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Horsing around nearly fatal

Sunday, June 03, 2001

It could have been a tragedy, this story about the newly one-eared pacer training for his debut at The Meadows. But sexually precocious 2-year-old Michael's Western survived his hormones, albeit without a few parts and with the nickname "Holyfield."

"He was always a handful, hard to hook up, hard to break, tough on the track," breeder/trainer Dan Altmeyer said.

But none of the colt's antics prepared Altmeyer for what Michael's Western pulled one early morning in late February.

Seems like the colt got a bit interested in a 2-year-old filly on the other side of a wall of his stall. The way Altmeyer figured, he must have started rearing and jumping, trying to get to her.

He dug a hole in the dirt floor, got a leg stuck and panicked.

"When we got there he was sitting down cast [stuck] in the hole. He kept beating his head against the wall. ... He couldn't even stand. He was in shock. Blood was everywhere."

It was 5:30 a.m. when he was found, and several people worked to get him out of the hole. At 6, a vet arrived and started pumping him full of fluids to bring Michael's Western out of shock. It took 12 big jugs. The vet told Altmeyer the colt was about a half hour or an hour away from dying when the treatment started.

There were additional problems.

"His ear was actually nearly cut off, his eyelid was cut, his lower lip," Altmeyer said.

None of them could be stitched, so they had to heal on their own. Nature's way of dealing with it was to dry up the nearly amputated parts. His injured ear, eyelid and 2 inches of his lower lip fell off.

"He's ugly as heck," Altmeyer said. "The vet [jokingly] suggested we cut the other ear off, so he'd at least be even."

Instead, the veterinarian gelded, or castrated, him about a week later. That took care of his interest in fillies and his penchant for making trouble.

Everything is healed now, and Michael's Western has trained down to pacing miles in 2 minutes and 6 seconds, and Altmeyer said he's about two weeks away from his first baby race. Altmeyer hopes Michael's Western will progress fast enough to make his stakes debut in a Pennsylvania Sires event over the Fourth of July weekend.

Michael's Western is staked to everything a 2-year-old can be staked to, and Altmeyer believes he's going to be a very good horse.

Classy Pat Day

This story illustrates why jockey Pat Day is considered one of the classiest guys in thoroughbred racing:

Day was one win away from his 8,000th victory and without a mount heading into the last race at Churchill Downs, his home track, May 27. He really wanted to get the milestone under the Twin Spires, but he had no mount in the last race on the card and he was riding the next day at Belmont Park. For that reason, Churchill trainer Bill Million offered to give him Greta Kuntzweiler's scheduled ride on Steel Petal. Kuntzweiler had OK'd the offer.

Day said thanks but declined.

Kuntzweiler and Steel Petal won comfortably.

After the race, Day said, "I would love to have done it here, but we didn't. So, Lord willing, we'll get it done up there [in New York], and if not then, here on Thursday."

As it turned out, Day did not get the victory at Belmont. He got it Thursday at Churchill Downs.

See ya later, gator

The start of the eighth race at Pompano Park (Fla.) was delayed May 19 while everyone waited for a 5-foot alligator to cross the backstretch of the track and make his way into the infield pond.

After it cleared the oval, the track crew had to resmooth the surface over the gator's tail and foot tracks.

"It's nothing new, but always exciting," said Pompano paddock judge Bobby Owens. " Once we had to shoo one off with a broom because he did not want to go back into the infield pond.

Krone goes jumping

Retired Hall of Fame thoroughbred jockey Julie Krone displayed skill in still another equestrian event, winning the High Hope Steeplechase May 21 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky. She partnered Seignorial in the fund raiser for the Central Kentucky Riding for the Handicapped and the Kentucky Horse Park Foundation.

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