Ocala prides itself on being Horse Capital of the World™: just the name is synonymous with equestrian excellence, with beautiful horses and fertile pastures. And chances are that when you think of Ocala’s green rolling hills, sprawling live oaks, and famous thoroughbreds, you’re likely envisioning two of the region’s largest and most prominent farm– whether you know it or not. With almost 1600 acres of gorgeous Marion County land between them, Bridlewood Farm and Padua Stables set the standard for equestrian culture in the region. These farms have raised the bar for the thoroughbred breeding and training industry here in Central Florida.
That’s why, when Bridlewood was sold in 2013 and Padua in May 2019, we at Showcase felt incredibly privileged to represent them both at the time of sale. It’s both thrilling and humbling to play a role in the next chapter of Ocala’s thoroughbred history, and to be trusted with part of their legacy. Here’s a look at these farms’ illustrious past and a glimpse into their bright future.
Bridlewood Farm has been a fixture in Ocala for almost 50 years, first established by Chicago businessman, philanthropist, and thoroughbred enthusiast Arthur Appleton in the early 70s. If the name Appleton sounds familiar, that’s because he’s the same Arthur Appleton who started Ocala’s first art museum, the Appleton Museum of Art. Both Appleton and Bridlewood have been credited, along with Jack Dudley and Bonnie Heath of Bonnie Heath Farm, with transforming Ocala into the Horse Capital of the World.
The 800-acre facility at Bridlewood has bred, raised, and trained almost 100 stakes winners, including 2004 Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner Smarty Jones, and its facilities are some of the best in the equestrian world. Bridlewood’s 13 barns total 346 stalls, including two training barns, and it supports both a dirt and turf track, as well as a 5/8 mile all-weather uphill gallop. In August of 2014, listed with both Showcase and Christie’s International, Bridlewood was sold to Liberty Media chairman and philanthropist John C. Malone and his wife Leslie, herself a well-known equestrian and supporter of the U.S. Olympic Dressage Team. Its selling price of $14,000,000 remains the highest of any farm in Marion County. The Malones are currently focused on revitalizing the massive and historical property by procuring new bloodstock and returning Bridlewood to prominence as a major thoroughbred breeding and training operation.
Originally founded in Kentucky in 1997 by Satish and Anne Sanan, Padua expanded to Ocala in 1998 and subsequently became one of the most important thoroughbred training facilities in the industry. A total of 13 Group 1 winners have been pre-trained at Padua, including Yes It’s True and Exchange Rate. In 2005, it was the only farm in the U.S. with two standing stallions in the Top 10 Freshman Sire List: Exchange Rage and Delaware Township. Its 768 acres are primed for training champions with 11 barns totaling 202 stalls, 73 paddocks, and two separate training tracks. Padua is also a luxurious residence, with a 7,800 owner’s estate surrounded by spring-fed ponds and mossy live oaks. Overlooking Lake Lotus, the largest lake on the property, the estate includes 8 bedrooms, 5 and a half baths, and is the horse country retreat par excellence.
In mid-May of this year, Padua Stables at last found a buyer with Wildwood-based Cowboys Group LLC, in a cash deal that took five days to close. Cowboys Group plans to keep Padua equestrian-focused, retaining the main training center and facilties while breaking up the rest of the property into separate 40 acre estates. Padua’s Summerfield location close to the bustling Villages and abundant acres of gorgeous Central Florida land bode well for a bright and transformative future for the Marion County icon.
A Look Ahead
Both Bridlewood Farm and Padua Stables have promising futures ahead of them that will no doubt honor their legacies as major centers for thoroughbred championship here in Marion County. As a new chapter in Ocala’s story as Horse Capital of the World™ is written, Showcase Properties of Central Florida is honored to have had the opportunity to represent these properties at the time of sale, and facilitate their first steps into a future full of success and continued equestrian excellence. This privilege is one of the many reasons why we love where we live– and why we love what we do! We are proud to be entrusted with some of the most beautiful and prestigious equestrian properties in the world, and to help them continue telling their fascinating stories.
If you’re ready to find your place in the Horse Capital of the World, our team of expert horse farm realtors is here to help you every step of the way. Whether you’re selling your current farm for a change of scenery, ready to build your own legacy from the ground-up, or looking for the perfect farm to call ‘home,’ our local experts can help you find exactly what you’re looking for in an area that works the best for both you and your horses. And our track record speaks for itself:
in Marion County Offices for Farm Sales in 2018
in Marion County Boutique Offices for Overall Sales
Agents in the Top 100 of Overall Sales
Agents in the Top 50 of Farm Sales in 2018
Based on information from the Association of REALTORs®
Search status: Closed listing, listing or selling office, number an/or volume by sides, sub-type: farm and/or all properties. Dates: 1/1/18 – 12/31/18