05/20/2004 11:00PM

Elusive Quality's reputation soars


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Elusive Quality might not have been a household name before his son Smarty Jones won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, but breeders clued in to the stallion's potential well before the first Saturday in May.

Officials at Gainsborough Farm in Versailles, Ky., which stands Elusive Quality, point out that the stallion's 2004 book included the dams of three Kentucky Derby starters: Smarty Jones, 2003 juvenile champion Action This Day, and Santa Catalina Stakes winner St Averil.

Elusive Quality, an 11-year-old Gone West horse out of Touch of Greatness, is set to return to Darley Australia this summer, where his 85-mare book will features such standouts as Group 1 winners Spinning Hill and Magical Miss.

Smarty Jones's Triple Crown bid has provided priceless advertising for his sire, but, as Gainsborough pedigree adviser David Williamson pointed out, Elusive Quality's star had already been rising. Elusive Quality got off the mark quickly with his first crop of runners in 2002, and was that year's third-leading freshman sire. He had led the standings until his European champion juvenile son, Elusive City, was disqualified from two races overseas. Elusive Quality got six stakes winners that season, a figure that helped swell his book of mares to 143 last year and boosted his fee above his freshman-year $10,000.

"Last year, before Smarty Jones, Elusive Quality was standing for $30,000, and he already was beginning to get more interest from people who breed to race," said Williamson, who handles the inquiries for Gainsborough stallions. "He was already in the ascendant."

Williamson is hopeful that the home breeders who have sent mares to Elusive Quality will turn up with more good runners in the next couple of seasons, thus continuing the momentum built by Smarty Jones.

One home breeder who plans to send more mares to Elusive Quality in 2005 is Sheikh Maktoum al Maktoum, Gainsborough's owner. Sheikh Maktoum stands Elusive Quality on behalf of his brother, Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum, who didn't have an American stud farm when he first sent Elusive Quality to stud.

According to Michael Goodbody, Gainsborough's managing director, Sheikh Maktoum sent three or four mares to Elusive Quality last year but may send 10 in 2005.

"We will increase the numbers," Goodbody said. "Because we breed to race, we like to eliminate as many risks as we can, so we want to breed to as many proven horses as we can. We like to wait on other people's horses and see how they do."

Viral illness found in Texas horses

Kentucky's state veterinarian, Dr. Robert Stout, has issued a statewide ban on all livestock and wild or exotic animals entering Kentucky from Texas due to an outbreak of equine vesicular stomatitis in the Lone Star state.

The ban also applies to animals who have been in Texas within 30 days. Horses entering Kentucky from states bordering Texas must have proof of a negative vesicular stomatitis test within 30 days prior to entry in Kentucky.

Vesicular stomatitis - a viral disease that affects horses, cattle, and pigs, and occasionally sheep, goats, and deer - can cause blistering in the mouth, on teats, and around hooves. It can be spread by mosquitoes, ticks, houseflies, and the saliva or blister fluid of infected animals.

"VS does not pose a danger to the food supply, but it can cause animals to suffer temporary lameness or stop eating because of sores on the mouth, and it is believed to cause flu-like symptoms in humans," Stout said.

Veterinary authorities on Wednesday confirmed the disease in three horses on a ranch in Reeves County, Texas, about 300 miles southeast of El Paso.

Drug-resistant diseases on rise

The recent outbreak of drug-resistant salmonella that has temporarily closed the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center equine hospital has raised awareness of resistance to antibiotics.

"Drug resistance is a constant issue," said Dr. Bill Bernard, a veterinarian at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington. "Drug resistance often starts in the human medical world because of the high-powered antibiotics they use. As we use more of those, drug resistance becomes more of an issue."

Bernard noted that some infections, including salmonella, can be passed from humans to horses, meaning that some drug-resistant disease strains can move from human hospitals to horses to veterinary hospitals.

"We culture all horses that come in to us to make sure they're not salmonella shedders," Bernard said. "Then we isolate them from the rest of the population of horses."

Bernard said that not all salmonella shedders show signs of illness, and he noted that, while it hasn't risen to dramatic levels, he does think salmonella is becoming somewhat more common in the equine population.

"It's something we see more of now than we did in the last decade," Bernard said, "and it's possible that population increases, stress, and increased movement of horses can have some effect on its occurrence."

Bernard said that horse owners can help prevent infection by isolating newly arrived horses, and they can help fight drug resistance by using antibiotics judiciously and only when necessary.