07/18/2006 11:00PM

Summertime living not easy


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Jockeys and horses in this region have been faring well during the current heat wave, which saw the temperature hit 107 degrees Tuesday at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, about 10 minutes from Lone Star Park.

Trainers employ different tactics to help horses cope with the stress of racing in extreme temperatures. High on the list is keeping a horse hydrated through the use of electrolytes, said Ralph Irwin, who sent out Nuttyboom to win the feature here last Friday.

"A daily watch on them is very, very important," he added, "backing off their training, giving them a break as needed. You have to really watch a coat and body, the loss of weight, and how they're handling everything."

Most trainers agree a horse cannot be asked for the same amount of energy on a 90-degree morning as a 50-degree morning. It can become more difficult to cool a horse out properly.

Just about every horse has his own individual box fan. Some stables also have larger fans blowing air through the barn. And, there are cases at tracks where a horse known as a "non-sweater" might spend his summer in an air-conditioned stall.

In addition to electrolytes - vital in combating the effects of the diuretic Lasix - hydrotherapy is used before bringing a horse to the paddock for a race. That calls for cooling an animal's body temperature down as much as possible by using cold water and ice on key pressure points, such as the horse's poll, located on top of its head, and its heart area. It is an approach most all trainers use with their horses, said Rob Corley, a racetrack veterinarian who practices at Lone Star.

"The main thing in the afternoon with the racing is, they hose almost every horse," he said. "You'll see them go up there wet. It helps with the heat a lot. And they're always dousing horses off with ice water after the race to cool them off as fast as they can."

Stewart Marsh, chief veterinarian for the Texas Racing Commission, said he has not heard field reports of a greater than normal number of heat strokes in horses this summer versus last.

"In the past, most of our heat strokes have happened early in the meet, and by this time, we're not seeing very many," he said. "It's usually the initial adaptation to the climate that seems to be more critical than the actual heat."

Jockeys must also handle extreme temperatures while wearing silks often made out of nylon, a fabric that retains heat. Riders also wear flak jackets, or safety-type vests, under those silks.

Lonnie Meche, who has ridden in this region for years, said drinking water is a constant part of his routine when he competes. He also will place a wet towel on his head to cool down upon returning to the jockeys' quarters after a race.

Lone Star, which combats the heat by racing at night during the week, will close out the meet Sunday, and should see a break in the heat. Some forecasters are even calling that break a cold front, with the temperature expected to be in the 90's. Hands down, that beats 107.

Desert Wheat sold, sent to Mott

Trainer Tony Richey said majority interest in Desert Wheat has been sold and that the horse was sent to Churchill Downs and trainer Bill Mott. Desert Wheat is a 3-year-old Louisiana-bred by Wheaton.

He won the Gentilly on turf during the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs, and this past April earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 91 when he won a turf allowance at Lone Star.

Richey trained Desert Wheat for longtime client Jerry Lee, who has retained an interest in the colt. Richey said he expected Desert Wheat to run in the Grade 2 American Derby at Arlington Park on Saturday.

* Genuine True, who has picked up checks in stakes in her last four starts, returns to the overnight ranks Friday night in the featured ninth race at Lone Star. The optional claimer for fillies and mares will be run over six furlongs and it drew a field of 10. Other contenders include Black Mariah, who invades from Golden Gate Fields.