01/23/2006 12:00AM

Two tracks put ban on any shippers


Charles Town Races and Slots in West Virginia and Penn National Racecourse in Pennsylvania on Monday began restricting entries to horses already on the tracks' backstretches in response to various outbreaks of equine herpesvirus, officials for the tracks said.

The restrictions will be in place "for at least several weeks," according to Danny Wright, the chief state steward at Charles Town. Wright said that any horse that leaves the grounds of Charles Town will be unable to return to the track, and that all shippers will be prohibited from entering any races.

"We have become very concerned about monitoring traffic in and out of the track," Wright said.

An identical ban is in place at Penn National, according to Fred Lipkin, a spokesman for the track. Penn National and Charles Town are owned by the same company, Penn National Gaming Inc.

"No shippers - only horses on the grounds, and no horses from anywhere else, even the nearby farms," Lipkin said. "Right now, the words we are using are 'until further notice.' "

Over the weekend, a horse based at Penn National who raced in Maryland earlier this month tested positive for equine herpesvirus, a contagious disease that causes coughing, nasal discharges, and neurological distress. The positive test prompted many tracks along the East Coast, including Aqueduct, to put shipping bans in place.

Lipkin said that as of Monday, no horses on the Penn National backstretch had tested positive for the disease or shown symptoms. The horse who tested positive, a mare trained by Todd Beattie, has been removed from the track, Lipkin said.

Late last week, Aqueduct and Philadelphia Park banned all shippers from Maryland and Penn National from running at their tracks. Pimlico Race Course in Maryland, where two horses have tested positive for the disease, was quarantined on Saturday.

Charles Town and Penn National are the first tracks to place an outright ban on shippers from any location. Wright and Lipkin both said that officials at the tracks will stay in contact with health and racing officials in other states, but they could not comment on when the bans might be lifted because of the uncertainty of whether the disease will be contained.