OCALA, FL-The two-year-old, 635-acre Silverleaf Farm, considered one of the country’s 25 best thoroughbred breeding locations, is changing hands. The home of Silver Buck, who sired Silver Charm, winner of the 1997 Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, has been sold to a three investor group for $5 million. The farm’s 160 horses were sold separately last year.

Ocala is 80 miles northwest of Downtown Orlando.

The price equates to $7,874 per acre or 18 cents per sf–considered a steal by brokers if the dirt were commercially-zoned.

“You have to realize this is a specialty asset and really can’t be compared, apples-to-apples-like, with commercial dirt,” says Tom D. Cook, vice president/marketing in the Orlando office of Carter & Associates-ONCOR. Carter was not involved in the transaction.

The property’s new owners are Bob Cromartie, the farm’s current manager; Becky Thomas, who owns Sequel Bloodstock, a horse breeding-related business in Ocala; and Thomas Lakin of Chicago, who owns a horse farm in Lexington, KY.

The sellers were David and Nancy Hutson of Jacksonville, FL. They sold the asset to devote more time to managing their 7,000-acre timber and cattle operation near St. Augustine, FL, about 100 miles northeast of Downtown Orlando on the Atlantic.

The new owners’ strategy in outbidding buyers from Saudi Arabia, Japan, South Africa and New York was to pay a 5% regrouping fee to buy the auctioned assets in one lot instead of six.

J.P. King Auction Co. of Gadsden, AL was marketing the property in separate parcels. Bidders had to turn in a $75,000 cashier’s check for the privilege of bidding on each parcel. The $75,000 was returned to the unsuccessful bidders.

The Hutsons say they decided to sell via the auction route because it is quicker than listing a property with brokers or on the Internet. The Hutsons and Cromartie built the farm after selling the first Silverleaf Farm in 1998. The Hutson had owned that property since 1991.

Marion County is home to 400 horse farms, which change ownership periodically but seldom by auction, according to the Florida Breeders and Owners Association.

The county’s attraction for worldwide thoroughbred owners is the limestone and other minerals in the soil that produce ideal pasture land, the association says. For example, yearlings, or one-year-old horses, often command millions of dollars at sale time.

Ocala ranks with Lexington, KY, France and England as the top horse-breeding locations in the world, according to the association.

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