05/28/2005 12:00AM

Strangles suspect moved to hospital


ELMONT, N.Y. - As New York Racing Association officials heightened their surveillance of the Belmont Park backside for further evidence of strangles, the horse suspected of having the infectious disease has been moved from Belmont to the equine hospital at Cornell University.

Lady Libby, trained by Steve Kappes, was shipped to Cornell on Saturday morning for further evaluation while veterinarians wait on the results of her test for strangles. Lady Libby displayed classic symptoms of the disease on Friday. The horse had suffered from a fever, and her lymph nodes were swollen.

An early culture taken on Lady Libby was deemed negative for strangles. But Celeste Kunz, NYRA's chief examining veterinarian, said the horse had been on antibiotics for two weeks, possibly skewing the results.

"You can't call a culture in 24 hours," Kunz said. "This is the kind of disease you have to test [for] multiple times. I'm highly suspicious that this horse has it."

Horses stabled in Barn 60, where Lady Libby was based, were tested for strangles. Those horses will remain in quarantine and are not allowed to mix with the general population for the foreseeable future. Horses claimed since May 1 will all be tested, according to Kunz, who has taken an aggressive approach in attempting to identify and prevent the possible spreading of the disease.

* Horses shipping from Belmont to other tracks on Saturday encountered some difficulties getting into those tracks.

Jets Fan, trained by Mike Hushion, and Personal Touch, trained by Brad Wallace, were denied entry to Philadelphia Park to run in Saturday's $100,000 Dan Levine Handicap. Sal Sinatra, the Philadelphia Park racing secretary, said Hushion's horse was denied entry because Hushion had claimed a horse trained by Gary Sciacca, whose horses are stabled in Barn 60. Sinatra said Personal Touch came on the same van as Hushion's horse.

At Monmouth Park, a van full of horses shipping in from New York was held up at the stable gate for several hours while officials there decided on a course of action. Monmouth officials decided to establish quarantine barns to isolate the New York shippers, but did permit them to run.

* As a result of a confirmed case of strangles at Delaware Park and a suspected case of strangles at Belmont, the Maryland Jockey Club will not allow horses from those tracks to ship to Pimlico Race Course, Laurel Park, or the Bowie Training Center until further notice. Horses who travel from the Maryland tracks to Belmont or Delaware will not be permitted to return.

Preakness winner Afleet Alex is stabled at Pimlico and has delayed his departure to Belmont indefinitely. Preakness runner-up Scrappy T, who is under consideration for the Belmont, is currently stabled at Bowie.

- additional reporting by Mike Farrell