Quarantine Lifted at Pimlico; Stakes Rescheduled at Laurel

The Maryland Jockey Club lifted its self-imposed quarantine on Pimlico Race Course Feb.8, allowing horses from the Baltimore track to compete at Laurel Park for the first time since Jan. 21. Twelve Pimlico-based horses ran on Wednesday's card (after two were morning scratches). Five of the nine races featured Pimlico horses.

In addition to lifting the quartine, MJC officials announced new dates for the grade II Barbara Fritchie Breeders' Cup Handicap and the grade II General George Breeders' Cup Handicap. Originally carded for President's Day weekend, both $300,000 races were postponed because of the Equineherpes virus (EHV-1) situation in the state and restrictions on movement of horses into Maryland.

The Fritchie, a seven-furlong test for fillies and mares originally scheduled for Feb. 18, will be contested March 4. The General George, also a seven-furlong test on the main track scheduled to run two days after the Fritchie, will go March 18.

Nominations for both sprints will also be pushed back. Deadlines for the Fritchie will now be Feb. 22, while trainers have until March 8 to pre-enter horses for the General George.

Laurel Park stakes which were originally carded for those dates will be run as scheduled. The Horatius Stakes will go March 4. The Harrison Johnson Stakes is set for March 18.

Pimlico was placed under quarantine Jan.21, closing movement to and from the facility for the 500 horses based there, due to the outbreak of Equine herpesvirus. EHV-1 causes upper respiratory infection and can also cause neurological disease.

"It is a good day and as we have said all along we are headed in the right direction," said Lou Raffetto, MJC chief operating officer. "Today is the first indication of that with the Pimlico horses racing for us here at Laurel."

The Pimlico horses more than held their own with three wins and seven in the money finishes. Martin Venberg saddled Eagle Head ($26.40) to an impressive wire-to-wire score in the seventh race. Top of the Town, conditioned by Ann Merryman, completed a $349.60 all Pimlico exacta. One race later Tarlet ($3.80) was a popular winner for trainer Ronald Alfano. Cherished Memory ($7.60) made it three straight by taking the finale. Bing an a Prayer (Race 3) and Sporty Ryan (Race 4) had second place finishes, while Abby's Sister was third in the ninth.

"Today is a very exciting day for us," said trainer Raul Garrido, who saddled a pair of Pimlico-based starters this afternoon. "We have been waiting to run for nearly three weeks. When you don't run there is no income. Today is like a birthday party. Everybody is happy to be able to run again."

Three horses from three different Pimlico barns were euthanized last month. Yesterday the Maryland Department of Agriculture lifted the "General Animal Hold Order" on Barns 5 and 8 at Pimlico when all of the 43 horses in those barns tested negative for the virus. Two other barns remain under Hold Orders. Monday morning at Pimlico, the Department Of Agriculture took nasal swabs on the horses stabled in Barn 6 to determine if the virus is present in their nasal secretions and plans on doing the same in Barn A tomorrow. The last clinical case of the virus at Pimlico happened Jan 19.

"We hope to have the remaining two barns at Pimlico released in the coming days and would like to get back to business as usual by the Presidents' day weekend," Raffetto added.

At Laurel Park Barn 9 is under a Hold Order through Feb 16. A filly was euthanized Jan 26. Since then none of the more than 900 horses stabled at Laurel have shown symptoms of the virus.

There have been no outbreaks at Bowie where approximately 600 horses are stabled.