A new era begins at Mare Haven Farm

Mare Haven Farm near Lexington will now be known as CASA Farms under the new ownership of Florida residents Clint and Susan Atkins.

Susan Atkins said the new name marks a new era for the farm, previously owned by Dr. William O. and Audrey Reed since 1978.

"CASA means home in Spanish, but it also stands for our initials Clint Atkins and Susie Atkins," Susan Atkins said Tuesday.

The Atkins, who have been involved in the Thoroughbred industry for about two years, plan to bring their small division of horses to the farm and eventually expand to include a broodmare band. Extensive renovations are planned for the entire estate.

"Everything needs to be remodeled, from the paddocks to the barns, house, and office, she said. " My desire, or our group's desire, is to make it the best as we can."

Susan Atkins is currently on the farm beginning renovations, while her husband conducts business.

"This is where I'm going to want to be all the time," Atkins said. "I've always wanted a Kentucky home and now I have one."

The Atkinses, originally from Champaign-Urbana, Ill. are permanent residents of Florida. They still conduct their company, a real-estate development firm, from headquarter offices in Urbana.

The couple started the Atkins Group 41 years ago when they got married. The company began with rental property management and has since evolved into five core fields of real estate: commercial/retail development, multi-family and single family residential development, golf course operations, farm operations, and industrial development.

Atkins said she and her husband always dreamed of owning horses, although neither of them had a background in the horse business.

"I guess if you have a dream, different people are put in front of you and then you get to form an alliance," she said.

That alliance was formed when a friend and former classmate of her husband's, Gordy Hannigan, put the couple in contact with Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

On behalf of the Atkins, Lukas purchased four colts at Keeneland two years ago. The colts started running in the spring of 2003.

The couple recently won with their Lukas-trained colt, Storied Cat, by Tale of the Cat, who captured a race at Saratoga Aug. 21, and finished fifth in the Sept. 19 Kentucky Cup Juvenile Stakes at Turfway Park.

Through Lukas, the Atkins met Larry Kelly and his wife Vickie, who will manage CASA FARMS.

Kelly has been a trainer for 30 years, and is a former assistant trainer for Lukas at Churchill Downs.

"It will be a husband and wife team running the farm," Atkins said. "They're just a great family."

Atkins said she is excited about the future of CASA FARMS, and admits she's a "greenhorn" who's still learning the industry.

"I think the number one thing is to have fun with what we're doing, and for the Kellys to have fun with what they're doing and when the horses come on, just to enjoy the farm," Atkins said.