Ben Leon Jr. at the Keeneland September Sale.

Ben Leon Jr. at the Keeneland September Sale.

Joe DiOrio

Leon on Sales Sidelines, But Plans to Return

Leon is taking a break from Thoroughbred auctions to get his operation organized.

Benjamin Leon Jr. of Besilu Stables was the biggest spender at last year's Keeneland November breeding stock sale. He paid $22.4 million for nine horses, including the $8.5 million sale-topper, champion Royal Delta.

But Leon said recently he doesn't plan to return to Kentucky for this year's November auction. He also didn't make it to the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale after purchasing 13 horses for $8,175,000 in 2011 to rank second in spending.

"I'm very, very busy in my businesses down here in South Florida and Central Florida," said the health-care magnate. "But that would be like an excuse not to be there. The reality and the truth is I'm getting my arms around this whole thing, the Thoroughbreds. I don't have the A team on the field yet, but I almost have it. And in 2013, I think we'll have our A team on the field."

Leon is a relative newcomer to the Thoroughbred industry, having established himself first in the equine world as a prominent breeder of Paso Finos.

"I believe we have 10 other horses (in addition to Royal Delta) with (Hall of Fame trainer) Bill Mott now," said Leon of his Thoroughbred racing stable. "We're getting ready to send two more to Bill and two to (trainer) Chad Brown. Then we'll keep getting horses off the farm and to the track as they get ready. We still have not run any of our yearlings (of 2011)—either the two that were born on the farm or the 13 that we purchased. Everyone at our farm and our training center is doing a great job, but we don't want to push any horse."

Leon hopes eventually to return to the sales and make more purchases.

"You can always use good horses," he said. "But I want to make sure that, operationally, we are very solid—that the right arm knows what the left arm is doing. And that coordination takes time. We are always in pursuit of perfection and it's not going to be any different in the Thoroughbred business. In 2013, we should have the operation running like a machine. And when we have everything organized, I will be at the sales and we will take some more horses in as we need them. But right now, I don't think we are in the market for anything."