07/31/2001 11:00PM

Two horsemen try out natural substitute for Lasix

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - There may have been a few raised eyebrows here last week when Robert Rose claimed Premier's Turn for $40,000.

On the one hand, Rose had experienced success with Premier's Turn in the past. But the facts were that Premier's Turn now is 7 years old and in suspect form, which he underlined by faltering to finish last of seven that day.

While sentimentality was a factor in Rose's decision, there is much more to the story.

It dates back about two years and involves both Rose and his longtime friend and associate, Sheldon Wolfe, whose dream is nothing less than to see the widely used bleeder medication Lasix replaced by a natural substance.

"I'd had Premier's Turn off and on mostly on - throughout his career," said Rose, who has sent out Premier's Turn for 37 of his 58 career starts, the last 56 of which he ran while taking Lasix. "He has a severe breathing problem. All his other problems I was able to address, but his breathing always has been a concern to me.

"I'd tried every product on the market. Some of them helped him at the farm - helped him here at different times - but he was never cured.

"I became transfixed with developing a product that would help this horse. It wasn't about money. He's so game; I love the horse."

Now, after much experimentation, Rose has developed what he informally refers to as "the product," a blend of herbal ingredients that is mixed into a horse's feed.

Its immediate aim is to heal the internal damage caused by bleeding while eliminating dependency on Lasix. But in Rose's ideal program, for which he hopes Premier's Turn will be the poster-boy horse, the move to Lasix-free racing requires plenty of patience.

"He has to be on it for 42 days without any serious training, to give the product a chance to recover the horse," Rose said.

"Premier's Turn will not return to the races until I have him off Lasix."

Rose has used the product both on horses who have never been on the Lasix program and on horses who continue to run on Lasix while cutting down to the minimum amount (the minimum allowable Lasix dosage here is 150 milligrams; the maximum is 250).

He cites successful case histories such as current and former charges Center Lane, Classy Pickup, Lady On Top, Make More Music, Mirage Fighter and, most recently, Northern Gold, who finished second for a $25,000 tag in Saturday's first race.

Northern Gold was making his third start for Rose and White Eagle Stable, having been claimed for $16,000 here June 7.

"He showed some of the same symptoms as Premier's Turn," said Rose. "I reduced his Lasix dosage to 150 for his last start, and he ran a very encouraging race. For his next race, he will be off Lasix 100 percent."

Both Rose, who took out his trainer's license in 1961, and Wolfe, who has been training since 1971 - and managed such stars as Burgandy Dancer, Captain Sunburst, Dance for Lucy, Dancing Emerald, Hopenscope, Myrthful Mynx, and Truth Of It All - are realistic about the hold which Lasix has established.

"I've never liked it," said Wolfe, "but it was essential, in order to maintain racing. We know every trainer is not going to forgo Lasix, but this gives trainers a choice."

Stage Classic heads to Manitoba

Stage Classic, who worked five furlongs in 1:01 under regular rider Constant Montpellier on the fast main track here Wednesday, was scheduled to leave for Winnipeg along with groom Paul Eccleston Thursday for his engagement in Monday's $100,000 Manitoba Derby.

"Constant said he was just galloping," said Dave Cotey, who trains Stage Classic and owns the gelding, under his nom de course Dominion Bloodstock, in partnership with Derek Ball and Hugh Galbraith. "I was really pleased."

The same owners won the 1999 Manitoba Derby with Wafare Warrior, who was trained by Sandy McPherson. Eccleston also accompanied Wafare Warrior, who had warmed up with a win in the Derby Trial.

Stage Classic, a distant third behind Macho Uno here in last fall's Grade 1 Grey at 1 1/16 miles on the main track, is heading for Assiniboia Downs, following a second-place finish to the formidable Strut the Stage in the Grade 3 Toronto Cup, a 1 1/8-mile turf race here July 14.

The Manitoba Derby, a Grade 3, 1 1/8 mile race, will be simulcast by Woodbine and its teletheatre network. Post time here will be approximately 5:45 p.m.

Automated ships in from Kentucky

Automated, a 4-year-old owned by Glen Hill Farm and trained by Tom Proctor, arrived here from Churchill Downs late Tuesday afternoon and will run in Saturday's Royal North, a Grade 3 handicap for fillies and mares over six furlongs on turf.

A Florida-bred, Automated finished second in both the Grade 2 San Clemente over one mile at Del Mar on turf last August and the restricted Winter Solstice over 6 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita on grass this February.

"There are not a lot of sprint stakes for fillies and mares on turf," said Steve Rieser, who is caring for Automated pending Proctor's arrival.

"This one comes at a good time on the calendar, and Woodbine is famous for its turf course," he added. "We thought it was a good idea to come here and give it a go."