05/07/2008 11:00PM

Martin Stables sells Florida facility

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Rob and Caroline Webster, longtime operators of a breaking and training business in the Ocala, Fla., area, have purchased the training facilities at Martin Stables South in Reddick, Fla., the farm announced.

Martin Stables South sold the 55-acre parcel, including a five-eighths-mile dirt track and a half-mile turf course. But it will continue to operate a breeding farm on 285 acres nearby, on the former Marablue Farm property that Martin Stables owner Eddie Martin purchased in 2005. Martin Stables South, a commercial breeding operation with 64 broodmares, currently stands Thoroughbred stallions Conscience Clear, El Nino, Sarava, Spanish Steps, and The Daddy. Martin also stands Quick Action at Vessels Stallion Farm in California, where the Carson City horse mostly covers Quarter Horse mares. Martin also stands the Quarter Horse stallion Chilled Corona in Indiana.

The sale of the training center is part of Martin's long-term plan to concentrate on breeding and to consolidate his operation's Thoroughbred holdings.

"We intend to be a significant participant in the Florida stallion and breeding business for a very long time," Martin said. "One hundred percent of Martin Stables' Thoroughbred holdings will be based at our Reddick, Fla., operation, and our racing Quarter Horse interests will be developed in Louisiana and Indiana, and this sale gives us capital to facilitate this development."

The Websters have broken, trained, and rehabilitated racehorses for a range of East Coast-based clients. They have been leasing the Martin Stables South training center for several years.

Defendant released from Jackson suit

Jess Jackson's former adviser Brad Martin has been dismissed from Jackson's 2005 lawsuit over the sale of Buckram Oak Farm in Lexington.

Jackson paid $17.5 million for Buckram Oak in 2005 but later sued Emmanuel de Seroux, Martin, bloodstock agent Frederic Sauque, and the company Buckram Oaks Holdings, alleging they committed fraud and made improper payments in order to obtain about $500,000 in secret commissions.

Martin's attorney, Lexington-based Michael Meuser, issued an announcement of Martin's dismissal on Thursday, saying "Martin paid nothing in exchange for the dismissal." He added that Jackson "is obligated to pay Martin's expenses if his testimony is needed in Lexington."

Attorney Richard Getty, representing Jackson, said the agreement called for Martin to testify if needed in an expected trial over the Buckram Oak deal.

"Quite obviously, we would not have settled if we didn't think his testimony wouldn't be potentially helpful at trial," Getty said.

Last year, trainer Bruce Headley and Martin settled with Jackson in a separate suit alleging that they and de Seroux inflated prices on equine purchases for Jackson, who owns Stonestreet Stables. Headley and Martin paid $900,000 and $250,000, respectively, in that settlement. De Seroux later also settled with a $3.5 million payment to Jackson in that suit, and Jackson agreed to drop his case against de Seroux in the Buckram Oak transaction.

Sauque has denied defrauding Jackson in the Buckram Oak purchase, saying that Jackson conducted the negotiations with Buckram owner Mahmoud Fustok in person, and that it was Jackson's determination to own the farm that caused him to bid $1.5 million more than the farm's previous listing price of $16 million.

"We will very shortly be moving for a trial date, and we hope to get a trial date by the end of the year," Getty said of the Buckram Oak case now pending against Sauque and Buckram Oak Holdings.

Farms face caterpillar warning

Farm managers, beware: Eastern tent caterpillars are on the move again. That was the warning from an e-mail distributed this week by the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers Club.

University of Kentucky researchers suspect Eastern tent caterpillars were the culprit in a mysterious abortion wave that hit about 5,000 Kentucky mares in 2001, costing the state's Thoroughbred industry an estimated $300 million in economic losses, according to a University of Louisville study. The outbreak was known as mare reproductive loss syndrome, or MRLS.

UK researchers have been studying the outbreak ever since and theorize that horses accidentally ingested the caterpillars' external hairs, which then led to bacterial infections. A key factor, they believe, was a boom in the caterpillar population that spring - something breeders and farm managers had noticed themselves.

In the e-mail, UK entomologist Dan Potter wrote, "The ETC populations are dramatically up this year - the highest I've seen since the MRLS crisis." Potter noted that the caterpillars' "wandering" phase, in which they leave their nests in search of preferred cherry leaves for food, is later this year due to cooler spring weather.

"This would be a good time to get out an alert to farm managers that unless they have been aggressive in managing ETC, or removing host trees, they should keep pregnant mares out of pastures bordered by cherry trees or other hosts for the next several weeks," Potter said.