11/01/2007 12:00AM

Ranch fights the odds to get rolling

EmailARCADIA, Calif. - In the past few years, the following things have occurred at Rancho Temescal in Piru, Calif. - two wildfires, a mudslide, a freeze that nearly ruined this year's avocado crop, and a bout with high winds last month that essentially finished off what few avocados remained.

Understandably, farm owner Jed Cohen is looking forward to this winter and the farm's first season of standing a stallion on the 6,000-acre property.

"One of my friends told me, 'Jed, don't you realize? You're an urban guy,' " Cohen recalled recently. "You grew up in New York. You're not a farmer."

Cohen may not be a farmer in the riding on a tractor and wearing denim overalls and a straw hat sense, but he is a horseman. At the age of 74, he delightfully boasts of being a racing fan for 65 of his years.

With the near completion of Rancho Temescal's horse facilities, Cohen, his wife, Roberta, and their son Tim, who runs the property, have a place to breed and raise their own horses.

The center of the operation for the upcoming breeding season will be the young stallion Suances, a Group 1 winner in France in 2000 whose American career was plagued by injury. Suances, an 11-year-old son of Most Welcome, enters his third season at stud in 2008, and his first at Rancho Temescal.

The Cohens bought Rancho Temescal in 2000, and have slowly developed the property to accommodate Thoroughbreds. Along the way, they could not have imagined the effort would be so trying, and that Mother Nature would intervene - frequently.

"I would say that avocado growing makes horse racing look stable," said Tim Cohen, 41. "We lost 85 percent of our avocado crop in the freeze and the 15 percent that remained we lost in the high winds."

In addition to the horses and avocados, the farm has a herd of cattle and crops of lemon and celery. The wildfires that plagued Southern California last month scarred 1,000 acres of cattle pasture on the property, but none of the horses or barns was affected, according to Tim Cohen.

"If we get the right rain, it will be back quick," Cohen said of the pastures.

The addition of Suances has left the Cohens excited about the farm's future. The family has raced horses in Southern California for years, including Janet, the winner of two Grade 1 races in 2001 - the Ramona Handicap and Yellow Ribbon Stakes.

Suances never reached his potential as a racehorse in the United States. Campaigned by the Cohens in this country, Suances suffered a serious leg injury shortly after arriving in the U.S. in the summer of 2000, and missed all of 2001. Suances was injured when he caught a foot in a piece of sheet metal in a bizarre accident on the Arlington Park backstretch, Jed Cohen said. The colt emerged with a severe tendon injury.

"They couldn't get it to heal," Jed Cohen said. "It was where the ankle bends. They tried everything, old remedies, new remedies, everything. They said, put rum on it, then sugar, and then put a bra around it."

Over time, the injury healed. Suances returned to racing as a

5-year-old in 2002, and won two stakes from five starts - the San Francisco Mile and Dallas Turf Cup Handicap. A winner of 8 of 12 starts and $402,559, Suances began his stud career in 2005 at Cardiff Stud Farm in Atascadero, Calif., and was moved to Rancho Temescal earlier this year.

"Everyone who had anything to do with the horse said he was an exceptional horse," Jed Cohen said. "We'll try to see if we can reproduce him. We never really got much of a chance to see him."

The Cohens plan to breed 20 to 30 mares to Suances and hope to attract outside attention at a $2,500 stud fee.

So far, Suances has done well as a stallion of yearlings. At the California October yearling sale at Barretts last month, five yearlings by Suances sold for an average of $26,400. The sale had an overall average of $19,909.

Jed Cohen is an investment adviser who works with pension funds, corporations, and wealthy investors.

"They're both highly challenging businesses," he said of investing and racing. "It keeps me young. I look forward to getting up in the morning. I'm not the sort of guy that sits around and wonders what time 'General Hospital' is on."

The farm, located in Ventura County north of Los Angeles, is 40 minutes from Jed and Roberta Cohen's home on the west side of Los Angeles and within an hour of Hollywood Park and Santa Anita. The Cohens say the farm could be expanded into a much-needed layup facility. Other such facilities in Southern California have closed in recent years as real estate prices have soared in the region.

Approaching 2008, the focus at Rancho Temescal has been on Thoroughbreds, and not just growing crops or dealing with natural disasters.

The farm has 90 stalls that house mares, weanlings, and horses owned by the Cohens.

"We're about 95 percent complete," Tim Cohen said. "We just put another 30 acres of pasture in and built three more barns. We'll be breeding and foaling this year, and we hadn't done that."

That is the main reason the Cohens bought Rancho Temescal. The events of this fall and the last few years have just been part of the adventure.