12/23/2006 1:00AM

Herpes suspected in death


MIAMI – The barn area at Payson Park training center in Indiantown Gap, Fla., was quarantined Saturday after a horse stabled at the facility died Friday evening of an illness symptomatic of equine herpesvirus, according to Mark Fagan, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Agriculture. Fagan confirmed that the deceased horse was trained by John Hennig.

The decision to quarantine Payson Park was made following an inspection by a representative from the department of agriculture. It is not known how long the quarantine will be in effect, Fagan said. On Dec. 11, a horse with a confirmed case of equine herpes was removed from the grounds at Calder Race Course in Miami, which is located approximately 90 miles south of Payson Park.

Payson Park is a private training center that houses some of the top barns racing in south Florida during the winter season. Among the trainers stabled at Payson are Bill Mott, Christophe Clement, Mark Hennig, John Kimmel, Tom Albertrani, and a large contingent of horses belonging to the Darley Stable, including the 3-year-old sensation Discreet Cat. It’s unclear how this could affect the 2007 Gulfstream Park meet, which opens on Jan. 3. Gulfstream Park is just north of Miami.

According to Dr. Mary Scollay, the track veterinarian at Calder Race Course, the horse who died arrived at Payson following recent surgery at the same equine hospital in Palm Beach County that had treated the infected horse at Calder.

“Autopsy results on the horse who died last night at Payson will not be available until Tuesday at the earliest, but considering all the symptoms and conditions surrounding its death, it would be naive to assume this is anything but another case of equine herpes,” said Scollay on Saturday.

All horses stabled at Payson that were scheduled to race on Saturday’s program at Calder were scratched, as were those already entered for Sunday and Tuesday’s cards. In addition, no further entries for horses housed at Payson will be taken at Calder until the restriction is lifted by the department of agriculture. Tampa Bay Downs also postponed Saturday’s scheduled entry draw for next Friday’s program until Tuesday, according to track officials.

“Obviously this situation will have a big impact on all of us stabled here, especially if it should continue for a while,” said Kimmel on Saturday. Kimmel also has a division stabled at Gulfstream. “I had one in tomorrow and another in Tuesday at Calder who won’t be able to run. I was also planning on shuffling some horses from here at Payson down to my barn at Gulfstream so I could bring some new stock in, and I can’t do that either. I also have horses scheduled to ship to Keeneland for the upcoming sales, and they could even wind up missing their opportunity to go to the marketplace as a result of all this.”

The Keeneland horses of all ages sale begins on Jan. 8.