05/18/2005 11:00PM

Little Hussy in solid turf form

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Five-furlong turf races for young horses primarily attract two types of runners: dirt sprinters with little grass form and turf horses whose experience has come mostly in routes.

Little Hussy breaks the mold, having raced three times on turf, including twice in grass sprints. That important grass experience will likely make her the favorite over stakes winners Angel Trumpet and Flying Circle in Saturday's five-furlong Open Mind Stakes over the Churchill Downs turf course.

enters the Open Mind in top form. Last fall, in her final start at 2, she ran third at Woodbine in the Grade 3 Natalma Stakes behind Fearless Flyer, an Irish invader. This year, in her lone 2005 start, she was a close second behind older horses in a two-other-than allowance going five furlongs on turf at Gulfstream on April 9. She earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 89.

"That was an extremely good race," said John Ward, who trains Little Hussy for John Oxley.

Facing strictly 3-year-olds fillies in the $100,000 Open Mind, she should be a force. Pat Day rides.

head the opposition. Angel Trumpet, a front-runner with questionable stamina, appears well suited to the five-furlong distance but is untested on turf. Flying Circle, by contrast, has already won a turf sprint and most recently scored a six-furlong dirt victory in the Snurb Stakes at Calder on April 25.

Herpes outbreak has many concerned

Ward said he has no reservations about shipping Little Hussy from Arlington to Churchill, where two horses were euthanized recently when they were believed to be suffering from severe cases of neurologic equine herpes.

"They're on top of the situation," he said, referring to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and Churchill Downs.

Other horsemen voiced concerns Thursday regarding the perceived herpes outbreak and a quarantine of several barns, ranging from restrictions placed on their business to how the contagious airborne virus would be controlled.

Trainer Paul McGee, one of six trainers affected by a quarantine order that restricts over 100 horses from being shipped, trained, or raced, expressed frustration at being unable to run his 32 Churchill-based horses, all of whom are healthy, he said. McGee's horses had shared a barn with an unraced Bill Cesare-trained 2-year-old who was euthanized after displaying what state officials believe was equine herpes.

McGee said state officials have informed him that his horses will be unable to run until, at the earliest, 21 days from the time the Cesare 2-year-old became ill. He estimated this would mean his horses could race in early June, but only if they could resume training in the coming days.

He couldn't quantify the financial loss but said, "I make my living by percentages of what horses earn - zero percent of zero is zero."

Trainer Ron Ellis, whose lone Kentucky-based horse at Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby's fourth-place finisher, Don't Get Mad, is stabled with McGee, said his horse will not start in the May 28 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont because of the quarantine. A backup race, the June 18 Northern Dancer Stakes at Churchill Downs, may also have to be missed if Don't Get Mad is unable to resume training soon, he said.

The quarantine "seems an overreaction by the state," he said.

Even if temporary training hours are established to allow the quarantined horses to train separately from the general horse population, as McGee hopes, he and other affected trainers expect to lose money.

"Right now I use three gallop boys and a freelancer," he said. "But if I have a short time to get them out, I might have to use eight or 10 guys."

Dr. Robert Stout, Kentucky's state veterinarian, said Thursday that there have been no "substantial changes" to the number of horses believed affected by the neurologic form of the herpes virus, which is believed to total at least six.

A training period for the quarantined horses is under consideration. "When we feel like we get to a safe scenario, we'll get back to Churchill," he said.

Other trainers, including those not directly affected by the quarantine, were concerned that the virus would spread to the general horse population. The virus can be transferred among susceptible horses much like a common cold. Young horses are typically those most affected.

In a meeting with track officials Wednesday morning, non-quarantined horsemen questioned how horse-to-horse contact could be limited between ponies and racehorses and whether shipping companies would help control the spread of the virus by disinfecting their vans.

"After driving on the road for 18 hours, the last thing drivers are going to want to do is go clean their truck," trainer Chuck Simon said.

* Isabell's Shoes, who had been pointing to the Open Mind, fractured a sesamoid in her left front leg in a workout Tuesday and has been retired, trainer William Fires said.