Extra precautions are being taken to ensure Belmont Park is safe for horses running in the June 11 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) because of a suspected case of the contagious respiratory disease strangles. A special barn for out-of-state horses competing in the Belmont is being prepared to eliminate any chance of spreading the disease.
"We are fixing up a barn--which right now is Barn 14--that will be completely secure and open to all shippers coming in for races on the Belmont Stakes day card," New York Racing Association racing secretary Mike Lakow said. "There are about 30 stalls there, which will be power-washed, disinfected, painted, and made totally secure."
Belmont Stakes horses already on the grounds will be moved to Barn 8 on race day.
Horses infected with strangles usually have a rapid onset of fever, followed by swelling and abscess formation in their lymph nodes, which narrows their airway passages. It is seldom fatal but can sideline a horse for several weeks.
Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Giacomo has been training at Hollywood Park in California and was expected to be shipped to New York June 7. Trainer Tim Ritchey, who has kept Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Afleet Alex at Pimlico Race Course in Maryland, said he's waiting until NYRA officials have control of the situation before he sends his colt to New York.
"I didn't want to put his health at risk, and would never do that," Ritchey said. "I would have liked to have been at Belmont to have him train over that racetrack. Hopefully, we can ship (June 4)."
NYRA officials said tests on horses by a local laboratory and one at the University of Illinois came up negative. About 30 horses in Barn 60 were quarantined the week of May 23 when Lady Libby developed a high fever. The horse was isolated and sent to Cornell University for testing and treatment.
"The problem with her was that she was treated with antibiotics," Lakow said. "Her tests so far are negative, but her medication may have affected the test results."
The quarantined horses were allowed on the training track June 1, but only after regular training hours ended at 10:30 a.m. EDT. NYRA vice president Bill Nader said three rounds of tests will be taken, but the negative results from the first round were encouraging.
"We have the situation under control," Nader said, "but we are going to continue to take every precaution to maintain a high level of confidence for horsemen stabled on and off the grounds."
Since early this year, there have been cases of strangles or suspected strangles at racetracks and training facilities in Kentucky, Florida, Indiana, and Delaware.