Florida Owners and Breeders Elect New Board, Executive Committee

by | 10.23.2014 | 6:18pm

The Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association has announced five new board members that each have been elected to three-year terms. An elected member of the FTBOA Board of Directors is eligible to serve two consecutive terms before being required to step down for at least one year.

Elected to the board were Barry Berkelhammer, Gilbert G. Campbell, Diane Parks, George Russell and Greg Wheeler. Campbell, Parks, Russell and Wheeler were incumbents while Berkelhammer was nominated to the run by the Board of Directors.  FTBOA member Tim Mawhinney received enough signatures from membership to run for the board but was not elected.

Berkelhammer will be serving on the 15-member board for the first time after being a member of the Association for more than 30 years. Berkelhammer is the current owner of AbraCadabra Farm located near Ocala in Marion County which he founded. Along with longtime business associate Gary Mottola, they have overseen the growth of the farm to more than 240 acres and the business  has produced five Kentucky Derby starters and six Breeders' Cup contenders.

Campbell has been involved in the thoroughbred business since 1982 and has bred and/or raced 66 stakes winners including Marlin, winner of the 1996 Arlington Million, millionaire Blazing Sword as well as Ivanavinalot, Friel's For Real, This One's for Phil, Ryan's For Real and Watch Me Go. Twice Campbell has been honored as the Florida Breeder of the Year by the FTBOA and was honored as the Florida Breeder of the Year once by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association. TOBA also recognized Campbell has the national breeder of the year in 1997. Campbell is a past president of the FTBOA and currently serves on the Association's Racing Committee.

Parks is a self-professed farm girl having grown up on a cattle ranch in Ocala. She became interested in thoroughbreds when she married her late husband, Scott Dudley, the son of Jack Dudley, who raced Needles, the first Florida-bred to win the Kentucky Derby having done so in 1956, with partner Bonnie Heath as D & H Stables. The Scott and Diane enjoyed substantial success managing the farm having produced Florida-bred Silver Charm, winner of the 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Now married to Jerry Parks of Parks Equine Insurance, she also serves on the FTBOA committee on thoroughbred retirement.

Russell, a past president and past vice president, and wife Karen purchased 158 acres in Ocala in 1987  and established Rustlewood Farm. They began in the thoroughbred business by buying four yearling fillies from Elmer Huebeck which yielded Rustlewood's first stakes winner in All Considered, who also produced a number of winners for the Russell's including stakes winner Consider Thesource. The Russells have also bred such standouts as Grade 1 winners Chaposa Springs and You and I, Group 2 or Grade 2 winners Distinctly North and Mach Ride and Grade 3 winner Prudhoe Bay, who they currently campaign. Russell is the founder and current president of Russell Engineering and currently serves on the board of the Florida Transportation Builders Association, of which is also a past Chairman of the Board.

Wheeler and his wife, Donna, moved to Ocala in 2003 because of their passion for horses and started in the thoroughbred business by buying four yearlings at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company January sale. The Wheelers currently own and operate BridleOaks Farm Inc., in Ocala where they have a broodmare band of 11. They raise mostly commercial thoroughbreds but also keep a small lot for racing. Together they bred Jordy Y in Florida from the first crop of Congrats. Jordy Y went on to become graded stakes-placed and started in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Wheeler currently chairs the Charities Committee for the FTBOA.

Rotating off the FTBOA board due to her expired term is Sheila DiMare, who along with her husband Jim, operate Rising Hill Farm in Ocala. DiMare has served two consecutive terms on the board and has also served on the Executive Committee of the FTBOA as Secretary for the past three years. DiMare races under the name of J.D. Farms and has bred or raised approximately 30 stakes winners including Grade 1-winning millionaire Captain Squire, Florida-bred champion and Spinster Stakes (G1) winner Plenty of Light, graded stakes winners El Cielo, Light Dancer, Wise Answer and  Dansetta Light to name a few. DiMare is also a past vice president of the Florida Farm Managers Association and serves on the Marion County Extension Equine Program Advisory Committee. She is also on the board of the Race Track Chaplaincy of America Inc., Ocala Council.

