07/28/2005 11:00PM

Horsemen: We'll cope with stalls

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - As the New York Racing Association continued to make improvements to Saratoga's controversial race-day security barns, several horsemen voiced their support for the project Friday.

At a midafternoon news conference at the track, trainers David Donk and Gary Contessa and owner John Oxley said that aside from the 9-by-9-foot stalls - which most everyone agrees are too small - other safety issues have been remedied to their satisfaction.

The race-day security barns, created to eliminate the administration of banned medication, consist of two permanent barns and three temporary structures. On Thursday, NYRA began relieving some of the congestion in two of the temporary structures by reducing a double row of stalls to a single row. This eliminated a total of 12 stalls, but the barns will still be able to house 98 horses.

Concerns that there were not enough electrical outlets for individual fans at every stall in the temporary structures have been alleviated. Rubber mats arrived Friday morning and were being put over the plywood flooring in the stalls as the races were conducted Friday afternoon. While the horsemen believe the stalls are too small, some said they are willing to live with it.

"The stalls are too small, but after today there's 33 days left in the meet. I've got a horse in every day this week and I haven't had a problem," said Donk, a staunch supporter of the security barns and a member of the board of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. "We'll make do."

Said Contessa, "There's not much we can do about that. We're just going to have to live with it."

Oxley lauded the security barn concept and said he would have no problem putting an expensive 2-year-old in one of the smaller stalls.

"Perhaps it's better to have a smaller stall, because if they're a young horse and they're a little skittish they don't have more room to run around and harm themselves," Oxley said.

Charles Hayward, NYRA's president and CEO, admitted the setup is "not ideal" and said he hopes to make changes by next year's Saratoga meet. NYRA, however, is strapped for cash, and it costs $1 million to build a barn, he said.