01/22/2016 11:11PM

Sunland Park suspends racing for 14 days


Sunland Park in New Mexico has suspended racing for 14 days starting Saturday after five horses tested positive for the equine herpesvirus in the past week, the track announced. Sunland is conducting a mixed meet for Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses that opened in December and continues into April.

Sunland raced on Friday.

“In the interest of equine safety, Sunland Park Racetrack is postponing racing for an initial period of 14 days,” Rick Baugh, general manager of Sunland, said in a release issued late Friday. “I’d like to thank all the agencies involved, as well as our horsemen, for their cooperation and support as we take a proactive approach to protect our horses and make a quick return to live racing.”

Sunland officials are working with the New Mexico Livestock Board and the New Mexico Racing Commission to limit the spread of equine herpesvirus. The strain that has been confirmed is EHV-1. It was first thought to be EHV-4. Sunland announced on Thursday that a 5-year-old Thoroughbred mare had tested positive and was later euthanized. There are a number of barns under quarantine at Sunland.

“It’s mandatory that, twice a day, the temperature of every horse on the grounds is taken, logged, and reported to both Sunland Park and to the racing commission,” said Dan Fick, acting director of the New Mexico Racing Commission. 

A disinfection program is ongoing at Sunland, as equine herpesvirus is contagious among horses. There are also samples being taken of animals suspected to have the virus, according to a release from Sunland. The samples are being sent to the New Mexico Department of Agriculture’s diagnostic lab in Albuquerque.

Sunland’s suspension of racing is until further notice, and officials hope it will be completed in two weeks, according to track spokeswoman Molly Jo Rosen. She said in an email that the suspension period “resets to a new 14 days every time there is a positive test.”

Sunland will not make up lost race dates or lost stakes, according to Rosen.

The track has established a special training schedule to accommodate quarantined horses.