01/08/2017 9:24AM

Two more positive tests for equine herpesvirus at Fair Grounds


Two more horses at Fair Grounds tested positive for equine herpesvirus Saturday. The horses are housed in barn 36 and are trained by Mike Stidham. Both, according to a Fair Grounds release, returned a positive test from a nasal swab for the wild sub-type of the EHV-1 virus.

These were the second and third horses in barn 36 to test positive for the EHV-1 wild-type. A Stidham horse got sick Jan. 1 and was placed in isolation on the Fair Grounds backstretch, and barn 36 was put under a 14-day quarantine. That quarantine had been set to expire Jan. 14, and Stidham actually was allowed to enter horses for that card when entries were taken late last week. But those entered horses now must be scratched, since the barn 36 quarantine has been reset to Jan. 7 and won't expire until Jan. 21 at the earliest.

Saturday's were the sixth and seventh EHV-1 positives during a Fair Grounds outbreak that began in late December, when a horse got sick in barn 14 and eventually had to be euthanized after becoming neurologic. That horse, trained by Alice Cohn, returned a positive test Dec. 26 for the more-serious neuropathic sub-type of the EHV-1 virus.

A second horse in barn 14, trained by Jeff Thornbury, tested positive for the same strain of the virus on Dec. 31, but that was the most recent EHV-1 case from barn 14 and the most recent positive test for the neuropathic strain of the virus. Barn 14's quarantine, barring further positives, ends Jan. 13.

The five subsequent EHV-1 cases, which in addition to the three Stidham horses occurred in the receiving barn (Jan. 2) and barn 47 (Jan. 3), all have been of the wild-type EHV-1. Neurlogic symptons are far less common from this sub-type, and only the first Stidham horse showed them. The other horses were tested after running a fever, and none became gravely ill.

Stidham said his two recent positive horses had fevers earlier last week and initially returned a negative result for EHV-1 through blood-testing before positive results were obtained Saturday through nasal swab tests. Stidham said both horses appeared healthy as of Sunday. They also were placed in the isolation area dedicated to horses that have tested positive for wild-type EHV-1.

Fair Grounds quarantined its entire backstretch Jan. 2 after the positive test from the receiving barn. State, federal, and Fair Grounds officials are scheduled to meet in coming days to discuss how the whole-backstretch quarantine will end. Regardless, the Saturday positives are a setback after three days with no new reported EHV-1 cases.

Fair Grounds will host a multi-stakes card Jan. 21 that includes the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes for 3-year-olds, a race that offers Kentucky Derby qualifiying points, and it now seems extremely unlikely any horses will be shipping from out of state for those races.

Fair Grounds-based horses whose connections had planned to ship for out-of-state stakes races in January may now be unable to do so. I'm a Chatterbox, who has been aimed at the Jan. 28 Houston Ladies Classic, and Gun Runner, whose connections have been considering the $12 million Pegasus World Cup the same day at Gulfstream, are the two most prominent such horses.