12/16/2005 1:00AM

Two dozen new faces coming to state stallion barns

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There will be at least 24 new stallions standing in Florida for 2006. All but a few of these are entering stud for the first time. Six of these newcomers are Grade 1 stakes winners, including Pico Central (by Spend a Buck) and Proud Accolade (Yes It's True), who will stand at Padua Stables. High Fly (Atticus) enters stud at Live Oak Stud. Wildcat Heir (Forest Wildcat) has been retired to CloverLeaf Farm II.

Two Grade 1 winners who are relocating to Florida are D'wildcat (Forest Wildcat), who will stand at the Vinery, and Milwaukee Brew (Wild Again), who transfers to Adena Springs South.

Grade 2 stakes winners joining the Florida ranks include Bwana Charlie (Indian Charlie), going to Sequel Stallions. Freefourinternet (Tabasco Cat) and Western Pride (Way West) head to Signature Stallions. Ruler's Court (Doneraille Court) goes to the Vinery, while Saint Afleet (Northern Afleet) and Supah Blitz (Mecke) join the stallion ranks at Rising Hill Farm.

New Yorker with Florida ties

Bernadette Castro, Gov. George Pataki's nominee for chairperson of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, has generational ties to Ocala's horse industry. Her late father, Bernard, besides being known for manufacturing and marketing Castro convertible furniture, was a horse fan. Her late mother, Theresa, one of Ocala's premier socialites and philanthropists, endowed a riding academy on one of her Ocala properties. While the family did not invest directly in horses, it was nevertheless a staunch supporter of the Ocala horse industry.

In the early 1960's the Castros bought thousands of acres of greater Ocala acreage and developed Golden Hills Golf and Turf Club. It became the seat of the fledgling Florida Thoroughbred Breeders Association. One of the first Thoroughbred sales of bloodstock in the Ocala market was held on the back lawn of the Golden Hills Golf and Turf Club in the early 60's. The FTBOA still holds its annual meetings there. The Castros also helped found and supported an annual competition for the hunter-jumper set which has since come to be known as Horses in the Sun. Nowadays, HITS is one of the more important national dressage events.

Small town, big plans

The town of Jasper in Hamilton County, Fla., is a few furlongs from the Georgia border. There are close to 15,000 people living in greater Jasper. And as surprising as it might seem, that's enough people, together with sparse neighboring communities in Florida and Georgia, to make Jasper's $7 million jai-alai and poker facility a financial success. The most important relatively new business, other than the jai-alai facility, to come to Hamilton County is a medium-security prison.

Glenn Richards is the developer behind Hamilton Jai-Alai, which will become an intertrack wagering facility in January. His plans for gaming do not stop with jai-alai and poker. In a local newspaper interview Richards told of his business plan, which calls for a combined Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse meet beginning in 2007. To complement his planned racetrack, Richards intends to develop and sell ranches and mini-farms in the surrounding area. Realtors in the area say the jai-alai fronton has already had an impact on real estate values, as more and more people are drawn to Hamilton County for existing and potential jobs.

The Hamilton fronton opened this past September. Richards has not divulged how well the jai-alai and poker businesses are doing, other than to note that the numbers are running ahead of projections. When asked about his goals, Richards said: "My dream is to have a successful combination racetrack like Sunland Park," the racetrack and casino in New Mexico.

Richards still needs legislative approval to operate a race meet.