Laurel Park Horse Tests Positive for Equine Herpesvirus

Hey Ralphy, a filly trained by Rodney Jenkins at Laurel Park, was infected by equine herpesvirus (EHV-1), according to the Maryland Department of Agriculture. The 3-year-old was euthanized Jan 26 with a suspected pelvic injury. A Hold Order has been placed on Barn 9, where the filly was stabled, at the central Maryland track. Jenkins has elected not to train any of his horses until the Hold Order ends.

"We are working cooperatively with all involved parties using the most up-to-date science and respected practices, and going beyond what has been done in previous EHV incidents around the country, to manage this situation," said Maryland State Veterinarian, Dr. Guy Hohenhaus, in a release from the Maryland Jockey Club. "We urge everyone's patience and diligence in continuing strong preventive measures such as keeping new horses separate from others for a period of time, disinfecting, and keeping vaccinations up to date. It is a matter of time and continued proper management to bring this outbreak to conclusion."

Three horses have been euthanized at Pimlico Race Course, Laurel's sister track, this month, where the outbreak was first discovered. Another horse, so far unlinked with the Barn 5 and 6 incidents, was euthanized last week at a Kent County farm. Equine herpesvirus-1 (also known as "rhino"), which causes upper respiratory infection, can also cause neurological disease.

Eight horses remain isolated in the Pimlico Detention Barn suffering from various levels of the virus. The Maryland Jockey Club proactively placed the track under quarantine Jan 21, restricting the movement of horses. There have been no new cases on of EHV-1 at Pimlico since Jan 19.

"Today's news is disappointing but we still think we see the light at the end of the tunnel," said Lou Raffetto, Chief Operating Officer for the Maryland Jockey Club. "We had hoped we would have this situation under control by February 9, which essentially would have been one month since the first case at Pimlico. We are now going to have to wait and monitor the situation here at Laurel. We have already put the proper precautions into place to control the situation."

Three barns at Pimlico remain under Hold Orders. The department of agriculture revealed this morning that it cannot lift the Hold Order on Barn 5 at Pimlico because one horse still tested positive for the virus on a nasal swab sample, despite not showing symptoms. Additional tests are being run. The barn was eligible to come off the Hold Order Jan.30. The Hold Order on Barn 6 is scheduled to be removed Feb 5 if all tests are negative. The Hold Order on Barn A could be cleared Feb 9.

"Progress is being made and there is strong reason to maintain a positive outlook," added Hohenhaus. "It is just not going as quickly as anyone would like."

Last week Raffetto decided not to card live racing Jan 29 and Feb 5, two days which had previously been scheduled for racing on the Laurel winter calendar, due to a shortage of entries, stemming from a quarantine of 500 horses at Pimlico and restrictions on the movement of Thoroughbreds in and out of the state due to the outbreak of EHV-1.

Laurel Park will also move a pair of grade II sprints presently scheduled for Presidents' Weekend. The $300,000 Barbara Fritchie Breeders' Cup Handicap (Feb. 18) and $300,000 General George Breeders' Cup Handicap, (Feb. 20), are the marquee races of the Laurel winter meeting. It is expected that a final decision on when those races will be conducted will be made within the next two weeks.

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 of the virus can occur via coughing or sneezing as well as by direct contact with infected horses, feed and equipment. Based on clinical signs, there is no reason to believe that there is any human health risk.