Chamber puts new life in Reactor's mission
Regular sessions in a hyperbaric chamber are helping Auckland Reactor combat his sensitivity to allergies in the countdown to his campaign opener in the United States.
And new trainer Kelvin Harrison says the Kiwi star is going so well just two weeks out from his first qualifying trial, he believes the Reactor will have no trouble living up to the hype around him.
"If we have no hiccups, he'll be the best I've ever had.
"The way he feels, and the way he's come back, I'm very excited about what he can achieve in the next few months."
Harrison, 60, an expat Kiwi, said Auckland Reactor had come out of a "brutal winter" in great shape, but with the change of season he had instigated a programme to make sure the spring grass, weeds, pollen and dust did not affect him.
For the last three weeks, the Reactor has been treated three times a week in a hyperbaric chamber, similar to those used to treat humans, "by far the best therapy" Harrison has come across for respiratory problems.
In the chamber, the horse breathes 100% oxygen, in an atmospheric pressure twice that of normal, which accelerates healing, promoting an increase in tissue oxygenation by as much as 13 times.
Auckland Reactor had responded to the treatment, which costs $US300 a time.
"The first time I had him scoped over here, the vet nailed it straight away that he was a chronic allergy horse.
"He produces a tremendous amount of mucous and the extremes in the weather here make it worse for him.
"That's my only real concern with him – how he'll handle the hot weather with his allergies – but we can keep an eye on that through regular scoping."
Harrison said the allergy issue was revealed when local expert Dr Patty Hogan scoped the horse soon after his arrival in early February to ascertain whether the horse would need surgery for an ulcerated soft palate.
Leading Canterbury vet Dr Bill Bishop made the dramatic discovery after the Reactor's last race, the Miracle Mile, that the horse had been intermittently flipping his soft palate, cutting off his airway.
Bishop recommended that, with rest and medical treatment, Auckland Reactor could recover completely and when Hogan checked the horse a couple of months after that diagnosis she found he was almost completely better.
"She didn't feel surgery was necessary so we just treated him with throat spray, didn't stress him, only jogged him, and when I took him back in early March she said we could start training him in another week," said Harrison.
"I scoped him again recently after working him over a half [800m] in a minute and everything is good now, the ulcer has healed perfectly."
Harrison said Auckland Reactor had had a nice, uninterrupted preparation, thanks largely to his falling sick only a week after arriving at his stable.
"Horses coming up here normally get sick after you stress them for the first time, when you put your first big run into them, but we'd only been jogging him for one week when he got the virus.
"We treated him for five days and he responded tremendously. He missed only 10 to 12 days' work.
"He's very, very fit now and is ready to roll.
"I'm looking to qualify him at the Meadowlands on May 1 and he'll probably have three or four of those runs.
"I want him to learn how to race our way; I'll take him off the gate, sit him in the field, and get him to finish on right."
Harrison said while he had not got the horse out of second gear yet – the fastest he's worked has been 2400 metres in 3:08, last mile in 2:03 and half in 59 – he could already tell he was a natural.
"You can just tell right away that he's very, very special."
The presence of trusty Kiwi sidekick Jeremy Young, who also jogged the horse, had undoubtedly helped Auckland Reactor in his new surroundings, at Chesterfield in central New Jersey, Harrison said.
Safely through his qualifiers, Harrison plans to step the Reactor out for the first time on raceday on June 13 at Tioga Downs in the $US200,000 Bettor's Delight Final and then hopefully get an invitation to compete in the $US200,000 Dan Patch at Hoosier Park on June 26.
All up, the horse has been staked to compete in races worth more than $US3.5 million in the next six months.
"I'm looking forward to it. If everything goes according to Hoyle, he could be an unbelievable horse."
Sunday Star Times