04/24/2003 11:00PM

New policy for Belmont irks trainers

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The directive by the New York Racing Association mandating that all horses entered for the June 7 Belmont Stakes must be stabled in the same barn at least one day before the race has angered some horsemen.

NYRA's new policy, announced Thursday, states that all horses arriving at Belmont Park after 3 p.m. Wednesday, June 4, must be stabled in Barn 5, the designated Belmont Stakes barn. The rule also stipulates that trainers with assigned barns at Belmont may keep their Belmont Stakes horses in those barns until 3 p.m. Friday, June 6.

Bobby Frankel, trainer of Kentucky Derby favorite Empire Maker, was particularly miffed at the idea, calling it "stupid" and not in the best interests of the horse.

"I'm not going to do it," said Frankel, who will have horses stabled in barns 1, 2, and 3 during the Belmont meet, which opens on May 7. "You take a nervous horse and put him in a new home and all of a sudden you move him from one stall to another right before the race? Let them put a guard at every horse 24 hours before the race; it's not like you're going to have 50 horses. They're doing a stupid thing."

Frankel said being forced to stable in one barn could be disruptive to a horse.

"Everybody's got different schedules," he said. "One guy comes in at 7; another comes in at 9. They're not thinking of the horse."

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, a four-time winner of the Belmont Stakes, said he is all for added security, but disagreed with the way NYRA is going about it.

"I would vote for round-the-clock investigative surveillance people in front of the horse from Wednesday on," said Lukas, whose horses are stabled in Barn 10 at Belmont. "I will pay for it personally because I'm not going to do anything that isn't right anyhow. As far as moving the horse, I think that's disruptive."

"The one thing we fight as trainers is trying to keep it calm, keep it settled. Most horses take more than 36 to 48 hours to settle into a new environment. You put that situation to them, I think it's counter-productive."

Terry Meyocks, NYRA president and COO, said the reasoning behind the rule was to create a level playing field for all participants while providing for greater security. Meyocks said that the Belmont Stakes barn would be open as early as May 7.

Meyocks added that the rule might be applied for other major stakes such as the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on May 26.