02/23/2007 1:00AM

Two tracks act on herpes


Charles Town Races in West Virginia and Penn National Racecourse in Pennsylvania on Friday put in place restrictions on horses shipping to and from their racetracks because of fears that horses in Virginia may have been exposed to equine herpesvirus, a highly contagious disease.

Penn National closed its backstretch to all horses shipping from tracks, farms, or training centers in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware, and any horse who leaves the grounds to race in Maryland or West Virginia will not be allowed back "until further notice."

Charles Town adopted a prohibition on any horse entering its backstretch who had been in either Maryland or Virginia since Feb. 1.

The restrictions were adopted in reaction to the recent quarantine of six farms in northern Virginia because of suspicions of exposure to an infected horse. Herpesvirus affects a horse's upper respiratory and neurological systems, and can sometimes be fatal.

"We've lost nine straight racing cards because of weather," said Fred Lipkin, a spokesman for Penn National, "and if this thing isn't contained, it could be devastating to our horsemen."