11/16/2012 5:34PM

Hawthorne: Herpesvirus situation takes turn for the worse


STICKNEY, Ill. – Two horses who fell seriously ill Wednesday at Hawthorne Race Course have tested positive for equine herpesvirus, while a horse in still another barn on the Hawthorne backstretch came down with symptoms consistent with the virulent neurologic strain of the virus.

Eighteen days had passed before the pair of horses in Barn E got sick Wednesday morning, and the report of another new case Friday confirms the virus, known as EHV-1, continues to circulate through Hawthorne’s equine population.

A number of horsemen Friday morning voiced support for halting the Hawthorne race meet, but Friday’s races went on as scheduled. Ten horses were scratched on the nine-race card, at least two because of concerns about the virus. But there are no plans to deviate from the protocols that have been established in an effort to isolate horses who have shown EHV-1 symptoms or tested positive for the disease, and so far, the Illinois Department of Agriculture has supported continuing the Hawthorne meet.

“I’m against that,” Dr. Dawn Folker-Calderon, the Illinois state veterinarian working at Hawthorne, said when asked about the possibility of a meet stoppage.

Folker-Calderon and other Hawthorne regulators believe horses are at least as likely – if not more so – to be susceptible to the disease if they are required to remain in their stalls. The EHV-1 virus can be transmitted by direct contact or through the air. Folker-Calderon said it was more important that horsemen exercise stringent disinfecting routines than keep their horses in the barn.

Trainer Dale Bennett, whose 2-year-old filly Ginger and Spice died from EHV-1 on Wednesday, didn’t train his horses for the second day in a row, and scratched an entrant from Friday’s race card. Bennett thinks vets and track administrators have lost the ability to protect horses from infection, and that the meet should be stopped. All his horses were tested for the virus after Ginger and Spice got sick, and three returned positive EHV-1 results.

“There are too many moving parts – gate people, pony people, the track crew,” Bennett said. “This thing has gotten out of their control now, and that’s all there is to it.”

The other horse that on Wednesday showed the loss of coordination that occurs with the onset of the neurologic strain of the virus, a filly trained by Mike Reavis, is in the barn K-2 isolation area, her condition apparently stable. The horse with neurologic symptoms Friday (EHV-1 test results have not yet confirmed the virus’s presence), from the string of trainer Steve Manley in Barn  9, was too impaired to move to the isolation area as of noon. Bennett’s horse fell while being walked from Barn E to Barn K-2, was unable to get up, and was euthanized.

The herpesvirus outbreak began here Oct. 14 in Barn A, killing two horses trained by Jim DiVito. After a horse in Barn C became ill and tested positive for EHV-1 on Oct.26, horses were banned from leaving the racetrack. Eighteen days passed before another horse showed neurologic symptoms, and before the events of Wednesday, hope had risen that the virus might have run its course.

Squiggy More than 1 year ago
Part of the problem is that many of the trainers do not want to report symptons for fear their horses will be sent to the quarantine barn. They think its too much trouble to have to take care of them in another barn.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bennett is spot on ...if management won't (money rules), then the horsemen should bring it to a halt by not entering. And they're allowing claims ???!!!!! Outside scientific help is needed, as the state obviously does not have a handle on this epidemic.
LESLIE More than 1 year ago
Isn't this the same thing that the runner up in the Preakness a number of years ago contracted? It was a gelding that had been raced locally in Maryland before his near win in the Preakness. He recovered but was never back to his pre-disease level and was headed for perhaps a second career as a dressage horse. I'm sorry but I don't remember his name.
Kerry Metivier More than 1 year ago
Joe-this happens everywhere, even Saratoga. It's a devastating reality.
Joseph Bunzol More than 1 year ago
If I am ever fortunate enough to own a T bred, even though I live in Chicago, I would never let it race in Illinois C bre
Kat Herine More than 1 year ago
This is irresponsible handling of a serious disease. http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/ceh/ehv1_control.cfm
Mike B More than 1 year ago
VOTE WITH YOUR BANK ACCOUNTS PEOPLE! Take your wagering dollars to other tracks. The administrative bureaucrats understand one thing only....
michael kipness More than 1 year ago
A message to Marcus Hersh and to readers During the 18 days that Dr, Folker-caldron was hopeful that the infection was coming to an end, maybe it would have been a good idea to " not break with protocol" by traipsing horses from one end of the racetrack to the other and setting up a quarantine barn with #1 no signs indicating it was a quarantine barn #2 no security guard #3 no more log in sheets, monitoring the people coming and going. I would definitely like to revise/reword my comment regarding daily testing. I feel that the horses spiking temperatures, should immediately be tested since it actually seems to be the criteria being used in selecting horses to be tested. An example of this is the 3 horses who tested positive this week from Barn E. These 3 horses were selected from the entire stable because they had been running and spiking temperatures. So, it would be reasonable to proceed with testing to horses showing unusual temps. Thank you for providing your readers with the information that the virus is limited to horses. I don't think anyone can say with 100% certainty that in no way could this virus escape from The gates of Hawthorne. There are people that have farms for example. They leave the track and go to their farms. They could carry this with them when they leave to horses off of the track. Is it unlikely ~ yes Is it impossible ~ NO If my outrage is misplaced, then one simply needs to go to forums discussing this topic, to see that I am by no means standing alone in my feelings or views.
peteyofdubai More than 1 year ago
It is time for the owners and trainers to cease submitting entrants. This is necessary because as we in Chicago are aware, the IRB and the Dept. of Agriculture have no intention of learning the truth. This is business in all Chicago area racetracks, none excluded. Politics and profit is the only concern. There is little if not zero concern for the horse. Insurance takes care of that end. I have long been an advocate that local racing, T-Breds and S-Breds, require a very serious and deep investigation. Its a shame that the fans in this locale cannot expect to feel their wagering is being done on a sound program.
Diane Treadway More than 1 year ago
I think Dale Bennett is so correct on what he says. He's a hundred percent right This is a very serious situation & can wipe a trainer out of bussiness & the poor horses OF TRAINERS WHO CARE & ARE REAL HORSEMEN !!!