10/10/2001 12:00AM

Harthill to pay tubing fine


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Dr. Alex Harthill, the noted equine veterinarian who also is the president of the Kentucky division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said he will "reluctantly" pay a $1,000 fine stemming from a July 4 incident in which he used a stomach tube on a horse several hours before a race at Churchill Downs.

Harthill said he was "merely practicing veterinary medicine" on Band Is Passing, who wound up fourth as the second choice in the Firecracker Handicap. Harthill said the horse was "severely dehydrated" and that he was administering a legal mix of electrolytes and other fluids.

Raceday "tubing" of horses has been banned in Kentucky since Dec. 1999, when the Kentucky Racing Commission outlawed the controversial practice known as "milkshaking," whereby a stomach tube is used to administer a concoction of sodium bicarbonate and other materials that purport to give a horse additional energy. Harthill long has been an outspoken opponent of milkshaking.

Bernie Hettel, the commission's executive director, said that, primarily because of milkshaking, any use of a stomach tube on race day is not permitted because the commission does not have sufficient manpower to police such matters.