Equine Herpesvirus Suspected at Monmouth Park

A suspected case of the equine herpesvirus in the stable area at Monmouth Park has forced the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which owns and operates the Oceanport track and Meadowlands in East Rutherford, to impose strict limitations on the shipment of horses.

Effective Oct. 23, no horse stabled at Monmouth will be allowed to ship anywhere but the Meadowlands for racing. Those that do will be required to ship back to Monmouth and remain with the general horse population there for 12 days (the incubation period of the virus).

The restrictions were imposed after two horses from Canada arrived at Monmouth, both with international veterinary certificates, and one spiked a fever. Subsequently, five horses in the barn with the Canadian horse all came down with fevers, raising suspicions about EHV-1. The horses were from the stables of trainers John Forbes, Tim Hills, Bill Anderson, and Justin Nixon.

"It is an unconfirmed case, but nonetheless it requires the most restrictive and diligent course of action possible," said Dennis Dowd, senior vice president of racing for the NJSEA. "After meeting with veterinarians and horsemen, it was agreed that this course of action was the most optimal in ensuring the protection of everyone who could be affected."

Earlier Oct. 23, Philadelphia Park, Penn National Race Course, and Delaware Park closed their stable gates to horses domiciled at Monmouth.

"Effective immediately, our stable gate is shut to Jersey shippers, and we've scratched horses that were entered on our cards of (Oct. 23-24)," said Sal Sinatra, Philly Park's director of racing. Horses that ship to Meadowlands to race will not be allowed back on the Philly Park backstretch.

Penn National has imposed the same restrictions on New Jersey shippers as Philly Park, with horses entered to race at the Meadowlands not being allowed to re-enter the Grantville, Pa., racetrack's backstretch. Penn National also isn't accepting shippers from Monmouth, according to a release.

Sam Abbey, racing secretary at Delaware Park, said no New Jersey shippers are allowed at that track, either. "I think Jersey officials have this thing well in hand, and they're doing all the right things," Abbey said.

"It's important to remember that this is an unconfirmed case and results from the tests taken on the five suspected horses will be back in a day or two," Dowd said. "Furthermore, none of the horses that were tested showed outward symptoms of the equine herpesvirus. We are just taking every precautionary measure possible and, until we have definitive results, we don't want to place any unnecessary restrictions on horsemen that intend on running here."

In mid-January, the Mid-Atlantic region was hit with an outbreak of EHV-1, which can be transmitted via coughing or sneezing as well as by direct contact with infected horses, feed, and equipment. Horses in Maryland and at Penn National tested positive for the virus, forcing tracks to quarantine their backstretches until early March.