading breeder for several years in succession. Earlier this year, Live Oak was voted Florida's outstanding breeder. Last week, at the annual Thoroughbred Owners' and Breeders' Association's awards dinner, Charlotte Weber and her team won further kudos. She was selected as TOBA's leading breeder for the southern region and additionally was voted TOBA's owner of the year.

The citation acknowledged the farm's six homebred stakes winners in 2006, including the Breeders' Cup Mile won by Miesque's Approval - winner of the 2006 Eclipse Award as the nation's best turf horse.

"I credit my team," said Weber. "It's the best. It isn't because of me or anything special I've done."

Live Oak is not resting on past feats, not by any means. The Weber team was busy checking out the Keeneland yearling sales stock, and through Wednesday's third session Weber had bought Hip No. 444, a full sister to the Eclipse champion sprinter Speightstown, for $1.5 million and three colts for an additional $765,000. They will be shipped to Live Oak's home grounds for breaking and training.

Allen accepts job in New York

Bill Allen, the former farm manager for Farnsworth Farm prior to its sale in June 2005, has accepted the managerial job for Dick Simon's New York-based Sez Who Thoroughbreds.

"We are very pleased to have a man of Bill's expertise working for us," said Steve Silver, business manager of Sez Who Thoroughbreds. "Bill worked for my brother-in-law, Mike Sherman, at Farnsworth Farms and did a hell of a job."

* The catalogs are out for the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s annual fall mixed sale, Oct. 8-12. There are 664 horses scheduled to sell in the consignors' preferred sessions on the first two days of the sale, with the remaining 961 cataloged for the three open sessions. All sessions begin at 11oa.m. Eastern.