12/13/2002 12:00AM

Sez Who a commercial breeding operation x 2

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Sez Who Thoroughbreds is a tale of two cities - Ocala, Fla., and Stillwater, N.Y. Both Sez Who operations are owned by retired insurance magnate Dick Simon. Management is mostly made up of the team that operated Harry T. Mangurian Jr.'s Mockingbird Farm, which is now closed, the exceptions being Ocala director of operations Steve Silver and New York farm manager Bill Leak. Mark Casse is the overall general manager.

Sez Who Thoroughbreds South is a 400-acre full-service operation complete with a three-quarter-mile racetrack. According to Silver, Sez Who stands four stallions in Florida - Outofthebox ($7,500), Prime Timber ($5,000), Wheaton ($5,000), and the venerable Island Whirl (private) - as well as Rizzi ($10,000) in New York. The farm also is a 50 percent partner with Lakland North in the New York-based stallion Precise End.

The Sez Who Thoroughbred population has increased greatly in recent years, said Casse.

"There are 260 mares or so," he said. "At any given time we will keep 100 or so in New York to participate in that state's breeders program and the rest in Florida. We breed mostly to our own stallions, just as we did at Mockingbird Farm. But, because we want to participate at the highest level of the commercial market, we will send mares to Kentucky, and this year Sez Who mares went to Point Given, High Yield, Grand Slam, and others like them."

Silver emphasized that Sez Who is a commercial operation.

"We will sell 70 2-year-olds in training in 2003, our first major move into the 2-year-old market," he said. "Twenty are selected status and will sell either at OBS in February or March and the other 50 will sell in April. Next year at this time we should have around 160 to go to the sales and expect half of them to be selected quality."

Like Mockingbird in the past, Sez Who sells mostly 2-year-olds but it sells some yearlings too, Casse said.

"The game plan is sell first," Casse said. "But, if something happens and we have to - again like we did at Mockingbird Farm - we'll race homebreds when circumstances call for it."

The success of the Sez Who Thoroughbred game plan is vested in the stallion program. At Mockingbird, Casse was responsible for acquiring the successful stallions End Sweep, Storm Creek, Open Forum, Rizzi, and Diablo. Mockingbird also stood homebred stallions Valid Expectations and Valid Wager.

In evaluating stallions, Casse looks for "first-class speed" and, more importantly, a history of soundness.

"Talent, I believe, is superseded by soundness," he said.

Breeder Robert Marks dead

Robert Marks died recently at 81 from complications of old age.

Marks, at one time a Madison Avenue advertising executive, moved to Ocala in the 1960's and built Robin's Nest Farm. Among the well-known stallions he stood at Robin's Nest were Noholme II, Ridan, Bold Reason, and Your Alibhai. Nowadays, Robin's Nest is the site of Don Dizney's Double Diamond Farm.

Marks became a director of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' Association, and was a shareholder and chief executive officer of the Florida Breeders' Sales Company. He is survived by his daughter, Lauren Marks, assistant director of sales for the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.