09/19/2001 12:00AM

Big A quarantine barn ready


NEW YORK - The New York Racing Association's quarantine facility at Aqueduct was approved for immediate use on Tuesday by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The Aqueduct facility had been closed to foreign-based horses traveling to New York since earlier this year when the USDA established restrictions in response to hoof-and-mouth disease in Europe.

Foreign horses shipping to New York were required to spend 48 hours at the USDA's facility in Newburgh, N.Y., a two-hour drive north of Belmont Park and Aqueduct, before arriving at the tracks. Only USDA officials were allowed to care for horses while they were at the Newburgh facility.

The USDA had already announced that Aqueduct's quarantine barn would be open for horses coming for the World Thoroughbred Champion-

ships at Belmont Park on Oct. 27. NYRA officials said the immediate reopening of the facility will make things easier on trainers shipping European runners to Belmont for key Breeders' Cup prep races such as the $750,000 Turf Classic Invitational and the $750,000 Flower Bowl Invitational, both on Sept. 29, and the $250,000 Kelso Handicap on Oct. 6.

Mike Lakow, NYRA's racing secretary, said the connections of three European group winners skipped the $250,000 Garden City Breeders' Cup on Sept. 9 because they didn't want to send their horses to Newburgh.

"We're happy about the decision and grateful that the USDA approved our facility effective immediately," Lakow said. "Since they won't have to quarantine at Newburgh, it solves a major problem for foreign horsemen in that it will be much more convenient to ship here to run - Karen M. Johnson