02/18/2011 5:33PM

Tampa Bay Downs horse OK day after swimming in lake

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OLDSMAR Fla. – A day after his amazing journey, which started with a trip to the starting gate and wound up with a swim in the Tampa Bay Downs infield lake, the 4-year-old gelding Shipping News was resting comfortably in his stall Friday, nicked and bruised but none the worse for wear following one of the most bizarre episodes in this track’s history.

Shipping News’s eventful afternoon began when a field of eight maidens went to the gate Thursday in the seventh race, a 1 3/8-mile turf marathon. Shipping News, making his seventh career start, was a bit rank early in the race and became more and more erratic until jockey Carlos Motalvo pulled the horse up.

Shortly after coming to a halt, Shipping News became wobbly and collapsed on the turf, suffering from heat exhaustion. Large amounts of water were poured over the horse to cool him while vets Robert Calley and Holly Shine attended to him.

“We administered steroidal injections to held keep his blood pressure up, as well as Diazepam to calm him,” Calley said.

The combination of medication and water seemed to revive Shipping News, and the gelding got to his feet, a bit wobbly but alert.

Then things took an odd turn. With his halter having been removed, Shipping News was difficult for handlers to control and he broke free and crashed through the inner rail into the infield. He then swung around and crashed through the railing again to return to the turf course.

He then wheeled again, crashing through the inner rail a third time, and proceeded to walk to the infield lake and waded into the water.

He stood placidly in the chest deep water for a time as onlookers pondered a course of action. Finally, workers stripped down to their underwear and waded into the lake, which was a bit over six feet deep at that point. They put a halter attached to a shank on Shipping News and coaxed him out of the lake. He was then loaded into the horse ambulance and taken to the barn of his trainer, Roy Lerman, where he was treated for lacerations to one front leg and one hind leg. He was given antibiotics after the wounds were cleared of the lake scum.

“He’s doing fine today,” Lerman said Friday morning, “His ears are pricked, and he’s alert and happy. If not for the cuts, you’d never know anything happened to him.”