01/04/2013 3:33PM

Kentucky latest jurisdiction to ban Hawthorne horses


The Illinois Department of Agriculture has set Jan. 9 as a target date for lifting a state-imposed quarantine on Hawthorne Race Course due to an outbreak of equine herpesvirus, but Hawthorne horsemen hoping to race at other venues over the winter are increasingly finding limited options.

On Thursday, Kentucky became the latest state to ban any horse stabled at Hawthorne during the track’s fall-winter meet from shipping into a racetrack or training center. The policy, formulated by the Kentucky Office of State Veterinarian, forbids nearly all horses stabled at Hawthorne during a meet that ended Dec. 30 from racing at Turfway Park in northern Kentucky this winter. Illinois horsemen that winter at Hawthorne often ship to Turfway to run during Chicago’s dark period in January and early February.

Kentucky’s policy leaves room for horses that were shipped from the Hawthorne backstretch to an approved off-site quarantine facility to race at Turfway with proper documentation of supervised quarantine and proof of negative EHV-1 tests. Since late November, about 80 horses with negative EHV-1 tests have been permitted to leave Hawthorne for off-site quarantine.

The two active racing venues in Florida – Tampa Bay Downs and Gulfstream Park – have barred for their entire race meets all horses stabled at Hawthorne after the EHV-1 outbreak began Oct. 14. Tampa Bay outlined that policy in December, while Dr. Patricia Marquis, the track veterinarian at Gulfstream, confirmed Gulfstream’s barring of Hawthorne horses Friday.

Oaklawn Park, which begins its meet Jan. 11 and had originally awarded nearly 150 stalls to Chicago-based horses, has adopted a more lenient position, and 17 horses that had been stabled at Hawthorne with trainer Tim Ice will be permitted to take up residence at Oaklawn next week, according to Arkansas state veterinarian Dr. Joe Lokanc. Ice’s horses left Hawthorne for a quarantine site in Illinois on Dec. 5, were regularly monitored by a veterinarian, and have produced negative nasal-swab and blood tests for EHV-1. Oaklawn’s current policy is to bar from their stables any horse that has been stabled at Hawthorne within 28 days. Lokanc said Oaklawn would review the situation if the Illinois quarantine does expire Jan. 9 and might at some point accept horses currently based at Hawthorne.

Fair Grounds in New Orleans, however, is operating under a policy more similar to the Florida tracks. Eric Halstrom, assistant general manager and vice president, said that until further notice, no horses based at Hawthorne during the fall-winter meet would be permitted at Fair Grounds, which originally had expected about 150 horses to ship from Chicago.

“The Illinois quarantine date at this point doesn’t mean much to us,” Halstrom said.

The ban, Halstrom said, extends to horses that left Hawthorne for an approved off-site quarantine facility. Trainer Gary Scherer, a Fair Grounds regular, in late November sent a group of horses from Hawthorne to be quarantined in Kentucky. Those horses have cleared quarantine but are still barred from Fair Grounds, Halstrom said.

The Hawthorne winter-spring meet begins Feb. 15, and for many horsemen who hoped to stable elsewhere this winter, it might be offer the first chance to race again.