04/24/2002 11:00PM

Some big prices, but Ocala slips overall

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - As of 5 p.m. Thursday, a $280,000 Grand Slam colt was the session leader, and likely sale-topper, on the final day of Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's spring juvenile sale in Florida.

Buzz Chace, agent, bought the colt, who is out of stakes-placed Stephanie's Road (Strawberry Road [Aus]), for the West Point Thoroughbreds syndicate.

"He's a nice, smooth, beautiful horse," Chace said, adding that the colt would "relax" for 45 days at McKathan Bros. Training Center near Ocala before starting a fall campaign.

M and H Training and Sales, agent, sold the colt.

"This was a nice sale with a lot of nice horses," Chace said. "The horses got nicer as the week went along."

The Wednesday session had lively bidding on a number of lots, resulting in five price tags of $100,000 or more. But the session's overall returns dropped compared with figures for the corresponding session last year. The Wednesday session sold 161 lots for gross revenue of $3,916,200, down 13 percent from last year's third-session total. Average price dipped 10 percent, falling from $27,154 last year to $24,324 in 2002. And median also slid 9 percent from $16,000 to $14,500.

The sale company got good news in the buyback rate, a sign of consignor satisfaction with the market's prices for their horses. Last year's third-session buyback rate climbed to 33 percent, but this year buyers and sellers appeared to be on closer terms in their appraisals as the buyback rate settled back to 28 percent.

Weather prompts MRLS advisory

The University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture issued a new advisory Thursday to farm owners and breeders in the Bluegrass, alerting them that the area's current cool spell is reminiscent of the weather pattern that preceded last year's devastating outbreak of mare reproductive loss syndrome.

The university's scientists are suggesting that, on nights when frost is possible, breeders bring in newly pregnant mares and those close to foaling and keep them inside until noon the following day. In their Thursday advisory, the second in a week because of temperatures that fell from the mid-80's to near freezing, the MRLS research team also suggested that farm owners consider mowing pastures before turning mares back out again.

The warm-to-cold weather pattern may be similar to last year's, but so far researchers say they have seen no indication that MRLS is back in the Bluegrass.

In an update issued Thursday, UK scientists reported that 13 "sentinel farms" - 12 horse farms and one hay farm under continual monitoring for factors thought to be related to MRLS - are showing no abnormalities. In testing soil and pastures at the sentinel farms, scientists have explored a multitude of potential risk factors, including mycotoxins, cyanide associated with white clover, and soil molds, among other things. To date, the tests have revealed nothing alarming.

Last year's wave of MRLS became apparent in the two weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby, when breeding farms saw a dramatic upswing in the number of late abortions and sick foals, then discovered that newly pregnant mares also were aborting their 40- to 60-day-old fetuses.

The outbreak - the cause of which remains unknown - resulted in an estimated 3,000 abortions in Kentucky broodmares, mostly Thoroughbreds.

The Livestock Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, which examines aborted fetal tissue, reports that from Dec. 30, 2001, to April 20, 2002, horsemen had submitted 493 fetuses for testing. That's up from last year in the same time frame, when there were 466 submissions. It's also above the mean of 476.6 submissions for the last five years. But, so far, the LDDC has not reported any abnormalities that would suggest MRLS is back, attributing part of the rise in submissions to greater awareness among breeders.

Chilukki's first foal is Storm Cat colt

Stonerside Stable's champion and millionaire Chilukki has produced her first foal, a Storm Cat colt, at Stonerside in Paris, Ky. Chilukki, a Cherokee Run mare who was North America's champion juvenile filly of 1999, foaled at about 12:30 a.m. on April 23.

"We are extremely excited about Chilukki's first foal," said Stonerside racing and bloodstock manager John Adger. "Chilukki is the first champion raced by Stonerside and a special favorite of everyone associated with the farm, and we are looking forward to racing this colt."

Chilukki will be bred to Storm Cat again this season.

Grade 1 winner Caffe Latte (Seattle Dancer) also produced her first foal, a Red Ransom colt, at Stonerside on March 22. Caffe Latte, winner of the Grade 1 Ramona Handicap in 2000, will be bred back to Maria's Mon, sire of 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos.