Updated on 09/17/2011 5:59PM

A nice little place for post-surgery R and R

Email

There are over 300 Thoroughbred farms in north-central Florida, and they range from the 100-acre-plus facilities to mama-poppa homesteads of a few acres. Some are niche operations; others offer a variety of services, breeding, training, sales prep.

Jerry and Linda Paradise's Tuxedo Farm is a niche operation on a modest scale. What the 25-acre farm specializes in is pre-operation and post-operation R and R.

"It's a specialty business," said Jerry Paradise. "I get all sorts of lay-ups and surgery candidates off the racetrack."

Paradise is no stranger to horse injuries and backstretch needs, as he was a public trainer up and down the East Coast for some 40 years.

Paradise comes from a New York family of horsemen and horsewomen. Linda is also from that section of the country, but she worked early on in her career with the hunter-jumper set. Paradise will tell you he trained and owned his share of decent horses along the way. Some were hard-hitting claimers; a few won stakes.

"Never really had the owners who would step up and buy an expensive horse, so I had to make do with what I had," he said.

Tuxedo Farm caters to the horse in need of repair or recuperation. The farm, however, does board a few broodmares for longtime clients.

"My main barn is wired to the office television monitor, and I have cameras for this monitoring in four of the 12 stalls," Paradise said.

The Tuxedo Farm recuperation area is made up of six 10- to 12-foot-square paddocks that are side by side.

"Horses see one another, enjoy the outside, and this seems to relieve their boredom while making sure they can't tear around and hurt themselves," he said. "We have expansion plans in the works. Another barn will bring the stall count to 24 and we are converting our pond into a swimming facility. This past fall's hurricanes slowed us down, but we're picking up speed."

A truly eye-catching facet of Tuxedo Farm is an unusual weanling colt with the farm nickname of Champion. Paradise tells the colt's story: "His dam foundered when she foaled him; for the next two months she nursed him while on her side. Then she died. But he did not fret, as many young horses would do. Champ took it in stride. He shunned bottle feeding and went straight for the water and creep feeding. We began giving him some slack and he ran with all the freedom we gave him. So now he has the run of the farm."

The orphan colt has his own stall, but the stall door is always left open. This lets him go to his stall, nibble on his feed, munch some hay, and then take a nap if he wants, or leave to tour the farm, which he routinely does. He walks the fences, peers into the weanling field, visits the horses in the recovery pens. He'll play games with the dogs who live on the farm. He even goes into the farm office, walks about, sniffs, and leaves.

"He hasn't knocked a thing over yet," said Paradise, with the smile of an admiring parent.

With the name Paradise having such a built-in advertising value, the question was asked: How did the name Tuxedo Farm originate?

"Well," said Paradise, "we started building this farm last year and decided on a black-and- white color scheme. When it was done, Linda thought it lacked something. So she planted red carnations all around to spruce it up. When she was done, it reminded us of a man in a traditional tuxedo sporting a red flower. We looked at each other and said 'Tuxedo Farm,' and the name stuck."

* A reminder that Sunday, starting at 10 a.m., is the annual Florida Thoroughbred Farm Managers parade of stallions, equine trade show, and silent auction. All the activities take place at the Ocala Equestrian Complex, adjacent to the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company facilities. There is no fee for admission.