Turf Paradise closes backstretch
Turf Paradise in Phoenix has closed its backstretch after a horse was euthanized with symptoms consistent with the equine herpesvirus, the contagious disease that has shut down Sunland Park in neighboring New Mexico, according to track officials.
Vince Francia, the general manager at Turf Paradise, said the backstretch was closed Wednesday shortly after the horse, a filly, was euthanized, though racing will continue at the track while horses are prohibited from entering or leaving. The filly was exhibit- ing “wobbling” symptoms that are consistent with the neurological symptoms of EHV-1, as the virus is known, Francia said.
The filly had shipped to Turf Paradise from Sunland on Jan. 20, along with two other horses. Turf Paradise moved the three horses to a quarantine pen a half-mile from the racetrack one day later, after Sunland officials notified Turf Paradise about the equine herpesvirus outbreak, Francia said.
The three horses had initially tested negative for EHV-1 from nasal swabs, but Turf Paradise is now await- ing results of additional tests on blood samples. The dead horse’s body has been sent to a clinic in Tucson, Ariz., to determine if the symptoms were caused by EHV-1. Francia said the dead filly suddenly began displaying symptoms Wednesday after appearing normal for the preceding week.
The backstretch likely will be closed for at least three weeks, Francia said. The three shippers had all been placed in separate barns on the Turf Paradise backstretch, Francia said, and all of the horses in those barns are being tested for EHV-1 and will not be allowed to come into contact with the rest of the horses on the backstretch until the test results come back. Turf Paradise has approximately 1,700 horses on its backside.
“We are on lockdown,” Francia said, noting positive tests for EHV-1 among non-racing horse populations throughout Western states. “No one in, no one out.”
Francia said all racing personnel who have recently arrived at the track from New Mexico, including backstretch workers and riders, are being required to have their equipment sterilized and clothes laundered.