If railbirds happen to see former Maryland-bred champion Gala Spin- away galloping at Laurel Park in a couple of weeks, take note: It's not a mirage.
The 7-year-old, who was retired to stud last fall and was expected to breed his first book of mares this spring, has shown little interest in his new career and is being returned to the racetrack.
Larry Murray, manager of Glade Valley Farm near Frederick, where the horse was retired last year, said that Gala Spinaway "just never got it together" in the breeding shed and refused to breed a mare.
"We even turned him out in a field with mares," Murray added.
Murray said that it's possible the horse's dysfunction can be attributed to an operation that occurred after he was retired.
"When he was fit, he had a hernia," Murray said, "but it was not a problem. But after he retired, the hernia let down and part of his intestine ended up in his scrotum."
"He was operated on and one testicle was removed. However, there are plenty of horses around that are still fertile and can breed with one testicle."
Murray said it is the first time in his memory that a horse has been retired to Glade Valley, proved unwilling to breed and was put back in training.
First-year stallions Lure and Furiously also have been experiencing difficulties starting their stud careers in Kentucky.
Murray said that Gala Spinaway, who was always a tough character to deal with at the track, has been returned to training at Glade Valley and will soon be sent back to his old trainer, Graham Motion, at Laurel.
"We just hope he makes it back to the races," Murray said. "Who knows if he'll return to his old form?"
The horse suffered some soft-tissue damage in an ankle last summer, which prompted his retirement, but Murray said he is now sound.
Another well-known local stakes winner, Finder's Choice, faced a similar breeding problem a couple of years ago. He was not returned to training, but was gelded and converted into a jumper before dying of colic.
During the first phase of his career, Gala Spinaway won or placed in 21 stakes races for owners Gertrude and Skip Leviton, earned $691,867 and won added-money events each year from age 2 through age 5.
He was named champion Maryland-bred 3-year-old in 1991 and at one time was involved in an intense rivalry with Grade I winner Valley Crossing.
While Gala Spinaway has had more than his share of breeding problems, Horse of the Year Holy Bull appears to be well on his way to a successful stud career.
Within the last couple of days, the first four mares bred to the 4-year-old colt have been examined and are pregnant.
The mares include stakes winners Second Glance, Lady Sonata and Beyond Perfection, as well as multiple stakes producer Beau Gris.
Once a mare has been bred, it takes 14 days to determine whether she is pregnant.
Holy Bull is scheduled to breed 50 mares this spring. He was retired after breaking down in the Donn Handicap in February.
NOTES: Brian Jones has replaced Patrick "Pappy" Manuel as head assistant for trainer Carlos Garcia. Manuel recently took over the racing string of owner John Polek of Timonium. Jones formerly worked for trainer Tim Ritchey at Laurel. The Garcia-trained He's Got Gall worked five furlongs in 1 minute, 1 3/5 seconds at Laurel on Monday and is being pointed for the April 22 Federico Tesio Stakes. . . . Another Tesio nominee, Allan Spath's Mighty Magee, worked out at Pimlico on Monday, going five furlongs in 59 1/5 seconds. Spath recently acquired the horse's dam, Final Vows, and has bred her to 1993 2-year-old champion Dehere.