Keeneland Hosts Forum to Discuss Strangles

With opening day at Keeneland a little more than a week away, the track hosted a March 31 information meeting concerning the recent cases of strangles reported in South Florida and the Churchill Downs Trackside training center. The meeting also outlined the precautions the track is taking to ensure the disease does not spread.

Dr. Rusty Ford, equine program manager for the Kentucky veterinarian's office, and Kentucky state veterinarian Dr. Robert Stout and Dr. Robert Holland, as well as Dr. John Timoney of the Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Facility, were on hand to answer questions and provide information about prevention.

"We are doing everything that is prudent, the state has been with us 110% all the way and we are looking forward to a good race meet," said Rogers Beasley, Keeneland director of racing.

Strangles is caused by the bacterium Streptococcus equi, an upper respiratory disease that generally causes a sudden fever, nasal discharge, and swollen lymph nodes around the affected horse's throat area. High fever, depression, and a lack of appetite are usual first symptoms. There is also a thin, watery nasal discharge that quickly turns thick and yellow.

In response to the recent reported strangles cases, Keeneland is requiring all horses shipping into the track for the purpose of racing, from in state or out of state, to have a certificate of veterinary inspection dated within two days of their arrival at the track. The certificate must include a declaration by the examining veterinarian that the horse has not been on the premises under quarantine for or exposed to strangles, has not shown signs of the disease, and has not had a fever in the previous three weeks.

Security guards will be stationed at each Keeneland entrance gate and will request the veterinarian certificates as the horses enter the track.

Keeneland is also requiring the examining veterinarian to list the horse's rectal temperature on the health certificate. If a horse has been vaccinated for strangles, the horse's health certificate must show the date and method of vaccination.

Any horse from a barn that has been exposed to strangles since Dec. 1, 2004, must have written permission before shipping into the track, and any shipping since Dec. 1 must be documented.