12/29/2008 12:00AM

Louisiana lifts shipping ban at Fair Grounds

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The Louisiana State Racing Commission decided in a meeting that concluded Monday evening to lift the shipping ban at Fair Grounds, motivated by the equine herpesvirus, that contributed to 77 scratches on the Sunday and Monday cards at the New Orleans track. Ship-ins will be allowed when racing resumes at Fair Grounds on Wednesday, a relief to track officials who feared another scratch-laden day's racing.

The ban was in place Sunday and Monday, and forbade Fair Grounds horses to leave the track for other jurisdictions, as well as blocking offtrack horses from coming to Fair Grounds to race. The shipping ban and a quarantine of a barn shared by trainers Dallas Stewart and Neil Howard were part of an effort to prevent an outbreak of equine herpes, which has infected one horse trained by Stewart.

That filly was sent to Kentucky after falling ill, and was diagnosed with the herpesvirus on Wednesday. All the other horses in her barn subsequently were tested for herpes last week, and the shipping ban went into effect while racing officials awaited those test results. All were in by Monday, and five more positive tests were reported, but none of those horses has shown herpes symptoms, and veterinary studies have indicated that as many as 5 percent of the equine population are latent carriers of the herpesvirus. Moreover, the horses in the Stewart-Howard barn are still under quarantine, so the decision was made to resume horse traffic into and out of Fair Grounds.

Ship-ins to Fair Grounds must have a normal temperature upon arrival, must have undergone a veterinary inspection within the previous 48 hours, and must recently have received a herpes vaccination.

The two-day shipping ban was particularly harmful to Louisiana-bred races, which attract many horses based in central Louisiana.