03/01/2002 1:00AM

Ocala Stud blames electricity for barn fire


The Feb. 23 fire that burned down a training barn at Ocala Stud and took the lives of 22 horses is likely the result of an electrical malfunction.

"There's no other feasible explanation," said farm spokesman Karl Koontz.

Suffering the most damage from the fire was Carl Lizza who lost 14 of the 22 horses who died. Lizza's grief was quoted in local media.

"It's catastrophic," he said. "There is no word for it if you love horses.

"We have lost horses before," Lizza continued, "but one at a time - struck by lightning on the farm and things like that, but nothing like this."

He estimated his loss at $1.4 million. Lizza's horses were not insured.

The horses, mostly 2-year-olds in training, represented Ocala Stud longtime clientele. Owner-trainer Joe Pierce lost five 2-year-olds of which he owned all or part.

Vernon Heath, owner of the ill-fated Exogenous, had his own tale of woe before and after the fire. Not only did he lose Exogenous, he also lost an in utero sibling to Exogenous, and he lost his share in the sire of Exogenous in the death of Unbridled. He also lost a promising colt in Vikadonis in a training accident at Calder Race Course, unrelated to the fire.

The horse Heath lost in the fire was a 2-year-old colt by Adhocracy, a $14,000 weanling purchase.

"I don't know why anyone would want me in his barn," said Heath.

Others reported to have lost horses in the fire were Hall of Fame trainers Scotty Schulhofer and T.J. Kelly.

Heath highway

Bonnie Heath III represented his family a ceremony last week to rename a section of U.S. Highway 27 in the Ocala area, as Bonnie Heath Boulevard, in honor of his late father.

Heath III has racing stock in both the family name and in partnerships. Among them is the racehorse Honor Glide and the stallion Outflanker. Both are from the Danzig line "You'd think," said Heath, "his being a grandson of Danzig would have generated some nibbles, but trying to stand a middle-distance turf horse in North America is no easy job," referring to the 8-year-old Honor Glide, a multiple graded stakes winner of $1.4 million. So, for the time being we'll race him, and the Pan American Handicap at Gulfstream is our next target."

Heath is a part-owner of the hot young stallion Outflanker, who is closely related to Honor Grades, sire of Honor Glide. "We have 120 mares booked to him for this year," Heath said. "So, you might say his book is closed."

Outflanker was, after the departure of Valid Expectations and Open Forum, Florida's leading freshman stallion in winners (12) and second in money won. Outflanker is the sire of two current stakes winners.

Incidentally, Ms Brookski, by Montbrook, winner of the Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes at Gulfstream last week, was bred by Bill and Annabel Murphy of Elangeni Farm, in Ocala. "Murphy" is also a part owner of Outflanker.

* Two other stallions whose get earned stakes brackets recently are DunHill's Dove Hunt (Danzig) and Farnsworth Farms' Suave Prospect (Fortunate Prospect). The Dove Hunt stakes winner is Romancin Dixie, winner of the $50,500 Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. The Suave Prospect 3-year-old, Smooth Lover, won the $65,000 Bonnie Heath Stakes at Gulfstream.

* Monday is the closing for two stakes that are part of the March 18 OBS Festival of Racing: the $35,000 Florida Breeders' Distaff Stakes, for fillies and mares, Florida-breds preferred, and the $35,000 Florida Charities Stakes, for the get of stallions participating in the charities program, for fillies and mares.