03/11/2005 1:00AM

Speed not the main focus at Adena

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The annual sale of 2-year-olds in training at Frank Stronach's Adena Springs South will be held this year on March 21 at the outfit's new farm and sales complex in Williston, Fla. There are 121 homebreds cataloged for this sale, which has a 6 p.m. starting time. The Ocala Breeders' Sales Company, which will hold its own selected sale of 2-year-olds in training on March 22 and 23, is conducting the sale on behalf of Adena Springs.

Mark Roberts is the farm's general manager, and he, along with Dan Hall and farm trainer Randy Bradshaw, were given the task of selecting from the farm's yearling herd of 164 those who qualified to be in the sale.

"We had to do this selecting last July," said Roberts.

The selection team culled those yearlings who were not sales caliber, mostly because they failed to meet conformation standards. Stronach also retains homebreds from families he deems necessary for the farm's future breeding programs, so, from the yearlings who made the cut, 35 were set aside to meet future operational needs.

Unlike the usual mode of 2-year-old sales, which focus on how fast a 2-year-old can run a furlong or two, the Adena Springs consignment emphasizes form over speed.

"We could push these youngsters to speed a furlong in 10 and change if we wanted to," said Roberts, "but that's not what we believe is in the best interest of the horse."

Roberts went on to say that the time parameters for a furlong over the Adena track should be between 12 and 14 seconds.

"Some exercise people have better clocks in their heads," he said. "I could soup up this track if we wanted faster times. But we don't."

The Adena Springs training track is a one-mile sand and loam oval with a seven-furlong turf course. The grass is the same hybrid type that Magna introduced to Gulfstream Park this season. Northern Florida has its share of frosts, something that Gulfstream rarely has, so the Adena turf course development is a little behind its southern counterpart.

"We are going to breeze some of our horses over the turf course," said Roberts. "It gets a little tricky due to cold and rain, so we'll have to breeze when we can and video them."

When a noted breeder sells his homebreds, there is often the suspicion among some prospective buyers that these are the breeder's culls. Roberts is well aware of this and is unhesitant about stating the Adena sales policy. About 25 percent of those through the ring will have a reserve, the rest go without reserve.

"We put a realistic reserve on our horses, but we don't bid against the reserve," he said. "The auctioneer knows what the reserve is, and that's that. No playing the bidders."

Roberts was also quick to point out that over the past three years of selling, the buy-back rate was far below the average for the major 2-year-olds sales.

"Of the roughly 25 percent of the horses that we reserved last year, we bought back only 17 percent of them," Roberts said.

The 4,600-acre Adena Springs site is the still under development but, said Roberts, "We'll be ready for the sale."

Getting to Adena Springs, for those unfamiliar with the area, is going to require some attention. There is a map on page 4 of the sale catalog. The driving time from the Ocala Breeders' Sales complex should take about 25 minutes. Access to the farm is from U.S. 27 to State Rd. 316 and then another 2.6 miles east on 316.

"We'll have plenty of directional people guiding the cars. No one should get lost," said Roberts."