The Nelson Jones Training Center in Central Florida has been acquired by a company with Thoroughbred racing ties that has plans to enhance the prominent complex.
HMR International, headed by Elsy Maestre, recently acquired the 300-acre training center, which is located several miles west of Ocala, Fla., on State Road 40. The purchase price was not disclosed.
Maestre said the complex, which includes a lighted one-mile dirt training track and seven-furlong turf course, will likely retain the Nelson Jones name in some fashion, and will enhance the facility at some point in the future.
“We have a big surprise for our customers,” she said without elaborating. “We have a very good plan.”
The training center, which was once part of the 915-acre farm of the late two-time Eclipse Award-winning owner Fred Hooper, is home to several trainers such as Jeff Kirk and Adam Parker, who lease stalls primarily for breaking and training operations. The training tracks are also utilized by several horsemen who previously purchased property from Jones and developed mini-farms, including Harold Queen, Fred Brei, Carl Bowling, and Ricky Leppala, among others.
Maestre is an officer of a Florida corporation called The Big Stable, which also previously purchased property from Jones, the founder of the United Church Directories photography company. The Big Stable also includes Giuseppe Iadisernia, who owns and trains 2008 Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II) winner Delosvientos.
Gene Schill will be retained as manager from the ownership tenure of Jones, who has been divesting his interests in the Thoroughbred industry. Jones, who acquired the property in 2002 from local developers, in 2005 sold off about 160 acres or property that included the former Hooper barn/stallion area to Amy Tarrant’s Hardacre Farm.
Hooper, who won the 1945 Kentucky Derby with Hoop Jr. and campaigned such horses as homebred national champions Susan’s Girl and Precisionist, developed his Florida farm in 1965. He died in 2000 at the age of 102, and the farm was sold in 2001 to development groups in separate transactions.