10/22/2006 11:00PM

Herpes feared at Monmouth


Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J., has placed two barns on its backstretch under quarantine while track officials await tests on whether a horse there has equine herpesvirus, a highly contagious disease.

Track officials said the horse was owned by Frank Stronach's Adena Springs Farm, but declined to identify the horse. The horse began showing symptoms of equine herpesvirus several days after arriving on the Monmouth backstretch from Stronach's Canadian farm on Oct. 14, according to Dennis Dowd, Monmouth's senior vice president of racing. Tests to determine whether the horse is positive for equine herpesvirus, which attacks a horse's upper respiratory and neurological systems, are expected on Wednesday.

Racing is not being conducted at Monmouth, but Monmouth's parent company, the state-owned New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, is conducting a race meet at the Meadowlands, Monmouth's sister track. No Thoroughbreds are stabled at the Meadowlands, and the meet draws all of its horses from Monmouth or from out-of-state locations.

The Meadowlands was scheduled to run next on Tuesday, which would be before the tests results are expected back. If the horse tests positive, all horses who run at the Meadowlands will be required to ship to Monmouth for quarantine because they have been exposed to horses who could be harboring the virus but not showing clinical signs, Dowd said.

As of Monday, the barn where the sick horse is located has been quarantined, along with an adjacent barn, Dowd said. The two barns house approximately 60 horses trained by Justin Nixon, John Forbes, Timothy Hills, and Will Anderson.

An outbreak of equine herpesvirus in Kentucky and Maryland late last year and earlier this year required backstretches at Turfway Park, Pimlico Race Course, Penn National Race Course, Philadelphia Park, and Laurel Park to be quarantined. The quarantines severely limited the movement of horses along the East Coast for much of the winter.

Already on Monday, Philadelphia, Penn National, and Delaware had closed their backstretches to any shippers from Monmouth Park.

Late Monday afternoon, New York Racing Association senior vice president Bill Nader said that NYRA will not permit any horses stabled at a New Jersey track to race in New York. Additionally, it will not let any horses stabled at a NYRA track to race at the Meadowlands.

In Florida, Calder Race Course issued a requirement on Monday that all horses shipping into the track will need a veterinary certificate claiming that the horse has not been stabled on any premise that had a herpesvirus case diagnosed in the past 30 days.

Dowd acknowledged that the quarantine will likely force trainers who are based outside of New Jersey to cancel any plans to ship in to the Meadowlands to race. The Meadowlands is scheduled to wrap up its fall Thoroughbred meet on Nov. 11.

"We're not going to have very big fields, but we're confident we can get through the rest of the meet," Dowd said.

Approximately 1,200 horses are on the Monmouth backstretch, Dowd said. Currently, the 60 horses in the quarantined barn will not be allowed to have contact with any other horses on the backstretch, but if the horse tests positive, then Monmouth will likely allow the horses in the barn to train after the track has been closed to the rest of the horse population.

Veterinarians have disinfected the two barns and, if the sick horse tests positive, Monmouth will take all precautions to keep the disease from spreading, Dowd said.

"This is something we know a lot about, and it's something that is controllable," Dowd said. "We just have to do all the things we're supposed to do, and we'll do that."