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Trainer Darren Bell hopes he can get a partial clearance to begin working some of his horses again as early as next week after a strangles outbreak in his stable.

Bell’s premises were shut down last month after three of 23 horses returned positive results to strangles, a highly contagious upper respiratory disease.

A fourth horse has since also returned a positive.

Only one of the four horses had ever raced and the positives are restricted to a smaller set of stables at Bell’s Caboolture complex, north of Brisbane.

Strangles can take two to four weeks to clear and usually there are no long-term effects.

However, it can be passed quickly from horse to horse which is why Bell’s stables have been locked down.

Horses from Deagon, where Bell works his horses, have been allowed to continue racing.

Bell said he had 13 horses in a barn where the strangles positive had been recorded and 14 horses in a barn where two sets of tests had been negative.

He is hoping a third set of tests on his 14-horse barn will at least allow him to start working those horses again.

“But it is a long process. It will probably cost $10,000 for all the testing of the horses,” Bell said.

“It has been a financial drain and it has naturally been playing on my mind.”

Bell said he would continue to employ his staff because there was even more work to be done in looking after the horses.

“It is hard to pinpoint how it got here but probably from an infected horse or a carrier horse in a paddock passing it on to one of ours,” he said.

“It can take up to two weeks to become apparent so you just have to wait.”

“The frightening thing is it could happen to anyone.”

The problem could not have come at a worse time for Bell who has been having a good winning streak in recent months.

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