02/23/2006 1:00AM

Charles Town to ease shipping ban


Charles Town Races in West Virginia will ease restrictions on ship-ins beginning Sunday, an official of the track said Thursday. The move comes in response to the apparent containment of an outbreak of equine herpesvirus in Maryland. In addition, Penn National in Grantville, Pa., will begin rolling back a similar policy on March 7, track officials said.

Both tracks, owned by Penn National Gaming Inc., have banned shippers since Jan. 23, limiting entries to horses stabled on the grounds or, in Charles Town's case, to horses stabled within West Virginia. The tracks implemented the bans after outbreaks of equine herpesvirus in Maryland and an isolated case at Penn National.

Ismael Trejo, a state steward at Charles Town, said Thursday that the track may still restrict horses shipping in from Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, where 10 horses tested positive for the virus last week.

At Penn National, ship-ins will be allowed to enter races at the track beginning March 7, according to the track, though restrictions on horses shipping in from Maryland will remain for an undetermined amount of time.

Last week, the New York state veterinarian extended a prohibition on horses shipping in to Aqueduct from Maryland after the positive test results at Fair Hill. The prohibition is expected to be in place until at least the end of the first week in March.

Equine herpesvirus, a highly contagious disease marked by fevers and nasal discharge, attacks a horse's upper respiratory and neurological systems and is sometimes fatal.