Summerfield Training Center opens in Marion County, Florida
It was an opportunity to consolidate his operation, be in a central location he has a great fondness for, and spend more time with the horses going through his program.
Classic winning trainer Kenny McPeek opened the Summerfield Training Center Oct. 26, on the site of the former Padua Stables and Silverleaf Farm.
McPeek purchased the portion of the property that includes the six furlong training track and four 24-stall barns. The new facility allows McPeek to oversee the preponderance of the depth of his stable from one place.
“Two winters ago, I had a group of horses, 22 at Oaklawn, 22 at the Fair Grounds, 22 at Payson Park, 20 at Keeneland and 35 at farms in Ocala and at Magdalena (his farm in Kentucky),” said McPeek. “We had six divisions. Having business is great. We did fine. We had good people in all spots. But logistically it was difficult. I didn’t enjoy that setup. It’s a consolidation, and I believe that with any army, if you consolidate your army, you’re going to be stronger together. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
No stranger to Ocala and Marion County, Florida, McPeek has been coming to the area for years, and loves the environment. A familiar name will be managing the farm, someone who has spent more than three decades in Ocala.
“I have a lot of friends here, and my main colleague is Dominic Brennan,” said McPeek. “He’s a guy I’ve worked with for decades. He’s been instrumental in developing a lot of horses for me. The big names in my career were Take Charge Lady, Repent and Curlin, and Domenic handled those, He handled breaking Einstein. He’s a fantastic horseman He’s overseeing the babies here, of course with me here, I’m able to watch them.”
The property itself has all of the necessary infrastructure intact, and although the racetrack had to be graded and there were details that needed to be addressed, Summerfield Training Center is a welcome addition to a very busy and renowned Thoroughbred community.
“It’s an ideal setup, you can’t complain, it has everything you want,” said McPeek. “It’s a beautiful place.”
Dominic Brennan first came to Ocala at the suggestion of Tony Everard, the original owner of Another Episode Farm, when Everard was back in his native country, Ireland.
“He happened to be home on vacation and we got to talking,” said Brennan. “He said, ‘Come on, give it a try.’ So, me and a buddy came out for about six months in 1983. I went back home, stayed for a month or two and came back. The rest is history.”
Brennan has seen the area develop from a sleepy little town, to a place whose growth and expansion have changed the dynamics of central Florida markedly.
“It’s a great place, a little hot during the summer, but you make up for it in the winter,” said Brennan. “I’ve never been a city person. I’ve always been a bit of a country boy. When I got here with all the farms, I just stayed.”
However, it’s Brennan’s reputation as a horseman, where he develops young horses into racehorses, many of them going onto to become stakes winners, champions and in the case of Curlin, a two-time Horse of the Year.
“The first time I met Kenny was the first time they had the 2-year-old sales at Keeneland, which I want to say was 1990 or 1992,” said Brennan. “He was the only trainer up in the barn, where they have the sales barns up on top of the hill. I was fixing to leave after the sale. He said, ‘If I buy some babies, I like the way your babies were broke and the way they go, if I send them down, will you break them.’ That’s where it started. I short list at the sale for him, and then do the babies with them. It’s been a successful mission for quite a few years.”
Brennan after leaving Another Epsiode, went to work for Gail Gee at Derby Daze, and then relocated to the Oak Ridge Training Center prior to his role at the Summerfield Training Center.
“He’s (McPeek) always wanted something like that down here,” said Brennan. “We got to talking about it in September. I was with him when he talked to Joan Pletcher about property down here, and she had mentioned this place, and it was kind of a little bit too much money with what they were asking for it.
“The next thing I know, he’s in Ocala, I got a phone call, and we end up coming down here, and that was the start of it. We have a really good bunch of yearlings right now that are fixing to turn 2-years-olds, physically and mentally, and the way they’re going, they’re a good bunch. Fingers crossed that we’re on the Derby trail or Oaks Trail next year. It’s a solid bunch.”
By Ben Baugh