02/07/2006 1:00AM

Two Pimlico barns have restrictions lifted


Maryland agriculture officials lifted restrictions on two barns at Pimlico Race Course on Tuesday after all 43 horses in the barns tested negative for equine herpesvirus, the highly contagious disease that has disrupted racing and training schedules across the eastern seaboard this year.

The restrictions were the first to be rescinded at Pimlico, which has been under a quarantine imposed by its owner, the Maryland Jockey Club, since Jan. 21. Horses in the two barns had been prohibited from mingling with any other horses since Jan. 6.

Although two other barns at Pimlico remain under holds that prohibit horse interaction, officials of the MJC said that they plan to lift the general quarantine on Pimlico on Wednesday, which will allow horses who are not stabled in the two still-restricted barns to travel to Pimlico's sister track, Laurel Park, to race. Laurel had canceled two Sunday cards over the past two weeks because of the travel restrictions.

Hold orders are also in place for one Laurel barn, where a filly was euthanized Jan. 26 after showing symptoms of equine herpesvirus. Officials said Tuesday that since the filly was euthanized, no horses among the 900 at Laurel have shown symptoms of herpesvirus, which attacks a horse's upper respiratory and neurological systems. The hold order at Laurel will be in place until at least Feb. 16.

In addition, a hold order is in place at a farm in Kent County where eight horses have tested positive for the disease. Two horses at the farm have been euthanized. The other six are in various stages of recovery, according to state veterinary officials.