Cloverleaf to Shift Operation from Florida to Kentucky

John Sykes has confirmed he is moving his Cloverleaf Farm II operation from Florida to a Kentucky location, a site that is believed to be ClassicStar Farm in Woodford County.

Sykes, who developed his Tampa-based Sykes Enterprises into a world-wide information technology conglomerate of 24,000 employees before retiring in 2004, said June 4 he had recently closed on property in Kentucky, but declined to confirm the new location as ClassicStar Farm, which is located just south of Frankfort off historic Versailles Road.

“We are just consolidating our operations into Kentucky,” Sykes said. “Cloverleaf is staying in business, and the horses we have within Cloverleaf will remain Cloverleaf horses.”

Sykes said the move was a practical one, noting most of his more recent Thoroughbred purchases have been at Kentucky auctions. Rather than move mares and racing prospects back and forth from Florida to Kentucky, Sykes said it made sense to have everything assembled at one location.

When contacted by The Blood-Horse, ClassicStar managing partner Tony Ferguson said he couldn’t comment on any rumored sale of property.

“At the proper time I will be able to share information,” Ferguson said.

ClassicStar signs once located in front of the 500-acre farm and on Versailles Road had been removed by late in the afternoon of June 4. The property was purchased for more than $6 million combined in 2002-2003 from Under The Rainbow Inc. and Applewood Farm, respectively, according to county records.

The ClassicStar enterprise, which once also featured former marketing director S. David Plummer and members of his family, is the subject of about two dozen lawsuits in at least six states, according to a recent affidavit filed in a Florida federal court.

Several of the legal disputes stem from customers who bought into controversial lease-mare programs promoted by ClassicStar and related entities in the early part of this decade. Raids in which federal officials seized documents and related material took place in February 2006 at both the Kentucky farm and the Utah ranch of Plummer. The status of that investigation is unknown, as officials with the Oregon U.S. District Attorney’s Office have repeatedly declined to comment on its ongoing investigation.

Sykes said he hasn’t decided what he is going to do with his Florida farm property located near Ocala, which has grown to about 1,000 acres since he first purchased the former 650-acre Due Process Farm of Robert E. Brennan in 1996.

“I have quite a few options,” Sykes said, mentioning he could keep the property as is, sell it, or develop it himself for another usage. “I have just been taking one step at a time. I am maintaining the farm and will maintain a crew there as long as I keep it.”

In an interview last September, Sykes estimated the Florida farm equine population, which includes 12 stallions, at about 80 horses in training and 120 broodmares during peak periods. Sykes has notified the clients of his Florida farm to move their horses by July 1.

“Everyone has been very cooperative,” he said.

Brent Fernung, who has managed Cloverleaf in Florida since its inception, also declined to provide further details.

“The official word is that Mr. Sykes has bought a farm in Kentucky,” Fernung said. “He has decided to consolidate his operations.”

New locations for the stallions standing at Cloverleaf haven’t been determined, Fernung and Sykes said. Of the current roster, Cloverleaf owns Alke and Congrats outright, and shares ownership in Repent with Fernung’s Journeyman Bloodstock.

Other stallions standing at Cloverleaf include Cashel Castle, Gibson County, Mass Media, Mongoose, Pomeroy, Sarava, Smooth Jazz, Snuck In, and Wildcat Heir. Fernung said that Cloverleaf stallions were collectively bred to more than a 1,000 mares this breeding season.

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