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Bill Gates

Bill Gates

RANCHO SANTA FE — Microsoft founder Bill Gates has purchased the 229-acre thoroughbred training center in Rancho Santa Fe formerly owned by weight-loss icon Jenny Craig, and reports in the U-T San Diego newspaper indicate he plans to turn it into a facility for hunters and jumpers.

The father of a teenager who jumps competitively, Gates paid $18 million for the facility in a deal that closed Sept. 12. The sale is one of San Diego County’s highest-priced deals for a home this year. Gates also owns a home in the Del Mar Country Club.

“The family has enjoyed visiting the San Diego area with friends and family for many years and has purchased the Rancho Paseana property in Rancho Santa Fe,” a Gates family spokesperson said.

Craig reportedly closed the facility in May 2013 for financial reasons amid economic headwinds in the horse racing industry. Hollywood Park was approaching its fall season at the time of the closure, and it was rumored that some of the races would be relocated to Del Mar after it closed. They ultimately were, as Del Mar will conduct its second “Opening Day” for its fall meet on Nov. 7.

Before closing, Craig’s horse ranch was largely used as a layup facility. Craig reportedly had been trying to sell the property well beforehand, putting it on the market for close to $30 million. The price fell to $25 million before it was pulled off the Multiple Listing Service entirely in fall 2012.

According to listing agent, Catherine Barry of Barry Estates in Rancho Santa Fe, the property was not listed when it actually sold.

“I was happy that the buyer is someone who can afford to turn it into the showplace it was meant to be,” she saidin the U-T article.”It will be kept as a horse barn so the neighbors will be thrilled … the person who bought it will make it like it can and should be.”

The property includes a white fenced, .75-mile dirt training track, four 30-stall barns and rehab equipment for injured horses. Barry said the parcel also features two apartments with a French motif. She said Craig received offers that involved building a golf course or a hotel on the property, but she wanted to keep it for its original purpose — for horses.

Forbes reports that Gates, whose net worth of $81 billion makes him America’s richest man, has spent money on horses before. A few years ago, Gates leased a home in Palm Beach, Fla. for $600,000 so his daughter Jennifer could be near Wellington’s Equestrian Festival, according to Forbes. Further, the Daily Mail reports that around that time Gates leased four elite jumping horses for $50,000 to $75,000 each for his daughter to train.

Once known as Rancho del Rayo, the property originally belonged to former San Diego Chargers owner Gene Klein, who built it in 1985. The Craigs bought the facility in 1995 for $6 million, according to public records.

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