Maryland Jockey Club officials are hopeful they will be able to lift the equine herpesvirus quarantine at Pimlico Race Course Feb. 4, MJC chief operating officer Lou Raffetto said at a news conference at Laurel Park Jan.27. Raffetto placed the quarantine on the track Jan. 21.
In addition to lifting the quarantine, Raffetto indicated Laurel would likely move a pair of grade II sprints on President's Day weekend to March. The $300,000 Barbara Fritchie Breeders' Cup Handicap--scheduled for Feb.18--and the $300,000 General George Breeders' Cup Handicap--set for Feb. 20--are the marquee races of the Laurel winter meet.
Since Jan. 1, 11 horses at Pimlico have tested positive for the virus. Three horses have been euthanized, while eight horses are currently in isolation in the detention barn. Barns 5, 6, and A are in isolation from the general population after having horses show symptoms of the virus.
"We are hopeful, based on the evidence to date, barring any other incidents at Pimlico, that we may be able to remove that quarantine effective (Feb. 4)," Raffetto said. "Barn 5 will be out of isolation on (Jan. 30). The hold order would remain in place until it is lifted from Barn 6 and Barn A, and we would go back to the plan that was in place initially with other horses at Pimlico being allowed to run at Laurel, with the holds on the other barns until they are released.
"There is some good news here. We are moving in the right direction. We're hopeful that we have this under control."
The morning of Jan.27, the Maryland Department of Agriculture placed an initial "Investigational Animal Hold Order" on Barn 9 at Laurel after a horse was euthanized.
"We can't really say more about it than that it does not appear to have been a herpes case, but we cannot exclude herpes as a cause so we are treating that as a suspect," said Guy Hohenhaus, the state veterinarian.
"There was a question of lameness in this horse a few days prior," Raffetto said. "There is a feeling that this may be a broken pelvis. This is purely a precautionary measure as we've tried to take all along. We've tried to take extra measures."
The outrider's pony that was removed from Laurel to Pimlico after testing positive on a blood test Jan. 23 tested negative on nasal swabs, which means the animal is not infectious to other animals. It will be released from a hold order Jan. 27 and returned to duty.
The Jan. 26 suspected cases of equine herpesvirus caused the Maryland state veterinarian to place an "Investigational Animal Hold Order" on a private farm in Kent County. The farm is used as an off-track training facility for a Pimlico-based trainer.
The farm received a horse from Pimlico Jan. 10 after the 2-year-old spent the three previous days in Barn A while enroute from Ocala, Fla. The Maryland Department of Agriculture is waiting for test results, which are expected next week, to determine the cause of illness for one horse euthanized and another showing neurologic signs. The horse that visited Pimlico before transferring to Maryland's Eastern Shore is not the horse that was euthanized.
Raffetto decided not to card live racing Jan. 29 and Feb. 5, two days which had previously been scheduled for racing on the Laurel winter calendar, due to a shortage of entries.