03/30/2005 1:00AM

Strangles suspect tests negative


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - A preliminary strangles test on the horse who prompted the isolation of trainer Randy Schulhofer's horses at Palm Meadows has come back negative, and the Gulfstream track veterinarian recommended Wednesday that Schulhofer's horses be allowed to train with the general population.

The horse, Sky Conqueror, exhibited symptoms of strangles, a contagious bacterial disease, last week. As a result, Sky Conqueror was placed in quarantine and all of the horses in that barn, which included those trained by Schulhofer and Eric Coatrieux, were placed in isolation. The isolated horses weren't allowed to train each morning until the rest of the horses at Palm Meadows were off the track, nor were they allowed to race. Schulhofer's barn is adjacent to that of Dale Romans, who had five horses at Palm Meadows test positive for strangles earlier this month and whose barn is still in quarantine.

Sky Conqueror is still in quarantine, pending the results of a second test, to be taken Thursday.

"The symptomatic horse has tested negative for the bacterial DNA associated with strangles, which means he was not a potential source of the infection at the time he was quarantined," explained Dr. Mary Scollay, the Gulfstream veterinarian. "And since all the other horses in that barn have also tested negative, my recommendation is that all restrictions be removed and that they be allowed to return to the general horse population."

Scollay said the final decision on releasing Schulhofer and Coatrieux's horses from isolation would come from Dr. Robert Jeter, chief veterinarian for the Department of Agriculture in the state of Florida.

"I feel real good after receiving this news," said Schulhofer. "It means none of my other horses have any chance of getting the disease and hopefully the restriction on my barn will be lifted and I can finally get on my way again."

Also on Wednesday, horses in a barn at Gulfstream were placed in isolation and can not train with the other horses nor race. The horses in that barn, Barn 17, are trained by Scott Lake, Gary Sciacca, and Romans. Two of the horses from that barn, the Sciacca-trained Royal Sanction and the Lake-trained Cutoffs, were scratched from Wednesday's program at Gulfstream.

According to Scollay, the horses in Barn 17 were put in isolation because a horse from the barn trained by Romans became symptomatic for strangles after shipping to Kentucky two weeks ago. The horse is at Rood and Riddle Clinic in Lexington, Ky.

"Perhaps we are overacting a bit since the original horse left here two weeks ago, but at this time we cannot be too cautious," said Gulfstream Park president Scott Savin. "We'll expedite the testing on all horses in Barn 17 and if all test negative they should be back in the entries by next Wednesday."