01/10/2014 5:44PM

Parx: Clean retests end quarantine

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The phone call that Sal Sinatra had been anxiously awaiting since Thursday evening finally came mid-afternoon on Friday. And it was good news.

Sinatra, director of racing and racing secretary at Parx Racing in suburban Philadelphia, received confirmation from a medical lab that all 28 horses from the one remaining barn still under quarantine tested negative for EPH-1, the highly contagious equine herpesvirus. As a result, the quarantine that the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture imposed on Nov. 13 has been lifted.

“All the tests came back good,” Sinatra said. “The quarantine is officially over.”

The latest retests, consisting of bloodwork and nasal swabs, were conducted Thursday on the horses in barn 21, which primarily houses runners trained by Steve Klesaris, along with a few animals from four other trainers. The previous round of testing in early December showed that six horses still were positive for EPH-1, a virus that causes upper-respiratory infection and sometimes severe neurological disease in horses but poses no danger to people.

After 21 days passed with no further symptoms of the illness, Sinatra said he was granted permission to move 22 horses from the quarantine barn into another area. Those animals, along with six who previously tested positive, were all retested again Thursday and came back clean.

Friday also marked the first day horses from Parx’s general population were allowed to ship out to other tracks, and shippers were allowed to travel in and return to their home base after racing. The New York Racing Association began accepting entries from Parx-based horses Friday and Sinatra said he expects other tracks in the Mid-Atlantic region to soon follow suit.

“I’m relieved it’s finally over,” Sinatra said of the ordeal. “But at the same time I feel horrible for the people who had horses in the affected barns.”

Sinatra said he also wanted to thank the local horsemen for supporting the cards and entering enough horses so live racing could continue throughout the quarantine period. The impact of fewer available horses was lessened when 10 programs in December and another this past Monday were canceled due to either bad weather or poor track conditions caused by excessive rain or snow.

Sinatra said he plans to talk to horsemen about rescheduling three stakes that were postponed because of a lack of entries during the quarantine period. The Pennsylvania Nursery, along with a pair of races  for horses who spent time residing in South Carolina, were originally restricted to 2-year-olds of 2013, but will now be rewritten for  3-year-olds.