MIAMI - Monday's revelation that a horse stabled at Calder Race Course had tested positive for the equine herpesvirus and the subsequent quarantine of the barn area will have both an immediate and long-term impact on the track's racing programs.
The immediate effect will come Saturday. As a result of the quarantine, Calder management has decided to postpone the $100,000 My Charmer and $100,000 Tropical Turf handicaps, both Grade 3 events. Under the guidelines set forth by the Florida Department of Agriculture Division of Animal Security, no horses are allowed to ship into Calder for the next two weeks. There is no restriction on horses shipping out from the track, although at least one track, Tampa Bay Downs, said it would not accept Calder shippers to its barn area.
Only four of the 16 horses entered for the My Charmer are stabled on the grounds, while five of the 15 runners entered for the Tropical Turf Handicap would have had to ship in to compete in the event. According to racing secretary Mike Anifantis, no make-up date has been set for either race. The My Charmer and Tropical Turf were drawn Monday afternoon along with the rest of Saturday's program, which will now comprise 10 races. Entries for Saturday's card closed approximately two hours before track officials were informed by the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in Gainesville that a horse had tested positive for the equine herpesvirus.
The horse that tested positive for the equine herpesvirus had shown symptoms of the illness over the weekend. The unidentified horse, trained by Bill White, was euthanized at the college of veterinary medicine late Monday, according to Calder track veterinarian Dr. Patricia Marquis. The virus, she said, had affected the horse's respiratory system. No other horses at Calder had shown symptoms of equine herpesvirus, Marquis said Tuesday.
On Monday, Calder placed restrictions on the three barns that White has horses. None of the horses in those barns can race for three weeks. All horses in the restricted barns must go to the track after the rest of the horses finish training. On non-race days, they are allowed to use the main track after 9 a.m. On race days, because the maintenance crews need several hours to prepare the main track for racing, horses from the restricted barns must use the training track, which will also be available at 9 a.m. None of the horses from the restricted barns can use the starting gate for the next three weeks. All horses in the restricted barns will have their temperatures monitored twice daily for the next three weeks.
The long-term effects of the quarantine could prevent approximately 60 locally based horses from being entered for the next three weeks, Anifantis said. The majority of those horses are trained by White, who has 42 stabled at Calder. Other trainers who have horses in the restricted barns are Phil Combest, Vinnie Blengs, and Roger Laurin. In addition, the many horses from Northern stables who recently shipped into local venues such as Gulfstream Park, Palm Meadows and Payson Park cannot race at Calder for the next two weeks.
"Obviously this is going to hurt our ability to fill races for the next couple of weeks," said Anifantis. "This is the time of year when we really start receiving a large number of entries from Northern stables, which not only increases the quantity but greatly improves the quality of the fields."
Barclay Tagg, who is based in New York in the summer and Florida in the winter, had three horses entered to run at Calder on Saturday, Carson Hall and Radical Sabbatical in the Tropical Turf, and Nehantic Cat in the My Charmer.
"These types of things happen all the time in this business, having to miss a race with a particular horse or horses for one reason or another," said Tagg. "Sometimes it rains and they take a race off the turf. Sometimes you don't get in because a race has too many horses or they don't use a race because it didn't have enough horses. As a trainer you kind of get used to it."
The quarantine will also effectively end White's bid to win a second straight local training title. White captured the 2009 Calder championship, his 15th title here, and is currently atop the standings for the Tropical at Calder session, which ends on Jan. 2.
Combest has only seven runners in his barn, and said the situation couldn't have come at a worse time for him.
"It's a tough spot for me because I have a small barn and had several horses sitting on big races," said Combest. "Now I probably won't be able to run any of them during the month of December."