Horsemen talked with officials from Hawthorne Race Course and the Illinois Department of Agriculture Nov. 19 on a conference call about the continued efforts to contain an equine herpes outbreak at the Stickney, Ill. track.
On Nov. 16, track officials confirmed that a horse who died Nov. 14 and one other ailing horse had tested positive for EHV-1. The deceased horse is the third confirmed death from EHV-1 during the outbreak that started last month. The ailing horse is one of six that has been moved into an isolation area in barn K2 for further monitoring.
Track officials said the purpose of isolating horses is to be able to monitor them while allowing the more than 1,800 remaining healthy horses to continue racing.
In a statement, Hawthorne assistant general manager Jim Miller said meetings with grooms and hotwalkers were conducted Nov. 18 to explain proper cleanliness and hygiene because cleanliness among those in contact with horses daily is of the utmost importance. A notice in both English and Spanish also was handed out.
Miller said a group of horses from Barn A who 21 days ago tested negative for EHV-1 received a second test Nov. 19. If they again test negative, those horses will be moved back into the general population and allowed to race. Along with some other horses who could soon test negative for a second time at 21 days, officials said more than 60 horses could return to the general population this week.
Miller said since the initial outbreak, Hawthorne has incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs on testing, staff, disinfectant, and lost racing dates.
“There are many reasons as to why we continue to race. We understand the amount of jobs that are on the line and we know that there are many healthy horses on the backstretch,” Miller said in a statement. “We understand there are cases that may arise and they are handlesd on a case by case basis. These cases have diminished since our initial outbreak in Barn A but they exist.”
Miller added that ceasing racing could create new illness risks if horses were isolated to their stalls with no opportunity to train or race.