12/10/2001 12:00AM

Henning brings filly back in style

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JAMAICA, N.Y. - Few achievements in the training of the race horse are more satisfying than successfully bringing back a good one whom, for one reason or another, has been sidelined for a significant period of time.

In the wake of last weekend's $82,775 Garland of Roses Handicap for fillies and mares at six furlongs, Mark Hennig can take a well-deserved bow for the victory of Edward P. Evans's homebred Raging Fever, who was making her first start since April 22. Fresh from her long layup, and with the speedy Xtra Heat scratched because of a cough, Raging Fever made good use of her speed to seize an early lead. With Aaron Gryder in the saddle, Raging Fever led through a quarter in 23.44 seconds, a half-mile in 46.35, and led by more than two lengths at the eighth pole. The 4-5 Dat You Miz Blue challenged gamely through the final furlong but could not get to her.

Raging Fever, by the brilliant Storm Cat out of Pennant Fever by Seattle Slew, won her first five starts at 2, including four stakes, two of them (the Matron and the Frizette) of Grade 1 caliber. She did not reproduce that form, however, in her first starts at 3. She came away from the gate slowly and gave indications that something might be wrong behind. Regular X-rays proved uninformative, but sophisticated diagnostics located a fracture of the growth plate atop the tibia, the bone between the hock and the stifle.

"You rarely see that injury on the racetrack," trainer Hennig said from Miami. "The standard treatment is 60 days of rest. To be on the safe side we gave her 90 days, and when she came back it was clear that whatever had been bothering her before was gone. She lengthened stride confidently and began to train the way she did at 2. She came up to the Garland of Roses very sharp and ran to her true ability. She's on her way down here now and we hope to run her at Gulfstream on Jan. 18 in the $100,000 First Lady Handicap."

Raging Fever's fine form, established early in her career, came as no surprise to Hennig, who trained her older full brother, Stormin Fever. Winner of the Sport Page Handicap, he finished second by only a nose to the heroic Skip Away in the Philip Iselin Handicap at Monmouth Park in 1998. He now stands at Airdrie Stud in Kentucky and his first crop will be yearlings on Jan. 1.

Medical boundaries pushed

Many a horse is injured when the suspensory ligament is pulled loose from the bone. The standard treatment is six months or more of complete rest, but veterinarians, seeking to speed up the process, have experimented with injections of iodine and other treatments.

Until` now, nothing worked as effectively as rest. At the recent convention in San Diego of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, one of the most interesting papers was delivered by Dr. Douglas Herthel of Los Olivos, Calif., who discussed his experimentation with stem cells to speed the repair of pulled suspensories. Harvesting his stem cells from the sternum, Dr. Herthel reports on 100 cases researched at his Alamo Pintado Clinic. Eighty-four of the 100, after six months of inter-lesional injections with stem cells, returned to soundness and regular work . In another eight cases, some improvement was observed.

Some 4,000 were in attendance at the AAEP convention, more than half of them practicing vets from almost every racing country in the world. Among those on hand was Dr. Robert Copelan of Kentucky, a distinguished surgeon and a past president of the AAEP.

"One of the presentations particularly well received was delivered by Dr. James Moore of the University of Georgia," Dr. Copelan noted. "He spoke of his development of a three-dimensional look at a horse's intestines and the abdominal viscera. When trouble develops on one side of the intestinal tract, you'd like to know what the organs on the other side are doing. Dr. Moore has come up with a televised film strip that can be turned over to depict the organs on the other side. This is a significant step forward in veterinary surgery and should be of great benefit in future operations."