02/10/2003 12:00AM

Shuman and vets searched


State regulators and track officials searched on Monday the Gulfstream Park barn of trainer Mark Shuman and two vehicles belonging to veterinarians connected to Shuman, the head of the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering said.

The searches were performed as part of an investigation into the death of Casual Conflict, according to Dave Roberts, the executive director of the division. Casual Conflict, a 9-year-old gelding trained by Shuman and owned by Michael Gill, was euthanized after suffering a catastrophic breakdown in his right front leg at Gulfstream on Feb. 7. The leg was later removed by one of the veterinarians who was searched on Monday.

The veterinarians, Philip Aleong and Leonard Patrick, were searched simultaneously, according to a horseman who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Regulators and track officials declined to comment on whether anything irregular was found, but one track official who declined to be identified said that substances were confiscated from Patrick's vehicle for further testing.

State investigators had been invited by track officials to witness the searches, Roberts said. Track officials declined comment on the searches except to confirm that they took place.

Aleong and Shuman did not return phone messages on Monday. Efforts to reach Patrick were unsuccessful.

Officials have said that Aleong amputated Casual Conflict's right front leg from the horse's dead body without authorization from track officials. The limb is being analyzed at the University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine.

The leg is being tested for banned substances, officials said, and the bone is being examined for any previous damage that may have contributed to the fatal injury. Shuman and Gill have said that Casual Conflict was not administered any illegal substances and that the horse had no problems with soundness.

Even before the searches were performed, Patrick was under the scrutiny of Gulfstream management. He was put on probation at the start of the meet for omissions on his application to practice at the track, according to Gulfstream president Scott Savin. He said the omissions were related to the veterinarian's past record.

Patrick's veterinary license was suspended in 1997 by Pennsylvania regulators after he was convicted of mail fraud and making false statements to a grand jury that was investigating the 1994 death of the horse Oblige. The conviction was reversed a year later when the prosecution's chief witness, Patrick Deo, the owner of Oblige, was prevented from testifying in Patrick's appeal. Patrick has denied wrongdoing, saying he was framed.

During the initial trial, Deo said he conspired with Patrick to kill Oblige to collect a $75,000 insurance payment. Patrick's license was reinstated by Pennsylvania regulators in 2001

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch