(Edited press release)
With the Nov. 18 announcement by the Maryland Department of Agriculture that the final 20 samples from Laurel Park’s barn 1 tested negative for neurologic equine herpesvirus, the Maryland Jockey Club has amended its restrictions on off-site runners racing at Laurel Park.
On Nov. 14, one day after a two-year-old filly in King Leatherbury’s barn tested positive for EHV-1, the Maryland Jockey Club announced that until further notice, no horses would be allowed to ship into Laurel Park except those from the Bowie Training Center. However, with the Nov. 18 news that all of the nearly 60 horses tested at Laurel Park are negative for the virus, the Laurel racing office will begin taking entries from other jurisdictions.
Those runners, however, will not be allowed to leave the grounds until the 21-day hold order on barn 1 is lifted by the MDA. According to the organization, an aggressive testing protocol along with no positive tests or signs of disease may allow the hold order to be lifted earlier than the current Dec. 6 release date.
“Our restrictions last Friday were a precautionary measure,” said Tom Chuckas, president and chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club. “Since then the other 25 horses in barn 1, plus all 31 lead ponies have tested negative, this was the next logical step in light of the test results.”
The Maryland Jockey Club racing office attracted 84 Laurel and Bowie runners for the Nov. 19 nine-race program and another 94 for the Nov. 20 nine-race card. Nearly 1,600 horses are stabled at those two sites with the Pimlico Race Course stable area closed for the winter. Horses based at Laurel and Bowie are still restricted to the grounds.
“We expect to get some runners from area farms who want to compete, but I am not sure how many we’ll get from Fair Hill (Training Center) or out-of-state since there are still restrictions,” said Maryland Jockey Club racing secretary Georganne Hale. “Entries were strong for the Wednesday and Thursday cards, but you can’t expect that to happen for a three-week period. It is nice that horses will be able to ship in, because we would eventually run out of horses. You can’t expect the Laurel and Bowie horses to run once a week.”
The Maryland racing community faced an outbreak of the virus in early 2006 when three horses at Pimlico and another at Laurel were euthanized, forcing three live racing cards at Laurel Park to be cancelled due to lack of horses as racetracks in neighboring states barred horses from running in Maryland.
Equine herpesvirus causes upper respiratory infection and can lead to severe neurological disease. There is currently no known method to reliably prevent the neurologic form of EHV-1 infection. It is recommended to maintain appropriate vaccination procedures in an attempt to reduce the incidence of the respiratory form of EHV-1 infection, which may help prevent the neurologic form. Transmission occurs primarily by direct nose to nose contact or contaminated hands, equipment, feed and water. It can also be spread up to 35 feet by airborn droplets. This virus is not associated with any human health risk.
Regular updates regarding this investigation will be available on MDA’s website www.mda.state.md.us.