03/07/2008 12:00AM

Heatseeker won't ever have siblings


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Heatseeker's victory in the March 1 Santa Anita Handicap gave his dam and his breeder their first Grade 1 winner, but there was a sad element to the achievement.

Breeder Rick Barnes said Heatseeker's dam, the Defensive Play mare Rusty Back, died last year at age 9 without any other foals to her credit.

Barnes, who grew up a few blocks from Santa Anita before moving to the Bahamas, paid $350,000 for Rusty Back in 2002 at the Keeneland November sale. The mare was unraced and only in foal for the first time, but she was a product of Juddmonte Farms's illustrious breeding program, and she had deep family roots.

"Her dam was a full sister to Al Bahathri, and there are a few other good racers," Barnes said.

Al Bahathri won the Irish 1000 Guineas and finished second in the English 1000 Guineas in 1985. Other "good racers" in Rusty Back's family include Grade 1 winner Spanish Fern and multiple graded winner Geraldine's Store.

"She was a big, robust mare who hadn't raced, and I assume that's why she was on the market," Barnes said. "But the first and second dam were both outstanding producers, and there is a lot of black type in the family."

Barnes can't take credit for planning the mating that produced Heatseeker, because Rusty Back already was carrying the Giant's Causeway colt when she went through the auction ring at Keeneland. But he liked the result, a strapping chestnut colt.

"I took him to Goffs, and I didn't think the bid was strong enough, so I took him back and we decided to race him," recalled Barnes, who bought Heatseeker back at the yearling sale for 90,000 Irish guineas, or about $110,871.

"He was brutish, pretty coltish, but he trained very well."

Heatseeker won his career debut at Naas, in Ireland, running six furlongs in a track-record 1:10.70. He won his second race very convincingly at Tipperary, then was ambitiously spotted in a Group 1 stakes.

Barnes's decision to keep Heatseeker was vindicated when the colt finished third behind George Washington in Ireland's Group 1 National Stakes. Barnes then sold Heatseeker privately to William de Burgh, who now has him in California with Jerry Hollendorfer.

Meanwhile, Rusty Back had been unable to produce another foal. Her 2004 Green Desert foal was stillborn, and then she was barren the next two years to Galileo and Oasis Dream. She died in 2007 at Barnes's Grangecon Stud in Ireland.

"She had a big Shamardal colt who died about three days after he was born, and then she got peritonitis later in the week," Barnes said. "She colicked at the same time, and there just wasn't a chance.

"And her Shamardal foal would have been a nice animal. The umbilical cord was wrapped, and he didn't get enough oxygen. They had him on a respirator for three days and did all kinds of things to try to save him, but it just didn't work. Then to lose the mare the next week was just ghastly, to say the least."

Few steroids found in Pa. testing

Pennsylvania, which is set to begin steroid testing at its racetracks officially on April 1, got some encouraging news on March 4 when the Pennsylvania Horse and Harness Racing Commissions found 98.8 percent of horses tested in a two-month pilot program were negative for anabolic steroids.

This marked the first United States use of blood-testing for testosterone, nandrolone, boldenone, and stanozolol, according to Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission chair Rick Abbott.

The unofficial testing ran for two months ending Feb. 22, and on March 4 Gov. Ed Rendell issued the results: From more than 2,061 samples tested, only 25 turned up positive. The testing was based on blood plasma samples rather than urine samples and was performed at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's Equine Toxicology and Research Laboratory in West Chester, Pa.

Abbott noted that when blind tests for steroids were done about two years ago to determine how widespread steroid use was at Pennsylvania tracks, more than 60 percent of the 400 horses tested positive, in some cases for multiple steroids. The improvement, Abbott believes, shows that the state's horsemen are backing away from steroids as regulation approaches.

Both the Thoroughbred and harness commissions will continue testing in March and will give the results to trainers "for their information and guidance prior to the April 1 enforcement date," a state government press release said.

OBS reschedules under-tack preview

The Ocala Breeders' Sales Company has postponed the first under-tack preview for its March 18-19 selected 2-year-old auction due to forecast severe weather in the Ocala, Fla., area.

The first under-tack preview had been scheduled for 9 a.m. on Friday and Saturday but will now take place on Sunday and Monday, starting each day at 9 a.m. Hip Nos. 1-230 will breeze on Sunday, and Hip Nos. 231-460 will work on Monday.

The sale's second under-tack show remains scheduled for March 14-15 with a daily start time of 9 a.m.

On Friday morning, Ocala was under a tornado watch, and heavy rains and high winds with gusts up to 40 miles per hour, were predicted for the afternoon. OBS officials had said Thursday that they were considering postponing the under-tack show out of safety concerns for both horses and people at the under-tack preview.