05/20/2005 12:00AM

Equine herpes leads to shipping restrictions


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Officials in New York and Kentucky took separate actions Friday to address confirmed cases of equine herpes in horses stabled at Churchill Downs in Louisville.

The New York Racing Association placed a temporary restriction on horses stabled at Churchill whose trainers want to ship to New York, while Kentucky Department of Agriculture officials paved the way for a return to limited training for horses in three quarantined barns. Equine herpes is a potentially fatal virus that causes upper respiratory problems and a loss of coordination.

Aside from the temporary restriction on horses shipping directly from Churchill, NYRA officials announced that horses who have gone to other tracks from Churchill must get a health certificate signed by a veterinarian. The certificate must state that the horses have not been exposed to confirmed or suspected cases of the virus. All trainers and veterinarians at NYRA racetracks are being asked to report horses with high fevers, neurological signs, or enlarged lymph nodes - telltale signs of the virus

In Kentucky, Department of Agriculture officials have developed a protocol that could allow for a return to limited training for horses housed in the three Churchill barns under quarantine.

Horses in barns 6, 38, and 39 have been confined to their barns since Tuesday evening, when Kentucky Agriculture officials imposed the quarantine because of what were suspected to be cases of the equine herpes virus. Those cases included two horses that were euthanized after displaying severe neurologic symptoms of the virus.

Under the protocol for a return to limited training, horses in quarantined barns in which no horses have displayed clinical symptoms of equine herpes virus during the past seven days are to be given a blood test. If the results of blood tests for all horses in a barn are negative for the presence of the virus, then the horses in that barn will be allowed to return to limited training.

Those horses would remain under quarantine and still would not be allowed to mix with the general horse population at Churchill Downs. The track would set aside a special training schedule for the quarantined horses, most likely in the early evening hours.

The trainers whose horses are affected by the quarantine include Ronny Werner in Barn 6; Steve Asmussen in Barn 38; and trainers Paul J. McGee and Bill Cesare in Barn 39. Also stabled in Barn 39 is the Ron Ellis-trained Don't Get Mad, the fourth-place finisher in this year's Kentucky Derby. Don't Get Mad has been under the care of McGee, Ellis's brother-in-law.

Ellis, reached in California by telephone, said he was encouraged by the developments. "I appreciate Churchill Downs going to the effort to make this happen," he said. "I know they've had to work closely with the state on this."

The quarantine will keep Don't Get Mad from a start in the May 28 Peter Pan Stakes, but Ellis said the horse could make the June 18 Northern Dancer Stakes at Churchill if the quarantine ends as expected in early June and his horse is able to resume normal training.

As of late Friday, only the horses in Barn 39 met the protocol for no clinical symptoms. Blood tests on those horses were performed on on Friday. If all horses in that barn return negative results for the virus, they could have returned to limited training apart from the general horse population as early as Saturday evening.

Horses in the other quarantined barns will be tested when the populations in those barns reach the seven-day threshold for the absence of clinical signs of the disease.

In a meeting Wednesday morning, Kentucky officials informed horsemen that they could not assure that the herpes virus had not spread beyond the quarantined barns. But there had been no new reports of horses afflicted with the virus by mid-afternoon Friday, said Dr. Robert Stout, Kentucky State Veterinarian.

Concerns of the spread of equine herpes have not discouraged horsemen from making entries or claims at Churchill Downs. Entries have been up in recent days compared to a week ago, and there were 10 horses claimed from six claiming races at Churchill Thursday. That included a shake for the Asmussen-trained Lovely Bonita, who was allowed to compete because she had been stabled outside of his Churchill Downs stable.

Many Churchill Downs trainers have been regularly taking temperatures of their horses, sometimes as often as two or three times a day. State officials told horsemen in a meeting Wednesday to report any horse with a temperature of 101 degrees or higher.

Woodard wins three in one card

Trainer Joe Woodard completed a training hat trick Thursday at Churchill Downs, winning with all three of his starters. Soaringwitheagles ($8.20) won the third race for owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey. Term in Office ($4.40) and Dayton Flyer ($13.40) won the seventh and eighth races for Woodard's main client, Bill Hays.

Woodard said this was the third time he won three races on a card, with the prior occasions occurring at Tampa Bay Downs and Oaklawn, but that this was the first time he did it with only three starters. Mike Smith rode Soaringwitheagles and Term in Office; Orlando Mojica rode Dayton Flyer.

Woodard's three-win day vaulted him to fourth in the trainer standings, two wins behind leader Bob Holthus. Heading into Friday, Woodard was 5 for 10 on the meet.

Five allowances in solid program

Sunday's card is among the best post-Derby programs of the meet, highlighted by five allowance races. The richest of the group is the ninth race, a $57,000 allowance for three-other-than allowance runners at a mile on turf.

Modena Bay, in sharp form in three starts this year, is the likely favorite. She finished third in a similar allowance at Keeneland on April 28 after a runner-up finish at the three-other-than level at Gulfstream on April 1. Leading rider Rafael Bejarano has the mount for trainer Darrin Miller.

* Stakes winner Wildcat Shoes ($2.80) set a five-furlong track record in Friday's fourth race, covering the distance in 56.49 seconds over a fast track. His time surpassed the previous mark set by Put Me In, who ran 56.61 in winning an allowance race here last June.