Precautions Taken After Trackside Strangles Case

Churchill Downs is taking precautionary measures at its Trackside training facility in Louisville, Ky., after a Thoroughbred racehorse was diagnosed with strangles, a contagious bacterial disease.

Rumors began circulating the weekend of March 12, but John Asher, vice president of communications for Churchill Downs, said the disease was confirmed in only one horse on the property. The results of other tests are pending, he said.

"It's nothing I would call an outbreak," Asher said. "All that we're doing is strictly precautionary."

Asher said 43 horses housed at the end of two barns--the barns have a firewall down the middle--are being tested, as are ponies that are kept in the barns. Churchill, he said, has been in regular contact with the state veterinarian's office.

"The horses are being kept away from the rest of the horse population, but they are allowed to train," Asher said. "They go to the track at a later hour."

On March 11, the barn area opened at Churchill Downs.

Some of the horses stabled at Trackside in the winter race at Turfway Park in Northern Kentucky. Turfway president Bob Elliston said Churchill officials "did a great job isolating the situation," and that it's business as usual.

"When we became aware of it, we spoke to the state vet's office and what steps needed to be taken," Elliston said. "As a precaution, we're requiring horses from anywhere, not just Trackside, to have a valid same-day health certificate."

If the health certificate isn't available, trainers must have a veterinarian perform an exam on site, Elliston said.

"We've had no difficulties," he said. "The horsemen have cooperated."

Symptoms of strangles are a fever, discharge from the nostrils, swelling in the lymph glands, and loss of appetite. A majority of horses recover from the disease but a period of isolation from other horses is necessary. Strangles is caused by Streptococcus equi.

About the Author

Tom LaMarra

Tom LaMarra, a native of New Jersey and graduate of Rutgers University, has been news editor at The Blood-Horse since 1998. After graduation he worked at newspapers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania as an editor and reporter with a focus on municipal government and politics. He also worked at Daily Racing Form and Thoroughbred Times before joining The Blood-Horse. LaMarra, who has lived in Lexington since 1994, has won various writing awards and was recognized with the Old Hilltop Award for outstanding coverage of the horse racing industry. He likes to spend some of his spare time handicapping races.

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