05/20/2005 11:00PM

Plans for quarantined horses

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Churchill Downs officials on Saturday announced plans for separate training hours - mostly in the early evening - for eligible horses stabled in three barns quarantined because of a recent outbreak of the contagious equine herpes virus.

In order for a horse to be eligible to train, he must have a negative blood test for the disease and the barn where he is stabled must not have had any horse display symptoms of the disease for seven days. Horses from the quarantined barns that meet this protocol will be allowed to train apart from the general horse population, except on Fridays, when the track runs late-afternoon cards, Churchill Downs spokesman John Asher said.

As of late Friday, only the horses in Barn 39, which stables horses trained by Paul McGee, Bill Cesare, and Ron Ellis, had met part of the protocol, as no new cases of the disease have been detected in the last week. Dr. Robert Stout, the Kentucky state veterinarian, said Saturday afternoon that the results of blood tests taken from horses in Barn 39 on Friday were not yet available. If all horses in that barn return negative results for the virus, they would be allowed to train, he said.

The track would allow training from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday if results of blood tests became available at the last moment. Usually, horses from the quarantined barns will be allowed to train from 6:15 to 7:15 p.m., said Greg Bush, director of operations for Churchill Downs.

The neurological form of equine herpes is a potentially fatal virus that causes upper respiratory problems and a loss of coordination. Two locally based horses have been euthanized after suffering severe complications of the disease. At least three others have also shown symptoms of it.

Provided there are no more cases of equine herpes discovered, the quarantine is expected to end in early to mid-June.