11/13/2012 3:45PM

Hawthorne notes: Herpes outbreak appears on the wane

Four-Footed Fotos
Missjeanlouise, with Florent Geroux riding, wins the Powerless.

STICKNEY, Ill. – No new cases of equine herpesvirus have been reported for 18 days at Hawthorne Race Course, and the track appears to be on the way out of a de facto quarantine imposed by the State of Illinois on Oct. 26. But the outbreak of the virus, known as EHV-1, is affecting the movement of horses to winter quarters at tracks like Fair Grounds in New Orleans, which opens its meet Nov. 22. Close to 100 horses from at least six trainers cannot depart Hawthorne for Fair Grounds until the Illinois Department of Agriculture lifts a ban on horses leaving the Chicago-area track.

Beyond restrictions shipping into and out of Hawthorne, the EHV-1 outbreak that began Oct. 14 appears to be running its course. No horses have shown the serious neurological symptoms of the disease since Oct. 26. Dr. Dawn Folker-Calderon, the Illinois state veterinarian working at Hawthorne, said that the Department of Agriculture has tentative plans to lift shipping restrictions if 28 days pass without any new EHV-1 cases.

“I am feeling hopeful,” Folker-Calderon said. “With no new cases in over two weeks, I think we’re on our way.”

Groups of horses who have tested positive for EHV-1 or shown symptoms of the illness remain isolated on the Hawthorne backstretch. Results of tests performed on 17 horses stabled in Barn A, the epicenter of the outbreak, came back early this week, with eight horses still testing positive. Those horses, trained by Jim DiVito, are being separated from the horses whose tests came back negative. A similar situation occurred last week, when seven of 15 Roger Brueggemann-trained horses who had been in Barn A tested positive. None of the 15 horses with positive tests in the last two weeks is ill, according to Folder-Calderon.

“The probability is that it’s just virus particles still remaining in their systems,” she said.

Trainers with Hawthorne horses scheduled to ship to Fair Grounds include Mike Stidham, Gary Scherer, Richie Scherer, Hugh Robertson, Doug Matthews, and Greg Geier.

“I was supposed to leave Nov. 6, so, so far I’m about a week behind schedule,” said Richie Scherer, who has about 15 horses to send to New Orleans. “I had three or four I had hoped to run opening weekend there.”

“I’ll probably leave as soon as I can,” said Geier, a New Orleans regular who has 10 horses to take to Fair Grounds this season. “Usually I’d get there by Thanksgiving.”

Robertson, who also has horses to send to Oaklawn Park, where his son, Mac, trains during the winter, said he also had about 15 horses to send to Fair Grounds once Hawthorne-based stock is permitted to travel again.

“Naturally it’s pretty inconvenient, but we haven’t had horses sick, and as long as they hold our stalls for us, it’s not that serious,” Robertson said.

Torres headed to Florida

Cisco Torres, who won the Arlington riding title this year, and currently ranks third by wins among Hawthorne jockeys, is moving his tack to south Florida after this week, he said last weekend.

Torres said that Sunday will be his last day riding the Hawthorne fall-winter meet. Torres said he plans to travel directly to Florida to begin accepting mounts at the start of the Gulfstream Park meeting, which begins Dec. 1.

Torres, 43, hadn’t ridden regularly at Arlington for years before this summer, but led the jockey standings there for virtually the entire 2012 racing season, winding up with 100 wins. Through Sunday, Torres had won with 19 of 133 mounts at Hawthorne, 11 fewer than the leading rider, apprentice Alex Canchari.

Feature has Powerless look

The $114,000 Powerless Handicap felt a lot like an allowance race when it was contested Oct. 20 – a feeling that Thursday’s featured third race at Hawthorne confirms.

Four horses that started in the Powerless, including one-two finishers Missjeanlouise and Algonquin Posse, are among the entrants in Thursday’s third, a 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint with multiple allowance conditions and an $80,000 claiming option.

Missjeanlouise, who won the Powerless coming back from a four-month layoff, races Thursday only if the feature is rained from turf to dirt, as she and Powerless seventh-place finisher Wild Hope were entered for the main track only.

Algonquin Posse is among the nine horses in the main body of the field, though she failed to finish in the top three in her lone previous grass start. Still, Algonquin Posse merits consideration if only because she’s trained by Scott Becker. Becker, the private trainer for prominent owner-breeder William Stiritz, is in the midst of an excellent Hawthorne meet, having compiled a record of 14-8-4 from 52 runners through Sunday.

Horses like Kip Berries, Taty’s Gold, and Flo’s Strawberry are proven turf performers, but those horses – and a couple more entrants, too – are early-speed types. The race seems right for a taxing pace, and could fall to a closer like Yourenotthebossofme or Little Nip.