Updated on 09/15/2011 1:38PM

Melnyk to buy Mockingbird

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Eugene Melnyk, a major buyer at Thoroughbred auctions and the owner of such runners as Grade 1 winner Tweedside, is set to purchase Harry T. Mangurian, Jr.'s famed Mockingbird Farm in Ocala, Fla.

The deal for the 1,100-acre property is expected to close by mid-January and will give Melnyk and his wife, Laura, their first Thoroughbred nursery. Phil Hronec, currently farm manager for John Franks's Franks Farm Southland Division in Ocala, will take over on Jan. 15 as general manager and trainer for the Melnyks at Mockingbird.

The Mockingbird property, which may be renamed, covers land that once belonged to the famed Tartan Farms developed by James Binger and John Nerud. The historic property includes the old Tartan Farms cemetery, where Dr. Fager, Ta Wee, and other champions are buried.

Mangurian, one of the nation's leading breeders, has gradually dispersed many of his horses since 1999, when he announced that he would put the farm on the market. From its base at the nursery, Mangurian's homebreeding operation stood such good sires as End Sweep, Open Forum, and Valid Appeal. Valid Appeal, now pensioned, will remain at the Mockingbird facility to live out his days as part of the purchase agreement, according to Hronec.

Hronec said that the Florida farm will serve primarily as a breaking and training facility for Melnyk's young stock for the time being.

"It's not often you get the opportunity to join a man like Eugene Melnyk," Hronec said. "He's young, ambitious, and wants to be a force in this business, and I think he will be."