06/27/2008 12:00AM

Pepper Oaks Farm is closing


Pepper Oaks Farm in Santa Ynez, Calif., which has stood leading California sire Swiss Yodeler since he went to stud in 1999, is closing on Tuesday, farm owner Patricia Youngman announced Thursday.

In her announcement, Youngman said she was disgruntled over the direction of the sport in general and scolded the sport for failing to have "vision and unity."

In a brief interview on Friday, Youngman deferred to her statement. She said the farm will not be developed.

"This is going to be my home," she said. "I have horses, and they will live at my place."

Swiss Yodeler, the leading sire in California in 2006 in progeny earnings, will be relocated to another California farm for the 2009 breeding season, but no plans have been finalized, according to Mike Harrington, who trained Swiss Yodeler and is active in the stallion's management.

Harrington is an avid supporter of Swiss Yodeler, having owned, bred and trained several of the sire's offspring.

Swiss Yodeler is the sire of Thor's Echo, who won the 2006 Breeders' Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs. Thor's Echo was named champion sprinter for 2006, Swiss Yodeler's first champion.

Swiss Yodeler is owned by Heinz Steinmann, who will decide where the horse stands, Harrington said.

"There are several farms interested, but we haven't made a determination yet," Harrington said. "It will be in California. It will be up to Mr. Steinmann. It's his horse. We've had three people call us, and I'm sure there'll be more."

Through Thursday, Swiss Yodeler ranked seventh among the state's stallion in progeny earnings, at $1,267,983.

Youngman's decision to close Pepper Oaks comes two years after she announced that she was reducing her breeding holdings through sales. In late 2006, she said that the other stallions that stood at Pepper Oaks would be relocated or pensioned. Swiss Yodeler was the only active stallion on the property in 2007 and 2008.

In 2006, Youngman said she wanted to redirect her effort to promote racing and race a small stable. At the 2006 October breeding sale at Barretts, Pepper Oaks sold 15 horses for $61,200.

In a statement that announced the cessation of activity at Pepper Oaks, Youngman said she will continue to race "one or two horses."

"However," she said, "the current problems within the industry and its failure to do more to enhance its position in the marketplace along with the lack of vision and unity required by its current leaders in all areas to ensure a bright future for the sport leaves me saddened and concerned as a business owner," she said.

"I hope racing can find its way and regain its position as a leading sport and entertainment alternative for fans and families."

On Friday, she said she "weighed everything for a long time" before making the announcement to close the farm.

The loss of Pepper Oaks Farm is a blow to the state's breeding industry, which has lost several other farms in recent years to development.

Youngman's decision did not surprise Harrington.

"She cut back a couple of years ago, and she indicated this spring she wasn't continuing on for long," he said. "She has other things she wanted to do. It's a beautiful farm, and it's a shame that such a beautiful farm won't have [breeding] horses on it."