02/16/2010 1:00AM

Time is ripe to expand stallion roster


Rockin Z Ranch in Beggs, Okla., has signaled its move from a private to public operation by bringing in three quality stallions for the 2010 season: Omega Code, Service Stripe, and Fast Play.

All are owned in part by Robert Zoellner, a Tulsa-based doctor and entrepreneur who four years ago this month purchased Rockin Z Ranch. He initially used the 200-acre facility to house his own broodmares and a few belonging to friends. But after completing a series of improvements, the farm is now offering breeding, mare care, and foaling.

"We're more of a full service ranch now," said Zoellner. "That was really my vision from the get-go. It was just a question of when we got there. It's a great time to be investing in Oklahoma in the horse racing business. It looks like things are ramping up."

Purses across the state are on the rise because of the gaming now in place at tracks such as Remington Park in Oklahoma City. And that's just one reason the time was ripe to bring in stallions, said Zoellner. Oklahoma is reinstating its breed-back rule, whereby a mare must be bred every other year to an accredited stallion in the state in order for the foals to be eligible for Oklahoma-bred status. The program begins with foals of 2011.

"Looking at that, it's a wonderful opportunity and makes financial sense to own stallions," said Zoellner.

Rockin Z Ranch recently had an open house to introduce its stallions to breeders in the region. Omega Code is brand new to the market, as he previously stood in Florida.

"There was a lot of interest in him," said Joe Flemings, a former trainer who now manages Rockin Z Ranch. "He's a very good-looking individual, and I think with his breeding and his look, that he's going to put some nice babies on the ground."

Earlier this month, there were already 35 mares booked to Omega Code, a Grade 3-winning son of Elusive Quality.

Service Stripe, a long-established son of Deputy Minister, is new to Oklahoma, and Fast Play, who is by Seattle Slew, is in his second year in the state after standing at a different farm last year. Each of the Rockin Z stallions will stand for $2,000.

As part of the improvements at Rockin Z, the farm has upgraded its mare motel by adding veterinary facilities and an oversized foaling stall. There is also a new stallion barn, with each of its six stalls leading out to two-acre paddocks.

Zoellner got into racing about 10 years ago, claiming his first horse at Remington under the direction of Flemings. He eventually expanded his holdings and moved into the breeding side of the business. One of the first foals dropped at Rockin Z was Peach Brew.

"She won my first graded stakes race up at Arlington Park last year," Zoellner said. "It was a really big deal for the program."

Peach Brew, who took the Arlington Oaks, was freshened at the close of 2009, and has recently rejoined trainer Donnie Von Hemel's stable at Oaklawn Park. She could see action late in the Arkansas meet, possibly in the $100,000 Bayakoa on April 7, said Zoellner.

Until then, the breeding season will keep Zoellner hopping at Rockin Z.

Tactical Cat leader in Oklahoma

Tactical Cat was the leading general sire in Oklahoma for 2009, with progeny earnings of $2,255,184. He had 73 winners from 142 runners. His chief earner, Wishful Tomcat, won four consecutive stakes last year in New York for earnings of $181,875. Overall, the horse is a Grade 3 winner of more than $400,000.

Tactical Cat is a Grade 1-winning son of Storm Cat. He stands for $2,000, at Diamond G Ranch in Edmond.

* The stakes winners Mr. Nightlinger, Waupaca, and Brego will all launch their stallion careers this year in Oklahoma.