10/21/2004 11:00PM

Stack outranks big-name sires

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The name Stack is not a well-known one in the breeding industry. Not even in his own bailiwick of Ocala, Fla., does mention of this 24-year-old Nijinsky stallion raise many eyebrows. Yet, the numbers show that Stack, an older half-brother to Forty Niner, is more than just a successful stallion. Stack is the international leader in the percentage of stakes winners from starters at approximately 32 percent. That's 8 percent higher than his nearest competitor, Danzig. Mr. Prospector is fifth on this list at roughly 18 percent.

Stack was bred and raised at Claiborne Farm, and after a mediocre career he was purchased by Jaime Rizo-Patron, a Peruvian businessman who owns agricultural properties in Peru and Argentina, and the Pinecrest Stables in Ocala. Stack went to Peru and entered stud for the l987 season. He was slow off the mark as a sire, a trait that goes with his get no matter where they are bred and race. In Stack's first eight crops of 114 foals, only 13 won their maiden at 2. However, he was Peru's leading sire in 1992, 1993, and 1995, thanks to his 3-year-olds and older horses. Since being repatriated back to the U.S., Stack has sired eight crops of racing age and 140 foals but only five 2 year-old winners.

Pinecrest Stables was also the home of Forever Sparkle, a distance-loving Phipps family homebred. A son of Secretariat-Irradiate, by Ribot, Forever Sparkle was a turf specialist at 10 furlongs or more and the sire of 89 mares. A high percentage of these mares went to Stack. Together, Stack and his Forever Sparkle mares have produced 16 stakes winners. Stay Forever is the best of this genetic nick, having won six stakes and $910,399.

Juan Rizo, a University of Miami graduate, trains many of the horses for his father's stable. The Rizo-Patrons race under the name of Santa Cruz Stable. Other horses are parceled out to a variety of trainers. This is a necessity, for not only does the get of Stack lack precocity, they almost all need to run on grass, and Florida has limited turf opportunities during the rainy summer season.

Marty Wolfson, the noted Calder-based trainer, is one of the Rizo-Patron auxiliary trainers and Stay Forever is in his barn. On Oct. 10, Stay Forever earned herself a ticket to the Breeders' Cup with her victory in the Grade 2 WinStar Galaxy Stakes at Keeneland. At 7, an age when most graded-stakes-winning mares are in the nursery, Stay Forever is just now peaking.

Heubeck's special farm lives on

Kerry Heubeck visited Ocala on Oct. 9, representing his family at the Florida Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders' Association Hall of Fame induction ceremony for his late father, Ocala Thoroughbred industry pioneer Elmer Heubeck Jr.

Elmer Heubeck's Quail Roost Farm was a remarkable ecological entity. The 1,200 acres was not only a Thoroughbred nursery and training center with, perhaps, the best turf course in the area, it was also the home of exotic animals that Heubeck raised to supplement his Thoroughbred business. It was not unusual to see antelope, rare birds, and other species roaming the property with Thoroughbreds all around.

Heubeck was a dedicated environmentalist. He believed in the importance of wetlands, marshes, and stands of rare Florida hardwood trees, assuring their continuity by ceding 200 environmentally sensitive acres to the Conservation Trust for Florida Inc.

Quail Roost Farm was sold last week to local cattle rancher Lee Windham and partners. The new owners were seeking the right sort of land and facilities to organically raise Angus cattle. They had no problem with the 200 acres that were dedicated to conservation.

"I predict that any property sitting next to a conservation area will become more and more valued as the years go by," Windham said.

Windham added that his partnership had every intention of keeping the land the way Heubeck intended it be maintained.