24 January 17  |  Equestrian   |  

Ocala’s Thoroughbred Industry Continues to Thrive

Ocala/Marion County in Florida is one of only four major thoroughbred centers in the world with 600 thoroughbred horse farms that have produced 45 national champions, six Kentucky Derby winners, 20 Breeders’ Cup champions and six Horses of the Year.

Ocala’s thoroughbred industry is world-renowned. Equestrians are drawn to the local area’s year-round moderate climate, mineral-rich water and soil, outstanding facilities and strong support industries. Florida’s horse farms, more than 75 percent of them in Ocala/Marion County and the surrounding area, routinely find themselves in the national spotlight with runners they produce or train.

Located around the corner from Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club is the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association museum and gallery featuring the history of the Florida thoroughbred.  Representing more than 1,400 thoroughbred breeders and owners who breed, raise, train and race horses born in the state, the association’s mission is promoting the Florida thoroughbred nationally and worldwide.

Needles – so named due to the numerous injections he received as a sickly foal – of Bonnie Heath Farm in Ocala, became the first Florida-bred Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner in 1956. This legendary competitor was inducted into the United States National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, and his success in racing sparked a boom in Florida horse breeding.

Ocala’s Thoroughbred Industry

Since then, world champions have attributed part of their success to their time in Ocala and Marion County. In fact, the last two Triple Crown winners – one of the highest honors and accomplishments for thoroughbreds – have ties to Ocala/Marion County.  Most of the recent Kentucky Derby contenders had their early training in Central Florida, including the superstar America Pharoah. Triple Crown winner Affirmed was born, bred and trained in Marion County right around the corner from Golden Ocala.

The temperate weather is the perfect climate to start the youngsters on the many training tracks located here. Combine that with the incredible roster of talented trainers that populate the area and it’s the perfect combination for thoroughbred race training.

Thoroughbreds aren’t just for racing though.  The thoroughbred is a versatile horse that adapts to many disciplines. The eventing discipline, the triathlon of horse competitions, is crazy about the thoroughbred for its endurance, speed and agility. And the hunter/jumper and dressage riders find the finesse and elegance of the thoroughbred to be very attractive in the show ring. With all these disciplines located in Ocala/Marion County, the retired thoroughbred has great opportunities to move on to a new career.  That’s why Ocala’s thoroughbred industry continues to flourish.

And after a long day of training, Golden Ocala is the perfect relaxation spot for the thoroughbred owner and enthusiast.  Gathering for a fine meal or playing a round of golf, the wonderful amenities draw many from the equestrian community.  Residents and members also take advantage of Golden Ocala’s state-of-the-art Equestrian Center, more than six miles of picturesque riding trails and its private barn suites. For more information on memberships, amenities and the Equestrian Center, contact us today at 352-369-6969.