04/15/2005 12:00AM

Effects on fillies in heat minimal


LEXINGTON, Ky. - After Sweet Catomine's fifth-place finish in last weekend's Santa Anita Derby, owner Marty Wygod mentioned a physical issue that he thought could have affected the filly's performance. She had come into season for the first time before the race.

That's a fairly common concern. But while a filly who is in season - also called "in heat" or "horsing" - can become somewhat more irritable, veterinarians say estrus generally has little effect on racetrack performance.

Though the pattern varies between individuals, fillies and mares normally come into season approximately every 21 days, with estrus - the time of sexual receptivity when the mare is considered to be in season - generally lasting five to six days. While in season, mares might display variety of behaviors, ranging from slight irritability to "winking" the vulva.

"Some fillies coming into heat, it certainly bothers them," said Dr. Ken Reed, a Kentucky racetrack veterinarian. "Some it doesn't. They can be irritable and seem a little uncomfortable. Some go off their feed, but mostly it is a change in temperament.

"If a follicle develops to an abnormally large size - this is rare but it does occasionally occur - it can become tender to the mare, and that might change their performance."

Reed said that estrus can be controlled fairly easily by use of estrus-suppressants such as Regumate, a synthetic progesterone-like liquid administered in the feed, and there are also progesterone injections that can prevent fillies and mares from coming into season.

"I don't use a whole lot of Regumate on my fillies," said trainer Paul McGee, "but I use it occasionally. It has been known to have a good effect on certain fillies, but I think most fillies handle being in season pretty well."

"A lot of them come into season right before a race and nobody even notices it," said Reed.

"It makes a convenient excuse, I guess," said McGee. "But so many fillies that come into heat rise to the occasion and run their race anyway."

Martin wants Florida farm

Indiana owner and breeder Eddie Martin appears ready to plant deep roots in Ocala, Fla. The owner of Martin Stables announced Thursday that he has made an offer on Doug Henderson's 180-acre Marablue Farm in Reddick, Fla., and plans to base Martin Stables South there as a commercial breeding operation. The deal has not closed yet.

Martin, 37, a former member of the Indiana Racing Commission, owned a small farm, Hoosier Oaks, in Ocala from 1989-95. Now he says he has his eyes on bigger things.

"This is something I've wanted to do for the last few years," he said. "I love Ocala. Obviously, the weather, soil, and climate make it the best place to breed and raise foals."

Martin said he's "very bullish" on Florida's breeding industry after the recent referendum allowing slots at Gulfstream Park.

Martin said he plans to stand his two stallions at his facility on the Marablue property. They are Spanish Steps, a full brother to Unbridled's Song, and the stakes-placed Relaunch horse Conscience Clear. Martin has about 70 mares of his own and intends to breed mainly for the yearling market. But he will retain 15 to 20 foals to sell privately as 2-year-olds.

"They will be raised, broken, and trained with one goal: long-term success, not just short-term works at a juvenile sale," Martin said. "I know a lot of people do very well at the 2-year-old sales, but I think there's a niche market with trainers and owners who prefer to have their 2-year-olds less physically and mentally stressed."

Martin said he expects to breed Spanish Steps to about 100 mares this season and is considering acquiring a third stallion for the new Martin Stables South facility, possibly to syndicate.

Meanwhile, Marablue owner Doug Henderson is not getting out of the game, his advisors say. He still owns Marablue West and remains actively involved in the Thoroughbred breeding world.

* National Thoroughbred Racing Association commissioner D. G. Van Clief, Jr., and lobbyist Greg Avioli will address the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers' Club on May 3 at the Crowne Plaza Lexington.

* Primarily, Canada's broodmare of the year in 2000, died March 30 at Adena Springs near Lexington at age 17. The dam of Canadian champions Primaly and Poetically injured herself in a fall.

* Daily Racing Form cartoonist Pierre Bellocq, known as PEB, is donating proceeds from the sale of prints to the Old Friends equine retirement facility and to the Amateur Riders Club of America. The prints are of the classic PEB cartoons "Ferdinand Slept Here" and "Annie Oaktree." Information available at www.oldfriendsequine.com.

* Topped by a $535,815 Red Ransom-Logiciel colt that Sheikh Rashid al Maktoum purchased, the Tattersalls Newmarket juvenile sale in England posted records across the board, with a $12,567,839 gross, $101,354 average, and $69,458 median.