Vets provide update on EHV-1; Laurel Park cancels racing for two weeks

Live racing at Laurel Park has been canceled for the next two weeks because of the ongoing equine herpesvirus (EHV-1) situation at the Maryland Jockey Club tracks, veterinary officials said March 26.

The decision to cancel live racing March 26-28 was made late on March 25 after a horse at Pimlico Race Course tested positive for EHV-1. That led officials to designate Pimlico as a separate quarantine zone, meaning horses stabled at Pimlico are not able to ship to Laurel to race.

During a March 26 Zoom meeting hosted by the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, Craig Fravel, TSG Chief Executive Officer of Racing Operations, said racing also is canceled for the following week, April 1-3. No racing was scheduled for April 4, Easter Sunday.

“This is a stressful situation and we are working our way through it,” Fravel said. “It’s not in our DNA to cancel racing but we live a world where caution is the better part of valor. We continue to appreciate everyone’s cooperation during this time.”

There are currently 26 horses that tested positive for EHV-1, and all of them are being housed in three barns at the former Bowie Training Center. Because those barns are spaced well apart, each is being treated as a separate quarantine zone. Another 11 horses are suspected, but not confirmed, of having the virus.

When four barns at Laurel were first quarantined March 8, officials employed a 14-day quarantine and protocol that required two negative test results, Maryland State Veterinarian Dr. Michael Odian said. Currently, it is now a 21-day quarantine and protocol that calls for only symptomatic horses or those with a temperature of 101.5 degrees or higher to be tested, he said.

Depending on the results of 37 tests scheduled to be run March 26, the earliest the quarantine could be lifted at Laurel is April 17. At Pimlico, the date is April 12 if there are no further positives. The release of horses from Bowie will be on a barn-by-barn basis.

Horsemen are encouraged to continue taking horses’ temperatures and to report any above 101.5 degrees to Dr. Libby Daniel, the Maryland Racing Commission Equine Medical Director, or Dr. Heidi Thomas, MJC Senior Veterinarian. All backstretch employees are urged to continue various disinfection practices for barns and equipment and to refrain from interaction with other barns at MJC facilities.

Dr. Dionne Benson, TSG Chief Veterinary Officer, said it is important to open up barns as much as possible to allow fresh air to circulate. It not only helps the horses but helps reduce the chances of spread of the virus in barns.

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