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Racetrack quarantined

Charles Town moves to head off equine herpes

Charles Town moves to head off equine herpes

February 01, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA.

charlestown@herald-mail.com

To protect the hundreds of horses that race at Charles Town Races & Slots, track officials have imposed their own quarantine on the animals in an attempt to thwart any spread of equine herpes, which has surfaced among racehorses in Maryland.

About a week ago, owners of the Jefferson County thoroughbred track banned any horses from coming to the track from other racing facilities, said John Finamore, senior vice president of regional operations for Penn National Gaming Inc., which owns the track.

Officials also ordered that no horse may leave the track to race elsewhere and return, Finamore said.

No sign of equine herpes has been detected at Charles Town, and track officials say the quarantine is a proactive step to protect the horses.

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"We just think it's in the best interest of preserving the racing product," Finamore said Tuesday.

Laurel Park has seen a shortage of entries of horses because of the disease, but Charles Town officials say their quarantine will not affect entries here.

About 1,500 to 2,000 horses are kept at Charles Town, which is enough to keep entries up, said Roger Ramey, vice president of public affairs for the track.

An outbreak of equine herpes prompted a quarantine at Maryland's Pimlico Race Course, where three horses had to be euthanized, officials said.

The disease, which doesn't affect humans, can cause upper respiratory infections in horses as well as neurological symptoms that can affect the ability to walk and run.

Last week, Laurel Park decided to cancel races Jan. 29 and Sunday due to a shortage of entries caused by the quarantine of 500 horses at Pimlico, the Maryland Jockey Club said recently.

Ramey said it's too early to tell how long the quarantine at Charles Town might last, but he said it probably will stay in place until the problems with the disease are cleared up in Maryland.

Horses coming into the track are checked at security gates, Finamore said. The quarantine is enforced using papers that must accompany horses arriving at the track, Finamore said.

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