01/06/2011 1:34PM

Beulah meet to begin with herpes quarantine in place

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Beulah Park in Grove City, Ohio, will begin a 66-day meet Saturday with its backstretch quarantined following the December deaths of several horses who later tested positive for the equine herpesvirus.

Two horses in Barn 24 died on Dec. 24, and they later tested positive for equine herpesvirus, a contagious disease that primarily affects a horse’s respiratory system. Another horse eventually died from the disease in the same barn.

Horses are not currently allowed to leave the grounds at Beulah and any horses that ship in must stay until after the quarantine is lifted.

“We aren’t taking entries for shippers unless another trainer has a stall for them so they remain on the grounds,” said Ed Vomacka, Beulah Park’s racing secretary.

The quarantine has been in place since Dec.  26 when tests for equine herpesvirus on the first two dead horses came back positive. On Dec. 25, a horse was moved from Barn 24 to Barn 25, resulting in that barn being quarantined as well. Horses in the two barns are currently not allowed to train or race.

Trainers Gary Patrick, Genaro Garcia, and Ramon Salcedo are stabled in Barn 24. Each has had a horse die.

One horse in Barn 24 was ill on Thursday and might not survive, according to Chris McErlean, vice president of racing for Penn Gaming, which purchased Beulah Park last summer.

The earliest the quarantine could be lifted is 21 days after the ill horse in Barn 24 either dies or no longer tests positive for the disease, and that is if no other horses on the grounds show signs of the disease.

The 30 horses in Barn 25 will be allowed to resume training and race beginning Saturday as all of them have tested negative for the disease.

The first two days of racing produced full fields but the total number of entries were down from last year. “We are down 40 to 50 horses over the first two days last year,” Vomacka said. “We have full fields this year, but last year they were all way overfilled.”

Vomacka said there are between 850 and 900 horses stabled at Beulah and that he anticipates being able to fill races during the quarantine.

Despite the quarantine, McErlean remains optimistic about the meet

“We just need to get over the hump and through this herpes outbreak,” he said. “Racing in the winter in mid-America is not very sexy, but it is our bread and butter.”

McErlean envisions a stronger marketing schedule at Beulah than in years past.

“The marketing staff at Raceway Park have been working on a promotional schedule that we will unveil a little later in the meet.”
Raceway Park, a harness track in Toledo, Ohio, is also owned by Penn Gaming.

Beulah was forced to cancel five days in December and there is a possibility those days will be made up this meet.

“We will take a look at the purse account and make a business decision based on that,” McErlean said.

Beulah will run five days a week in January and February, but cuts back to three days in March and April, leaving plenty of time to make up any canceled days.