04/01/2005 1:00AM

Three cases of strangles found at Tampa Bay


Officials at Tampa Bay Downs reported Friday that three horses stabled at the track have tested positive for strangles. The affected barn has been placed under quarantine and the infected horses, all of whom are trained by the same trainer, have been isolated in a separate area.

The report is the latest finding of the infection, following cases at the Palm Meadows Training center in south Florida and the Trackside training facility in Louisville. Ky.

Dr. William Owens, the veterinarian for the infected horses and their stablemates, said in a statement that the three horses did not display the common symptoms of the disease.

"Strangles is a bacterial infection that typically results in fever, nasal discharge, and swelling of the lymph nodes," said Owens in the statement. "However, in these cases the horses did not present the classic signs. The horses had an ongoing fever that prompted me to test for the infection."

Peter Berube, vice president and general manager of Tampa, would not disclose the name of the trainer whose horses tested positive for the contagious disease or the two other trainers in that barn. Owens could not be reached for comment. Berube did confirm that the three horses in question have been at Tampa all winter and that the trainer did not ship into the track from either south Florida or Kentucky.

Also on Friday, officials at Calder relaxed some of their guidelines for shipping horses into the track. Beginning Saturday, the stable area will be open to all horses, except those under restriction at the Palm Meadows training center and Gulfstream Park, as well as all horses from Tampa.

Elsewhere, horses being shipped from Florida to California must have health certificates stating they have not been exposed to strangles or shown signs of an upper respiratory infection, the California Horse Racing Board announced Friday.

The health certificate must include a recording of the rectal temperature of the traveling horse, and must be signed by a veterinarian. The certificate must be completed within two days of a horse being transported.