12/29/2008 12:00AM

Herpes precautions result in many scratches


A revised shipping policy instituted at Fair Grounds this weekend after a horse there tested positive for the equine herpesvirus last week resulted in a mass of scratches Sunday, with more of the same likely for Monday's races, too.

A filly trained by Dallas Stewart got sick last week and was diagnosed with the herpesvirus Wednesday after she had been shipped to a Kentucky clinic. There was no training Thursday at Fair Grounds, because of Christmas, and starting Friday, quarantine restrictions were imposed on all the horses - including those trained by both Stewart and Neil Howard - housed in the same barn as the infected filly.

At the time, Fair Grounds, the Louisiana State Racing Commission, and officials from the Louisiana and United States departments of agriculture formulated a policy whereby horses could ship into the Fair Grounds receiving barn to race and return home. But Saturday afternoon, the racing commission changed course, and forbade any horse traffic in to or out of Fair Grounds beginning Sunday. According to Dr. Tom David, the commission's equine medical director, there were 30 ship-ins entered Sunday that were forced to scratch. In total, the 10-race card had 44 scratches. David said commission officials notified him partway through Saturday's card of the policy change.

David said that 30 more horses were scheduled to ship in for Monday's races, and as of early Sunday afternoon, it seemed likely they also would be barred from entering the track. No horse will be allowed to enter the grounds until the results of a first round of herpes tests performed on all horses in the affected barn are received. Many of those test results will be available Sunday, David said, but it will probably take until Monday to confirm all of them and end the shipping ban.

Another round of tests will be conducted one week after the first tests were administered. If the second round of tests results in no positives, the quarantine on the Stewart and Howard barn will end. As of now, those horses have separate morning training hours, and are not allowed to be entered in races.

David said that no other horse in the same barn as the filly that contracted herpes had shown any sign of illness. The filly, Diamond Song, continued to progress in her recovery, David said.