The late Fred Hooper.

The late Fred Hooper.

Anne W. Eberhardt

Hooper Farms Will Become Gated Equine Community

The late Fred Hooper's Hooper Farm, a farm that contributed to Marion County Florida's emergence as a preferred address for Thoroughbreds, has been sold to Ocala-based Four Star Land Holding. Plans call for the farm to be renamed the Farms at Hooper, and be divided into smaller parcels.

The rear 520-acres of the farm will become a gated, deed restricted equine community. "We intend to call it Hooper Estates. Mrs. Hooper was gracious enough to let us keep and use the name," said Scott Armstrong, of Four Star Land Holding. "We've been working toward acquiring the property for the past five months. We intend to make the front 225-acres of the farm into a training facility. We still may sell the farm in its entirety."

Becky Bunn, of Magnolia Southern Properties, brokered the deal. "We met with the Hooper Trust last November, and they contacted us to represent them in April. I worked closely with my associate Scott Hash, and we progressively marketed the farm and were contacted about the property. We had three offers on the table at one time," Bunn said.

The front portion of the property will be made up of 5 farms ranging in size from 16 to 82 acres. The largest parcel will include the 7/8-mile training track, and will be listed at $3 million, Armstrong said. "We're making improvements to the facility and will open the front portion of the farm as a training center. We'll start accepting horses next week. We're already starting to build new barns," Armstrong said.

Trainer Art Fisher has moved his horses from Post Time Training Center, and has rented a number of the 64-stalls at the facility from the Armstrongs. "This is a terrific track. Everyone knows the history of the farm. It's really a beautiful place," Fisher said.

The Armstrongs' intend to expand the training facility. "We hope to add another 100-stalls to the existing training center. A lot of horsemen have expressed interest in training at the facility. We intend to have one of the best training tracks in Central Florida," Armstrong said.

The rear part of the farm will be developed into farms 10 to 60 acres in size. "The area is picture perfect. Mr. Hooper had the vision with the large oak trees and rolling hills. He served as an icon to the Thoroughbred community," Armstrong said.