03/12/2004 1:00AM

Bertrando fights illness


ARCADIA, Calif. - Bertrando, the champion older male of 1993 and a leading stallion in California in recent years, is suffering from a liver disease that could lead to him being pensioned after the current breeding season, owner Marty Wygod said.

In December, Bertrando underwent surgery for the second time to remove gallstones, a rare occurrence for Thoroughbreds, according to Greg Ferraro of the Center for Equine Health at the University of California-Davis. The chronic liver disease caused the stones, Ferraro said.

The recent surgery was conducted at the Alamo Pintado Equine Clinic in Los Olivos and was the second time in five years that Bertrando underwent such a procedure. Ferraro conducted the first surgery at UC-Davis in the late 1990's.

The surgery has led to concern about the stallion's long-term health.

"This will probably be his last season," Wygod said. "We'll have to see how he's doing."

Bertrando stands at Wygod's River Edge Farm in Buelleton. Farm manager Russell Drake is hoping that Bertrando can be bred to 50 mares this year; in 2003, he was bred to 86 mares.

"Physically, he looks good," Drake said. "When you have a horse with liver problems, it can come and go."

Ferraro said veterinarians were reluctant to operate on Bertrando because of the difficulty of getting to the bile ducts that contained the stones, he said. The disease led to Bertrando being shipped to UC-Davis in the late 1990's for care.

"We had him here a couple of months and tried to solve it medically," Ferraro said. "The horse has gallstones, which is rare in a horse, almost unheard of. They're not known for producing stones.

"The first time we operated was about five years ago, and we took one out the size of a baseball. He did great for a long time."

The stones reappeared in Bertrando's bile duct last year. But the surgery at Alamo Pintado, conducted by Phoebe Smith and Carter Judy, did not go into the bile duct, Ferraro said.

"The bile duct is hard to get to and hard to close," Ferraro said. "When they did the surgery, they didn't open up the bile duct. They were able to crush them through the walls of the bile duct and get them to pass."

Ferraro said the illness is serious but that Bertrando has rebounded in the past.

"It's kind of year to year at this point," he said. "We're hoping to get another five years out of him. It's amazing how well he's done."

Bertrando, 15, won nine of 24 starts and $3,185,610 in a five-year racing career. He won stakes annually from ages 2 through 5 and won the Eclipse Award as the outstanding older male of 1993 as a 4-year-old.

During that season, he won the Pacific Classic, Woodward Stakes, and San Fernando Stakes, and finished second in four Grade 1 races - the Breeders' Cup Classic, Hollywood Gold Cup, Metropolitan Mile Handicap, and Charles H. Strub Stakes.

At stud, Bertrando has progeny earnings of more than $17 million. He is the sire of such major stakes winners as Cliquot, Officer, Queenie Belle, and Smooth Player, all of whom won more than $500,000.

Bertrando has stood in California throughout his career. His fee was reduced from $25,000 in 2003 to $12,500 this year.

CTBA plans fall sale in Pleasanton

The board of directors of the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association has approved plans for a yearling sale at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton on Sept. 28, contingent on 150 horses being entered in the sale.

According to a statement, CTBA general manager Doug Burge said commitments have been received for nearly 150 horses. It would be the first CTBA sale in northern California since 1993.