01/17/2006 1:00AM

Herpes believed contained at Turfway


An entire barn of quarantined horses at Turfway Park tested negative for the equine herpes virus last week, while the 11 horses that tested positive in a second quarantined barn are not showing clinical signs of infection, Turfway's president, Bob Elliston, said Tuesday.

Elliston said that while positive tests were returned for 11 of the 52 horses stabled in Barn 27, negative tests have been returned for every horse in Barn 26, as well as every lead pony who was transported off the grounds to a nearby satellite quarantine. Elliston said veterinarians with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture are optimistic that the latest round of results "means the virus has run its course and has been contained."

"The next step," he said, "is to determine when the lead ponies and the Barn 26 horses can return to the general horse population."

Another round of blood tests on Barn 26 and 27 horses probably will be taken next week, said Elliston. The virus outbreak was first reported Dec. 28.

At Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, a blood test recently returned on the sixth and last horse quarantined in Barn 8 was positive for the equine herpes virus, track officials said. Three barns are under quarantine at Pimlico, including the six horses in Barn 8 who originally were stabled in Barn 5. Also under quarantine are Barn 5 and 6.

Further test results were to be returned Friday or Saturday on about 30 horses, said Mike Gathagan, vice president of communications at Pimlico. In the meantime, stringent restrictions remain in effect regarding noninfected horses shipping in and out of Pimlico, where about 500 horses are stabled.