Churchill Readies Breeders' Cup Quarantine Facilities

(from Churchill Downs release)
Churchill Downs is putting the finishing touches on quarantine and isolation facilities that will house foreign participants set to compete in the 23rd Breeders' Cup World Championships at the historic track.

The Breeders' Cup, which features eight championship races with a record $20 million in total purses, will make a record sixth stop at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4. The event made its most recent visit to Louisville in 2000 and this year's renewal will be the first at the track since the completion of its $121 million renovation in 2005.

United States Department of Agriculture regulations require horses that travel to the U.S. for the Breeders' Cup to undergo tests to ensure that they are free of diseases that are not present among the domestic horse population. Aside from their training and racing, foreign horses must remain separated from U.S.-based horses during their stay at Churchill Downs.

Churchill Downs' Barn 45, which contains 38 stalls, has been surrounded by a metal fence and will serve a dual purpose as a quarantine and isolation facility for the visiting European horses during their time at Churchill Downs. In addition, Barn 42 – which contains 22 stalls – has been set aside as an isolation facility. Only authorized persons are allowed to enter the fenced areas around those barns.

Barn 45 contains a concrete firewall that allows for one section of the barn to be occupied by horses in isolation and the remaining stalls on the other side of the firewall to be used as a quarantine site. Horses are placed in isolation after they clear quarantine.

Three planes are scheduled to carry European-based horses to the United States for the Breeders' Cup. The first two flights are scheduled to arrive in Louisville on Oct. 29, and the third is scheduled to arrive on Oct. 31. Breeders' Cup officials estimate that those flights will carry a total of nearly 40 horses, a number which includes ponies and companion horses.

Dr. John Hollis, veterinary medical officer with the USDA in Frankfort, Ky., said all horses entering the U.S. for the Breeders' Cup must remain in quarantine until USDA officials receive "negative" test results from the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa. After the horses clear the quarantine procedures, they must be housed in stalls in the isolation facilities.

"They should be in quarantine from 24 to 36 hours, depending upon how long it takes the results to come back," said Hollis. "They don't want to keep them here for a 30-day isolation, so the EU (European Union) will generally accept them back if they're kept in isolation while they're here. So we'll really be focused on keeping people who are not authorized away from those barns."

Hollis said all that remains before horses will be allowed to enter the quarantine and isolation facilities is to spray the barns and stalls with disinfectant next week before the European shippers arrive.

Churchill Downs track superintendent Butch Lehr said that crews have been working to transform the barns into quarantine and isolation facilities for about six weeks. Double screens have been placed over all openings in the quarantine barn and one inch-thick rubber mats have been placed on the floor of each quarantine stall. That latter measure is designed to prohibit any disease that could be carried by a quarantined horse from getting into the soil on the floor of those stalls.

"The double screens make sure that there is no area in which insects could get in or out of the quarantine area," said Lehr.

The only significant change from the quarantine and isolation layout from the previous visit by the Breeders' Cup to Churchill Downs in 2000 is the addition of a fenced grazing area outside of Barn 42 for horses housed in those isolation stalls.