12/29/2006 12:00AM

Quarantine results in Calder scratches


Horses stabled at Payson Park, which has been quarantined because of equine herpesvirus, were scratched from Saturday's Grand Slam III program at Calder after the Florida Department of Agriculture decided Friday not to lift the quarantine.

"The horses Saturday will definitely be scratched," Calder racing secretary Mike Anifantis said Friday, "as likely will the horses Sunday barring an unexpected change of plans by the Department of Agriculture, and we will not take any entries from Payson for the remainder of the meet." The Calder meeting closes Tuesday.

In another development, a horse at Golden Gate Fields tested positive for equine herpes on Thursday, and on Friday three northern California tracks - Golden Gate, Bay Meadows, and Pleasanton - were placed under quarantine. Horses at the tracks cannot be shipped out of the area, but horses based at Bay Meadows and Pleasanton will be allowed to race at Golden Gate Fields, which is currently conducting a meeting. Horses shipping to northern California will have to remain there for the duration of the quarantine, which will be a minimum of 10 days, according to Dr. Rick Arthur, the California Horse Racing Board's equine medical director.

Equine herpesvirus is a contagious disease spread among horses. It carries flu-like symptoms, including fever or respiratory infection, and can prove fatal in extreme cases.

Royal Brass, a 3-year-old gelding from Lloyd Mason's barn, tested positive for the disease at the University of California-Davis equine hospital. All the horses in Mason's barn will be tested Saturday, as well as some horses in surrounding barns, and Mason's horses will be segregated from the rest of the horses on the grounds. No other horse shows symptoms of herpes, Arthur said.

In Florida, Gulfstream officials are hopeful the quarantine at Payson Park, in Indiantown Gap, will be lifted before the Gulfstream meet opens Wednesday. Dave Bailey, the racing secretary at Gulfstream, said he has been informed that there was a good chance the quarantine would be relaxed before the meet opens.

"Right now, unless I hear different, I plan to accept entries from horses stabled at Payson Park for opening day," Bailey said Friday. That program will be drawn Sunday.

The quarantine at Payson Park has been in effect since last Saturday, one day after a horse trained by John Hennig was found dead of an illness symptomatic of the equine herpesvirus. An autopsy on the horse, identified as Fast Act, confirmed he died of herpes, said Mark Fagan, a spokesman for the Department of Agriculture, on Friday.

"The deceased horse was confirmed to be positive for the herpesvirus in both nasal and swab tests done by the laboratory at the University of Kentucky," said Fagan.

Calder management decided Wednesday to take entries for Saturday for horses stabled at Payson with the hope the quarantine might be relaxed before the weekend. Among the horses affected by the quarantine is trainer Bill Mott's Saoirse Cat, one of the leading contenders in Saturday's Grade 3 Frances Genter Stakes.

According to Fagan, Dr. Thomas Holt, the department's director for the Division of Animal Industry, and Dr. Michael Short, an equine herpesvirus expert who has already toured Payson Park, are discussing the possibility of releasing some of the barns under quarantine at the facility.

- additional reporting by Chuck Dybdal