09/20/2006 12:00AM

Arnold making exit as barn door closes

Rusty Arnold will be based at Keeneland year round.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Though he has spent the majority of the last 22 years based primarily in New York, trainer Rusty Arnold knew that someday he would return to his old Kentucky home. He just didn't think someday would come right now.

But by the end of this month, Arnold will take virtually all of his horses out of Belmont Park's Barn 27 and bring them to Keeneland, where he will maintain a year-round stable. With the exception of Saratoga - he hopes - Arnold will no longer have a presence in New York.

Though he has not had any direct conversation with P.J. Campo, the New York Racing Association racing secretary who assigns the stalls, Arnold, 51, feels that Campo no longer wants him here. Arnold cites the fact that Campo never called to tell him his stalls were being cut from 20 to 12 at Saratoga and from 27 to 20 this fall. Arnold, who said he had horses stabled in New York since 1985, was notified about the cutbacks in a letter, the same type of letter Campo sends to all trainers who request stalls at NYRA tracks.

"I don't think he has any fault cutting me back," said Arnold, whose number of New York starters has dropped from 190 in 1999 to 50 last year. "Don't see any reasoning that he shouldn't have cut me back. I think he should have called me up. I think 22 years of your life given to a place is worth one phone call. I don't hold him at fault for anything other than lack of consideration to talk to somebody."

Campo said Arnold could have contacted him if he had any questions. Campo also said that he only cut Arnold back four stalls at this meet.

"If I called every single trainer that applied for stalls here, there wouldn't be enough time in the day," said Campo, who has been racing secretary here since July 2005. "He's acting like he was cut back dramatically. He hasn't said two words to me. He asked for 24, and I gave him 20. I thought that was more than fair."

Arnold won 4 races from 16 starters at Saratoga. Through Wednesday, the ninth day of this meet, Arnold had not started a horse at Belmont.

Arnold, who has won prestigious New York stakes such as the John A. Morris (now Personal Ensign), Shuvee, Test, Nassau County and Demoiselle, said pride has prevented him from calling Campo.

"Absolutely," he said. "Too old and too proud to beg."

Arnold, who was born and raised in Lexington, has 45 horses in training. Twenty are here and the others are based in Kentucky. With Keeneland switching to a synthetic Polytrack surface, Arnold will be able to keep horses there year-round while shipping selected horses to Florida in the winter and Saratoga in the summer. Arnold said he would still ship horses to New York for certain races.

"We can't survive without New York racing," Arnold said.

Campo said he would have no problem issuing Arnold stalls at Saratoga.

"I would love to have him for Saratoga," Campo said. "He might get 18 [stalls]. It depends. It goes from meet to meet."

One of the reasons Arnold's number of starters has dropped considerably is that in 2001 he lost a major client in John Peace, who moved approximately 22 horses to trainer George Weaver. Arnold said Peace had 90 percent colts while G. Watts Humphrey, Arnold's primary client, has mostly fillies.

"Have I replaced those horses? Yeah,'' Arnold said. "A couple of the operations I replaced them with are still fillies."

In recent years, Arnold has picked up clients such as Dixiana Stable and Dinwiddie Farm. William Shively, the proprietor of Dixiana Stable, has sent Arnold colts such as Letgomyecho and Mr. Goodkat, a recent maiden winner at Saratoga.

Arnold is high on unstarted maiden fillies Eye of the Hurricane and Farsi Strada and an unnamed daughter of Johannesburg.

Currently, the best horse in Arnold's care is Magical Ride, who will run in Saturday's Grade 1 Matron Stakes here. Magical Ride, a daughter of Storm Cat out of Arnold's Grade 1-winning mare Victory Ride, was most impressive winning her debut here in July. The speedy filly faded to third after setting a strong pace in the Grade 2 Adirondack at Saratoga.

"She's doing really, really well," Arnold said. "We have to answer a couple of questions. One is seven-eighths of a mile. We all know she's fast. She has to get that distance, but I think I had a few things that weren't perfect for the last race. I just feel like everything is going the right way. We're taking her over there the right way and now it's more up to her."