Odd Journey Ends Happily for Mister Acpen

Chilean group I turf winner Mister Acpen returned to training at Santa Anita earlier this month after more than a year long odyssey stemming from his contraction of a rare disease that was discovered upon his return to the United States from Hong Kong, trainer Kristin Mulhall revealed.

Now 7, Mister Acpen, a Chilean-bred son of Golden Voyager who is also a graded stakes winner in the U.S., last raced on Dec. 14, 2003 in the Hong Kong Mile (gr. IT) at Sha Tin Racecourse, finishing 10th for owners Neil Papiano, Steve Taub and Noctis Stable.

Mister Acpen, then 5, had passed the United States Department of Agriculture's test for the parasitic disease Babesiosis, also known as piroplasmosis, that is required by Hong Kong to enter China.

According to Mulhall, by the time Mister Acpen was ready to return to the U.S. after his disappointing effort and was again tested for piroplasmosis for re-entry to America, the USDA had adopted a more extensive test. Mister Acpen tested positive, she said.

When he arrived at Hollywood Park's quarantine facility in late December of 2003, Mister Acpen was placed in a 10x10 brick stall with no windows to prevent spreading of the disease while his owners fought with the USDA over the agency's plan to euthanize him.

"Basically they said they were going to keep him in the isolation stall until they disposed of him," Mulhall explained. "It was the saddest thing. It was pitch dark, there were no windows and nobody went near him. Neil (co-owner Papiano, an attorney) said there was no way he was going to allow them to destroy him, so they basically gave us 24 hours to find a place for him to go.

"Fortunately Holland said they'd accept him so we found an Arabian farm over there, where he stayed for 10 months or so. The good news was that the people in Holland take such great care of their horses and he received excellent care, but the bad news was that (the USDA) wouldn't let him back in the country."

While in Holland Mister Acpen underwent a form of chemotherapy designed to treat piroplamosis because a cure for the disease has yet to be discovered. Late last fall, after months of fighting the federal agency and more than $100,000 in legal action, Mister Acpen tested negative for piroplasmosis and was on his way back to the U.S. After a 30-day stop in Kentucky for quarantine, Mister Acpen arrived back at Santa Anita earlier this month.

"It's great having him back," Mulhall said after Mister Acpen returned to the track to jog for the first time in more than a year. "He seems like the same horse he was before he left. I am so glad. I never thought I'd see him again."

Mulhall said she hopes to have Mister Acpen ready to race for the Eddie Read Handicap (gr. IT) at Del Mar in July.

"That would be a nice comeback, wouldn't it? It would be a great birthday present," said Mulhall, referring to her 23rd birthday in July.

From 21 starts, Mister Acpen has won six times with three seconds and a third for earnings of $317,974. He won the Chilean Derby (gr. IT) and the Chilean Two Thousand Guineas (gr. IT) before being imported to America in 2002. He also won the Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT), finished second in the Charles H. Whittingham Handicap (gr. IT) and third in the Citation Handicap (gr. IIT).