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Horse Racing: Surgery helps Chip Ralston with club foot

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Chip Ralston made fans with a heroic race in the third leg of the Amulet Farm Early Closer for 2-year-old pacing colts at The Meadows July 19.

Another horse ran into him shortly after the start. He broke stride and nearly went to his knee.

At that point, a young horse making his third career start usually would keep on running out of fear, but Chip got right back on stride. Only problem, he was an estimated 15 lengths off the field.

Didn't matter to him.

"[He] started making up ground ... he just kept on going," breeder-owner Marylee Childs said.

Chip Ralston ended up finishing third, albeit about 13 lengths behind the winner.

"I think he was a little bit tired," Childs said.

That was understandable. Nevertheless, horsemen and fans were impressed.

They would have been more impressed if his past performance lines in the program had mentioned that he was "born with club foot."

Chip Ralston is the second foal out of Come Chris Ralston, a longtime campaigner at The Meadows who earned more than $100,000 and retired with a career mark of 1:56 3/5. His sire is Amity Chip, another longtime competitor at The Meadows who earned nearly $375,000 and had a lifetime mark of 1:53.

Childs said Chip appeared to be perfect when he was foaled in May 2001 -- except for the fact that his color was unusual: light tan with white legs, belly and rump. After he was weaned, he ran the fields on the Millerstown, Ohio, farm where he was born with ease.

But Childs, who lives in Ross and traveled about 170 miles each way to visit each weekend, realized as time went on that one of his feet was changing and deteriorating. It was a club foot, and she thought his career was over before it started.

Then, she picked up a book by a veterinarian called "Blessed Are the Foals." In it was a chapter about a surgery that could correct the club foot, which is caused by a ligament problem.

The owner of the farm where she boards her mare and foals found a veterinarian in Grove City, Ohio, who had experience with the surgery. Though Dr. Paul Rothaug usually did the surgery on 4-month-old foals, he thought it could be successful for the 13-month-old Chip Ralston. Obviously, it was.

The race described above was his third start. He was last in his first start, but ran the last quarter-mile in 29 seconds and finished in 2:04 -- four seconds faster than he had gone before. In his second start, he finished second in a race at the Dayton County Fair.

He was scheduled for his fourth start in another leg of the Amulet Farm series last night.

Share in Tom Ridge sold

Kenny Ross of auto-dealership fame has sold a third of his undefeated 2-year-old trotting colt Tom Ridge for a half-million dollars to Canadian R. Peter Heffering. Ross owns 50 percent of the colt, and trainer Jimmy Taktor owns 16 2/3 percent. The colt is 4 for 4, all of his starts in stakes. He'll race next in the Peter Haughton final at The Meadowlands Thursday.

Santos honored

Fans selected Jose Santos, Funny Cide's jockey, as winner of the ESPY Award for best jockey. Other nominees for the award, sponsored by ESPN, were Jerry Bailey, Mike Smith and John Velazquez.

Good opening days

Are the compelling story of Funny Cide's Triple Crown campaign and the movie about Seabiscuit drawing more people to racing?

It's too soon to tell for sure, but attendance figures in from opening days at Del Mar and Saratoga Wednesday are promising.

Del Mar drew 40,682, its highest opening-day figure in history and second-largest all-time crowd behind the 44,181 who watched Cigar lose his 16-race winning streak in the 1996 Pacific Classic.

Saratoga drew 28,220 fans despite torrential rain -- just a few thousand short of the 32,913 it attracted in sunshine last year.

Pohla Smith can be reached atpsmith@post-gazette.com .

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