Churchill Lifts Ban on Florida Horses; Some Restrictions Remain

Edited press release
Churchill Downs has ended its halt to shipments of horses from three Florida facilities where possible cases of the equine bacterial disease strangles had been reported, although restrictions remain for horses that have been housed in quarantined or restricted barns at those tracks and training centers.

The Louisville, Ky. track has resumed its acceptance of shipments of horses that have been stabled outside of quarantine facilities at Palm Meadows Training Center, Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs. Three barns at Palm Meadows are under quarantine, while one barn at Gulfstream Park and another at Tampa Bay remain under quarantine orders. Five horses have tested "positive" for strangles at Palm Meadows.

A 24-hour health certificate signed by a veterinarian must be presented before any horse previously stabled at either of the Florida tracks or training centers will be allowed to enter the grounds at either Churchill Downs or its Trackside Louisville training center.

Horses that were stabled in quarantined barns at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream Park or Tampa Bay Downs are required to have "negative" results on two consecutive strangles tests and an official release from their restrictions by officials of the Florida Department of Agriculture before they are allowed to enter either Churchill Downs or Trackside Louisville. A 24-hour health certificate will also be required before any of the previously quarantined horses is allowed to enter the grounds of either facility.

"Churchill Downs has worked closely with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to assess the status of the containment measures in Florida and we believe that there has been sufficient progress to allow us to resume our acceptance of horses that have shipped from the three facilities," said Steve Sexton, president of Churchill Downs. "We will continue our precautionary measures to guard against any possible introduction of the bacterial ailment at both Churchill Downs and Trackside, and we urge our horsemen to remain vigilant. We regret any inconvenience to individual horsemen and owners caused by our precautionary measures, but the health and safety of the entire horse population has been - and remains - our top concern."

Kentucky Department of Agriculture officials have confirmed that a horse that was moved from Churchill Downs this spring has tested "positive" for strangles, but no additional precautions are anticipated because of that result. The horse, filly trained by Dale Romans, was transferred to Lexington's Rood & Riddle equine clinic immediately after she was found to be suffering from a fever on Sat., March 27.

"Although one horse that was moved from Churchill Downs is now 'positive' for strangles, our diagnostic testing shows that the animal departed from the track before the disease had progressed to an infectious stage," said Rusty Ford, equine programs manager for the office of State Veterinarian Robert Stout. "Because of that testing, we do not believe that additional precautions are required at Churchill Downs. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture and Churchill Downs will continue to monitor the situation and will be ready take any additional precautions that could be required."

Kentucky Agriculture Department officials say 23 other horses trained by Romans and currently stabled in two barns at Churchill Downs have been tested for strangles. All have returned "negative" results after undergoing endoscopic examinations of the throat and guttural pouches and the collection of culture samples from each horse.

Romans voluntarily took all of those horses out of training when the one suspected strangles case arose. The horses will remain under voluntary confinement to their barns until each returns three consecutive "negative" test results for the disease.

Strangles is an equine bacterial infection that causes fever, nasal discharge and swelling in the throat. In severe cases, it leads to the formation of abscesses in the throat that limit a horse's breathing.