01/25/2006 12:00AM

Herpes found in Laurel pony

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An outrider pony has been moved from Laurel Park into isolation at Pimlico Race Course after the horse tested positive for the equine herpesvirus, according to officials with the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the Maryland Jockey Club.

A release from the MJC, the owner of the two tracks, said the horse was not exhibiting clinical symptoms of the virus, and officials told horsemen at a meeting at Pimlico on Tuesday that this latest development does not mean the herpesvirus has or will spread to the horse population at Laurel, where a live meet is being conducted. The pony was one of 12 horses on which blood tests were recently ordered as part of blanket testing, and was the only one to return a positive result.

All of Pimlico, where more than 500 horses are stabled, was placed under quarantine Saturday in response to the herpesvirus outbreak that came to light early this month. Movement in and out of Pimlico is prohibited, and racetracks throughout the East Coast have banned the transport of horses to or from Maryland. Two Pimlico horses have been euthanized after being infected with the virus.

The Tuesday meeting at Pimlico was led by Dr. Guy Hohenhaus, Maryland's state veterinarian. Mike Gathagan, vice president of communications for the MJC, said the meeting lasted about three hours and was attended by virtually every trainer at Pimlico. Another meeting to update the virus situation likely will be scheduled for late this week for horsemen stabled at Laurel and the Bowie training center, said Gathagan.

* Officials at Philadelphia Park have decided to ban all shippers until further notice, a restriction already in place at Penn National and at Charles Town in West Virginia. Horses that ship off the grounds to race will not be permitted back, according to racing secretary Sal Sinatra.

"With Penn National closing their barn area, I'm getting all the shippers into Philly," Sinatra said. "Instead of trying to verify everybody's story, I just felt it was in the best interests just to close our doors."

Sinatra estimated that the restriction will be in place until at least Feb. 9.

- additional reporting by Marty McGee