02/08/2017 3:00PM

Herpes scare over, training schedule returns to normal


A handful of horses – all healthy – remain in isolation in temporary tents on the Fair Grounds property, but otherwise, the equine herpesvirus scare that briefly threatened to ruin the track’s racing season basically is over.

A horse died Dec. 26 from the very dangerous neuropathogenic strain of the herpesvirus, but only one other horse, on Dec. 31, tested positive for that strain of the virus. The general quarantine of the track’s backstretch was lifted Jan. 21, and one by one, individual barns quarantined because horses residing in them tested positive for the less serious wild strain of the herpesvirus began coming out of quarantine.

The last two such barns, 14 and 36, had their quarantine lifted at midnight Monday. That morning, for the first time since late December, Fair Grounds returned to regular training hours, with all horses on the backstretch, save the few in isolation, permitted to exercise at the same time.

“My barn’s back to regular training and entering again,” said Mike Stidham, who occupies all of Barn 36. “We’ll see what happens. It’s not easy to stop and start a 90-horse outfit.”

The training window later in the morning provided for Stidham’s quarantined horses wasn’t long enough for him to get every horse out to exercise every morning. Also, he said he now has a glut of horses with the same conditions ready to race. Stidham entered the 3-year-old fillies Forest Circle and R Naja in a first-level turf-sprint allowance on the Friday card and said he had two more fillies he also wants to run in that same kind of race.

But on the plus side, at least the horses are racing again.