By Bob Kieckhefer
The Illinois Racing Board Nov. 27 approved Hawthorne Race Course's request to drop seven Wednesday cards because of the effects of an outbreak of neurological equine herpes on the backstretch.
The outbreak appears to be contained, said Hawthorne assistant general manager Jim Miller, but restrictions on shipping into and out of Hawthorne have made it challenging to fill races.
Racing dates scrubbed are Nov. 7, Nov. 14, Nov. 21 and Nov. 28, as well as Dec. 5, Dec. 12 and Dec. 19. The first three dates, which have passed, were eliminated under an emergency request to the IRB staff.
To ease the impact of the reduction on race days, Miller said, Hawthorne has increased purses for all races remaining on the card.
Mike Campbell, president of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, and IRB chairman William Berry both praised Hawthorne's handling of the outbreak.
"We want to thank Hawthorne for working so hard and diligently in this difficult situation," Campbell said.
The outbreak began the second week of Hawthorne's fall meet and four horses have died during that time, Miller said, although the fourth death has not been formally linked to neurological equine herpes. He said six other horses continue to be monitored after showing symptoms of the disease.
Hawthorne instituted quarantines, frequent disinfection protocols, and educational programs for backstretch workers to limit the spread of the contagious disease.
"It has been a big strain on everybody," Miller said. "It's been a big expense for everybody."