11/08/2006 12:00AM

Zito's horses at Belmont placed in isolation


New York Racing Association officials on Wednesday ordered that horses trained by Nick Zito at Belmont Park be isolated from the rest of the track's horse population while test results are conducted on two of Zito's horses to determine if they have equine herpesvirus, a highly contagious disease that has led to the quarantine of Monmouth Park in New Jersey.

According to Bill Nader, NYRA's senior vice president, the two horses were shipped to Belmont from a clinic in New Jersey that was placed under quarantine on Nov. 3 after a horse there tested positive for herpesvirus. Nader said the Zito horses have displayed no symptoms of herpesvirus, which attacks a horse's upper respiratory and neurological systems.

"There's been no symptoms, no fever, no nothing," Nader said. "We're just taking every precaution possible, and we expect the tests to come back negative."

Under the restrictions, Zito's horses cannot train with other horses at Belmont but will be allowed to go to the main training track from 11 a.m. to noon. Nader said Zito voluntarily agreed to the restrictions.

The test results are expected on Friday, Nader said.

Tracks along the Eastern seaboard have been cautious about herpesvirus because of an outbreak of the disease at Monmouth. That track has been quarantined since Oct. 26 after four horses tested positive for the disease.

On Monday, Monmouth officials ordered the quarantine of additional horses on its backstretch after a 2-year-old colt stabled at the New Jersey track exhibited symptoms of equine herpesvirus over the weekend. Test results received Wednesday, however, indicated that the colt was negative for the disease, according to Chris McErlean, the vice president of racing operations for Monmouth and its sister track, the Meadowlands.

Monmouth is expected to be under a quarantine until at least Nov. 16, but the quarantine cannot be lifted without approval of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, McErlean said. It was uncertain if the latest incident would impact the quarantine schedule, McErlean said.