03/29/2007 11:00PM

Fleet Indian's recovery over, and she's in foal


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Reigning champion mare Fleet Indian, last seen being vanned off the track after injuring herself in the 2006 Breeders' Cup Distaff, has recovered from her injury and is now in foal to Storm Cat.

Owner Paul Saylor initially had planned to sell the 6-year-old Indian Charlie mare at Keeneland's November sale, with the Keeneland January sale as a back-up plan, but Fleet Indian's injury kept her out of both auctions. Her next appointment now is the 2007 Keeneland November sale, Taylor Made Farm executive Mark Taylor said.

The reason for the delay? Initial reports after the Distaff were that Fleet Indian had injured both branches of the suspensory ligament in her left front fetlock, but in fact veterinarians soon discovered the injury was considerably worse than that.

"She came here with the Kimsey splint," said Taylor Made's broodmare manager, Scott Kintz said recently, referring to the emergency splint often applied to horses with leg injuries at the racetrack. "We thought it was just a suspensory tear. Everything seemed like a normal suspensory tear."

An ultrasound seemed to back up the initial diagnosis. "We thought we were going to make the January sale no problem," Kintz said.

When the mare's leg began developing sores and swelling slightly in the splint, staff members removed the splint. But the swelling continued around the mare's knee, and her fetlock joint had dropped, both indications of another problem. The fetlock looked normal on X-rays, but a knee X-ray revealed something startling.

"You could see that there was a piece of cannon bone pulled off," Kintz recalled.

Taylor Made's veterinarian, Dr. Bart Barber, immediately called on equine orthopedic surgeon Dr. Larry Bramlage, and he confirmed the find.

"Where the suspensory branch tied into the back of the cannon bone, it had just pulled it clear off," Kintz said.

A week after the Distaff, Fleet Indian underwent surgery to repair the cannon bone. Bramlage fused the mare's ankle, which required putting a plate down the cannon bone and down the fetlock to the end of the pastern.

"She stayed at the clinic for probably 30 days, then came home and right into this barn," Kintz said, gesturing around the peaceful broodmare barn where Fleet Indian resides.

Her recovery, he said, has gone smoothly.

"She settled right in," he said. "She's done everything just like she was supposed to. She was a great patient. She ate well. She laid down and took care of herself when she needed to. When it came to hand-walking her, we were worried because she had been in a stall for almost 90 days right off a race, and we thought she'd be tough. But she went right out in that paddock and walked like a champ."

Fleet Indian is now on regular turnout, though as a precaution Taylor Made's staff hasn't put her out in a large pasture with many mares. She shares a spacious paddock with stakes winner Chartreuse, and enjoys regular visits from Kintz's 9-year-old son, Nicholas, who likes to feed her carrots. Her left foreleg looks thicker than her right one and has a telltale bump in it, but otherwise Fleet Indian shows relatively little sign of her Breeders' Cup injury.

"She has done everything exactly the way she was supposed to," Kintz said.

Among the things that have gone right since Fleet Indian's surgery is her mating to Storm Cat. Fleet Indian conceived on her first cover, Kintz said.

"We've checked her at 28 days, and everything is normal," he said. "She was physically able to handle carrying a foal, and there was no need to wait and sell her as a maiden."

"She's a champ and has been from the start."

Rockhill Native: 'Lot of pizzazz'

Another champion, Rockhill Native, overcame some early challenges of his own. At the gelding's 30th birthday celebration that Sycamore Farm hosted on March 26, the sons of co-breeder Edwin "Doc" Thomas recalled Rockhill Native's birth.

"He was badly contracted," said Jack Thomas, who described how his late father hand made splints to go on at least two and possibly three - Jack Thomas couldn't quite recall - of the horse's legs to straighten out the contracted tendons that made them misshapen.

"He worked with that colt every day," Thomas said.

Rockhill Native, a son of the Thomas family's homebred stallion Our Native, went on to become 1979 champion juvenile.

"He had a lot of pizzazz to him," recalled Bill Thomas. "He was easy to get along with, but he was kind of the kid next door that you didn't want your son hanging out with because he's going to get in trouble. He had a little spirit to him."