11/29/2002 1:00AM

A local pioneer parlayed limestone into livestock

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On Dec. 1, 57 years ago, Elmer F. Heubeck Jr. arrived in Ocala to manage the only Thoroughbred nursery in north central Florida.

In the mid-1940's Ocala was a rural community of some 10,000. Heubeck was going to go to work for Carl G. Rose. Rose had migrated to Florida from Indiana and made a ton of money selling limestone to highway contractors. Once prosperous he turned his attention to real estate and horses.

Rose developed a 300-acre property, which he named Rosemere Farm. Rose was convinced that by showing that a Thoroughbred industry could be successful in the north central part of Florida - most of the Thoroughbred farms at that time were in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area - he could make his estimated 20,000 acres of Marion County real estate far more valuable.

Recalled Heubeck: "I was working in Maryland at C.E. Tuttle's Cave Valley Farm. It wasn't a Thoroughbred farm. Mr. Tuttle catered to the hunter-jumper set. In September of '45, Mr. Tuttle decided to move on to Oregon and asked me to go along, but I had a wife and young son to think about. It was just too uncertain for me, so I turned him down.

"I got to Florida by running ads in Thoroughbred publications, and Mr. Rose read one of those ads, phoned me, and we talked. He came up from Ocala, and we made a deal. I didn't even know where Ocala was. Don't think too many people did in those days.

"Rosemere Farm was a nuts-and-bolts operation. Mr. Rose was a poor boy as a youngster and later, when he made a lot of money, he just couldn't spend it on frills. He had a few cheap mares on the farm, I brought a few mares with me, and when we needed more, I would go on over to Sunshine Park," the track that is now Tampa Bay Downs.

"I'd find out from the feed men what horsemen were in trouble financially," said Heubeck, "and I'd offer them $100 to $250 for a filly or mare."

Chairman's influence helps business

The Rosemere Farm homebreds were not worth the cost of preparation and shipping to the northern yearling venues. The Rosemere team needed a different sales approach. Rose had backed Charlie Johns for governor of Florida. When Johns won, he made Rose the chairman of the then-all-powerful Florida State Racing Commission. Tropical Park and Hialeah management readily obliged when Rose asked for stalls in their receiving barns. These barns gave the Rosemere operation training facilities and a sales venue to sell 2-year-olds in training.

Horses sold by Rosemere in that era include the multiple stakes winners Indian Maid and Heroshogala - both winners of $300,000 or more, big money in those days.

The Heubeck and Rose team continued until 1961, when Rose's failing health presaged the end of the relationship. Heubeck stayed on for a while until his 1,000-plus acre Quail Roost Farm was ready.

"We had a stallion named Noble Hero, a full brother to the good racehorse and sire Greek Ship, and Mrs. Marion duPont-Scott wanted him," Heubeck said.

"So she sent the late Tyson Gilpin down to negotiate a deal. She wound up buying all of Rosemere Farm to get Noble Hero. Later Gilpin dispersed the breeding stock and sold the property."

In the years to come Heubeck developed Hobeau Farm for Jack Dreyfus Jr., and Heubeck bred a slew of stakes winners, as Quail Roost Farm continued the business of selling homebreds privately rather than at recognized sales.

With Heubeck always on the lookout for a money-making proposition, Quail Roost at one time was a leading supplier of exotic animals and birds - all raised on the grounds.

"They were insurance in case the horse business had a bad year," said Heubeck.

Heubeck is still active despite a recent open heart surgery.

"Still get on my pony, and just completed my new racetrack on Quail Roost II," he said. "Have slowed down a little bit, but still enjoy my work."

"He's doing okay," said Heubeck's wife, Harriet. "You know the day Elmer left for Ocala was on a Nov. 30, and it was also our fifth wedding anniversary. So this time of year is something special for us."