FTBOA also announced new members of its 2015 Executive Committee Thursday.

Re-elected as President is George Russell of Ocala. Russell, who is also a past vice president, and wife Karen purchased 158 acres in Ocala in 1987 and established Rustlewood Farm. They began in the thoroughbred business by buying four yearling fillies from Elmer Huebeck which yielded Rustlewood's first stakes winner in All Considered, who also produced a number of winners for the Russell's including stakes winner Consider Thesource. The Russells have also bred such standouts as Grade 1 winners Chaposa Springs and You and I, Group 2 or Grade 2 winners Distinctly North and Mach Ride and Grade 3 winner Prudhoe Bay, who they currently campaign. Russell is the founder and current president of Russell Engineering and currently serves on the board of the Florida Transportation Builders Association, of which is also a past Chairman of the Board.

Brent Fernung of Ocala was re-elected as the first vice president. Fernung has been involved in the Florida thoroughbred industry for more than 35 years having started working at Lasater Farm in the late 1970s. He and wife, Crystal, own and operate Journeyman Stud located in north Marion County and is home to several top sires including Wildcat Heir, Florida's Stallion of the Year in 2010, 2011, 2013 and current Florida leader in 2015. Among other sires standing at Journeyman are Awesome of Course, Hear No Evil and Exclusive Quality who currently rank behind Wildcat Heir as the leading Florida sires of 2-year-olds. Fernung is also a member of the board of directors for the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company and was named the 2004 Florida Farm Manager of the Year.

Dr. Phil Matthews of Ocala will again serve as second vice president. An FTBOA past president, Matthews has been a practicing veterinarian in Marion County since 1981 when he came to Ocala as an associate veterinarian at Peterson and Smith Equine Hospital and became a partner in that practice in 1984. His veterinary affiliations include the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP). He has served on several committees for the AAEP and is a past member of the board of directors. Dr. Matthews has also been involved in the thoroughbred industry in several other capacities.  He bought his first thoroughbred in 1983. As a farm owner and breeder, he has had the good fortune of raising several stakes winners and has been involved in all facets of the industry including sales and racing.

Joseph M. O'Farrell III replaces Sheila DiMare as the Secretary on the Executive Committee. O'Farrell is a native of Ocala growing up on the family farm, Ocala Stud. In his early years, O'Farrell worked on the farm mowing fields and feeding and caring for the farm's yearlings. After attending college at Erskine College in South Carolina where he was a student athlete on the tennis team, he worked in the financial and banking industries for some years. He moved back to Ocala in 2004 and became a manager at Ocala Stud, handling the financial side of the farm. Ocala Stud has been a perennial leading Florida commercial breeder and has either solely or in partnership bred more than 100 stakes winners. Ocala Stud currently stands popular stallions High Cotton, In Summation, Kantharos, Overdriven and Uncaptured.

Fred Brei, an FTBOA past president, returns as the Treasurer. Brei and his wife Jane established the Ocala-based Jacks or Better Farm in 1997. Brei bought his first broodmare in 1972 and was actively involved in the Illinois breeding and racing industries before moving to Marion County. The Bries breed primarily to and have enjoyed quick success. Jacks or Better Farm's Midas Eyes, named the Florida-bred champion sprinter of 2004, marked the first Florida-bred champion for the Breis. In 2001 and 2004, the Breis received the FTBOA Needles Award as the outstanding small breeding operation. In addition to Midas Eyes, the farm has been represented by Florida-bred multiple graded stakes winners, Jackson Bend, Fort Loudon and 2010 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Filly and Eclipse Award winning champion Awesome Feather. This year Brei swept the male division of the Florida Sire Stakes with Sing Praises winning two legs and Twotwentyfive A winning the other leg. The Breis own Florida-bred stallions Awesome of Course and Hear No Evil. Brei currently is chairman of the FTBOA Racing Committee.

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