Sheikh Mohammed's first order of business as owner of Jonabell Farm in Lexington will be to "give the land a rest," according to his chief bloodstock adviser John Ferguson. The sheikh's purchase of the 790-acre farm is scheduled to close Oct. 1.
After mares owned by the current owner, the Bell family, and their clients are relocated prior to the closing, Ferguson said, there are no plans to move any of Sheikh Mohammed's bloodstock onto Jonabell anytime soon.
"It's widely agreed that it is a special piece of land," Ferguson said. "The farm has a wonderful history and the Bell family have done a great job there, where horses like Damascus, Never Say Die, and Epitome were bred. But any farm that's been run commercially has to bow to business pressures and that often means the land doesn't get a chance to rest. We're going to just run cattle through it for a couple of years. It will mean we'll have a fresh piece of land for the future."
John A. Bell III and Jessica Bell, who founded the farm in 1954, are not leaving the farm's main residence when the ownership transfer is complete. One of the couple's four children, Jimmy Bell, will stay on as manager of Jonabell's four stallions, Cherokee Run, Gold Legend, Holy Bull, and Old Trieste. Estate planning was the reason for the Jonabell Farm sale.
Some of the farm's mares are being transferred to a nearby operation being leased by Eric Foster, who managed the Jonabell Farm horses. Epitome, who won an Eclipse Award racing for John A. Bell III in 1987, was moved to Elmwood Farm in Woodford County on Sept. 21. John Williams and Bennie Bell, who bred Epitome with her sister, Jessica Bell Nicholson, operate Elmwood.
Ferguson said Sheikh Mohammed plans to continue having a stallion operation at Jonabell, but that it did not mean he would not stand horses at other farms, including his brothers' Gainsborough Farm and Shadwell Stud, as he has done in the past.