08/10/2007 12:00AM

Smaller Golden Eagle to focus on breeding


DEL MAR, Calif. - Golden Eagle Farm, a mainstay in California racing since the late 1950s, is being downsized over the next year and will sell its flagship farm in Ramona, Calif.

But Larry Mabee, the son of the late founder of the farm, John Mabee, insists Golden Eagle is not abandoning horse racing. Earlier this week, Larry Mabee and his mother, Betty, announced the farm's future plans, which include an eventual relocation to a 29-acre farm in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., not far from Del Mar.

Golden Eagle, which has bred more than 150 stakes winners, will keep a small number of broodmares, focus on quality, and will have a small stallion roster, Larry Mabee said.

"I look at it as a new era and a continuation of being in the horse business, but on a different scale," he said earlier this week.

The plan is a massive change from the days when Golden Eagle Farm was among the nation's top breeders. Golden Eagle won Eclipse Awards as champion breeder in 1991, 1997, and 1998. Golden Eagle campaigned such popular horses as Best Pal, Dramatic Gold, Excellent Meeting, General Challenge, General Meeting, and many others.

Since John Mabee's death in 2002, Golden Eagle's presence as a racing entity has shrunk significantly.

"Dad had an agenda and he raced lots and lots of horses," Larry Mabee said. "If he bought a stallion, he'd buy some mares. Mother and I have talked on and off - why can't we have a few nice mares and not all the headaches?"

Mabee said he and his mother recently reached the decision to downsize the Golden Eagle holdings.

"I sat down with her and said, 'It's time,'" Mabee said. "She had a big grin on her face.

"It's not the end of an era. The Golden Eagle banner will still be out there. It's my desire to buy quality mares and quality stallions. If I can find another stallion, I'd look at that."

Mabee was at Del Mar on Aug. 4 to present the trophy for the Grade 1 John Mabee Handicap, won by Precious Kitten. He carried a digital camera and snapped pictures of friends and acquaintances to show to his mother, who did not attend.

"Mom is a little 86-year-old lady and I'd like to see her do better," he said. "We have 24-hour day care but she doesn't have the stamina to go to the races anymore."

The Ramona farm, in eastern San Diego county, covers 568 acres and was home to three stallions earlier this year. Last week, Golden Eagle announced that High Demand and Souvenir Copy had been sold, leaving Salt Lake as the family's only stallion. Salt Lake will relocate to the Rancho Santa Fe farm.

Mabee said the new property will have space to accommodate three stallions.

"You have to have the right one," Mabee said. "Just to have a stallion to have it, I'm not interested in that. I want to have quality breeding. It's a five-year program to prove one."

The Mabees purchased the new property in May and it includes a two-story house, a 21-stall barn, and housing for staff, Mabee said. It has not been occupied since the early 1990s.

"It's one of those things that come along once in a lifetime," Larry Mabee said. "I saw it and thought, 'I need to do this,' and I did."

The farm will sell 160 horses at various sales in California and Kentucky this fall, and more next year. The family will retain approximately 25 broodmares.

"This is not a dispersal, just a reduction," Mabee said. "I've said in the past, I'd rather be breeding than racing."