09/13/2006 12:00AM

Hirapour may race again


Hirapour, the 2004 Eclipse Award winner as champion steeplechase horse who was injured in the Aug. 31 New York Turf Writers Cup at Saratoga, may race again this year, his trainer said in a release issued by the National Steeplechase Association on Wednesday.

The 10-year-old Hirapour finished fifth in the New York Turf Writers after having trouble negotiating the final jump. He came up lame the day after and was sent to an equine clinic in Virginia for examination. It was thought Hirapour's racing career might be over.

Veterinarians found a bone chip in the gelding's left front ankle but determined that surgery was not necessary.

"The chip did not move into the joint, it just came off and moved off to the side," Hirapour's trainer, Doug Fout, said in the release. "It hurt him at the time, but it won't necessarily stop him from running this fall."

Instead of surgery, Hirapour will be treated with antibodies taken from his own blood, according to the release. The treatment, know as IRAP (interleukin-1 receptor antagonist protein), is used in humans to treat arthritis and other ailments by alleviating pain in the short term and promoting healing in the long term.

Hirapour will be injected once every 10 days, with brief interruptions to his training on Fout's Virginia farm.

"I'm optimistic, but I'm not going to rave about it - this is a longshot," said the trainer. "We really have nothing to lose this way. He's going to be retired at the end of the year anyway, and if he makes it back this way it's a lot less risky than surgery or other options. We'll see how he responds, see how he trains, and go from there."

A winner of $629,377 over jumps in the Unites States and England, Hirapour could race on the flat at Morven Park in Virginia on Oct. 13 with an eye to the Breeders' Cup Steeplechase at Far Hills, N.J., Oct. 28.