Ocala Stud Well Represented in Holy Bull and Beyond

Breeders' Cup Juvenile victor Fierceness makes his
3-year-old debut in Saturday's GIII Holy Bull S. | Benoit

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Ocala Stud celebrated a significant achievement when Fierceness (City of Light) became the second GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner in a row to graduate from their breaking and training program, following hot on the heels of fellow Repole Stable standout Forte (Violence) in 2022.

Newly crowned as champion 2-year-old male, Fierceness makes his much-anticipated sophomore debut on Saturday in the GIII Holy Bull S., but he won't be the only starter representing Ocala Stud. Hades (Awesome Slew), who is two for two for trainer Joe Orseno, was bred and raised at Ocala Stud before he sold to D.J. Stable as a 2-year-old.

Like everyone tuning into the early Kentucky Derby preps this weekend, Ocala Stud's David O'Farrell is familiar with the anticipation that always comes around this time of year.

“It's the most exciting time of the year in this business once you get to the Derby prep races and see the potential of these young 3-year-olds,” he said.

To have two promising graduates in the same starting gate for the first leg of Florida's road to the Kentucky Derby makes this season all the more sweet.

Ocala Stud and the O'Farrells have been affiliated with Hades's female family for several generations, going back to his third dam Grade I winner and producer Pretty Discreet (Private Account). His dam The Shady Lady (Quality Road) never made it to the racetrack, but all four of her foals of racing age are winners including Devious Dame (Girvin), who sold as a 2-year-old for $240,000 and went on to win the 2022 Astoria S.

Hades is from the second crop of Ocala Stud's own Awesome Slew, a multiple graded stakes winner by Awesome Again who was the leading first-crop sire in Florida in 2022.

O'Farrell said that Hades was as straightforward as they come from the time he was foaled, on through the breaking and training process and at the sales, where he brought $130,000 at the OBS April Sale.

“He never had any issues and was good-minded,” he explained. “You never really know what the level of talent is until you get close to the sale, but he performed beautifully at OBS, sold for a nice price, went to a good home and the rest is history.”

Breaking his maiden on debut for D.J. Stable and Robert Cotran, Hades went on to win a state-bred, seven-furlong contest at Gulfstream on Dec. 31 by eight lengths. The gelding earned a 84 Beyer Speed Figure for that effort.

Hades has a full-brother pointing for the upcoming OBS April Sale as well as a yearling half-sister by Girvin. The Shady Lady is in foal to Ocala Stud sire Win Win Win this year.

With Paco Lopez aboard, Hades drew the first position for Saturday's Holy Bull, but of course he'll have to contend with overwhelming favorite Fierceness, who has been training at Palm Beach Downs since his Breeders' Cup victory.

A second-generation homebred for Repole Stable, Fierceness was among just the second crop of horses that Ocala Stud has trained for Repole.

“He was another one that kind of quietly went through the program,” O'Farrell explained. “He was medium sized and never grabbed your attention, but also didn't do anything to get your attention in a bad way. Sometimes those are the best ones. By the last two or three weeks when we started breezing him a little bit, he was doing extremely well.”

Ocala Stud's list of 2023 graduates for Repole Stable also includes 'TDN Rising Star' Agate Road (Quality Road). Owned in partnership with St. Elias Stable, the winner of the 2023 GII Pilgrim S. runs just before the Holy Bull on Saturday in the GIII Kitten's Joy S.

Hades gets a second straight win for trainer Joe Orseno and owners D.J. Stable and Robert Cotran | Ryan Thompson

“When you train horses for Repole, you're really spoiled because there are so many nice horses,” said O'Farrell. “Agate Road is no different. He went out in a Repole set and was as nice as anyone in the set.”

O'Farrell said that this winter they have 12 Repole horses at their farm's training center.

Also among the year's Kentucky Derby hopefuls, Ocala Stud is represented by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Walmac Farm's Locked (Gun Runner), the winner of the 2023 GI Breeders' Futurity who finished third in the Juvenile, as well as Born Noble (Constitution), who had an eye-popping maiden win for St. Elias Stable and West Point Thoroughbreds on Dec. 30 and returns to the starting gate on Saturday at Gulfstream.

It's a loaded group of promising Ocala Stud graduates and odds are good that plenty more accolades are in the farm's future as the year continues.

“It really comes down to the owners sending us nice horses,” O'Farrell explained when asked about Ocala Stud's recent accomplishments. “We have a great group of clients and it starts with the horse. We're blessed to be able to train so many nice, well-bred horses. We have an unbelievable staff that has been with us for a long time. Our trainer George Burrows has been with us over 40 years. Many of his assistants and foremen and exercise riders have been with us for over 30 years.”

It's the best–and busiest–time of the year at Ocala Stud as foals are hitting the ground, the breeding shed doors are about to open and the countdown is on for the first 2-year-old sale in just a few weeks. Plus, the farm's stallion roster features three young sires who will be represented by their first foals this year.

“We have a couple of Roadsters on the ground and they're really nice, so we're off to a very good start there,” O'Farrell reported. “We're waiting on the first Colonel Liam in the next 10 days or so and Gretzky the Great has one coming in the next few days. We're excited about the first crops from them this year. It's a lot to juggle this time of year, but it's a lot of fun.”

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