A ban at New York Racing Association tracks might be lifted in time to allow some New York horses, including Barbara Fritchie Handicap high weight Raise Heck, to run this weekend in the rich Sprint Fest stakes at Laurel Race Course.
Dr. Ted Hill, chief veterinarian for the NYRA, said yesterday that there have been no new cases of an equine herpes virus at New York tracks since several infected horses were reported 10 days ago at Belmont Park.
At that time, in order to contain the virus, the NYRA stopped the shipment of all animals into or out of Aqueduct and Belmont Park.
"But we might be moving off those restrictions," Hill said yesterday. "The earliest date would be either Wednesday or Thursday. It will be two weeks on Wednesday since the report of the last case." The incubation period for the virus is 10 days. Entries for the $200,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap, run on Saturday, are taken on Thursday.
Hill said he will know more after today when he consults with the laboratory that has been conducting tests on the infected horses and with members of the scientific community.
"We're encouraged that there haven't been any new cases," Hill said. "We know people want to move their horses around." He added that a second round of blood samples from all of the horses in trainer Mark Reid's barn, where the outbreak at Belmont Park occurred, will be taken today or tomorrow and sent to Cornell University to be tested.
Steve Jerkens, who runs the New York stable of his father, Hall of Fame trainer H. Allen Jerkens, told Laurel/Pimlico vice president of racing Lenny Hale yesterday that he plans to send either Raise Heck or Daimon for the Fritchie if the ban is lifted. Other New York horses considered possible Fritchie starters are Fleeting Ways and Incinerate.
Hale said he will lift a ban on New York horses shipping into Maryland once the NYRA eases its restrictions.
Laurel/Pimlico racing secretary Tommy Baker released his weights for the Barbara Fritchie yesterday. Double-graded stakes winner Raise Heck, who won the Top Flight and Meadowlands Budweiser Breeders' Cup handicaps in November, is assigned top weight at 120 pounds. California mare Arches of Gold is second at 119 pounds, followed by Classy Mirage, Poolesta and Santa Catalina at 117 pounds.
Bob Baffert, trainer of Arches of Gold, said last night that he was pointing his mare for the Fritchie. "But she got sick and started running a temperature, so we'll have to skip it."
Classy Mirage and Santa Catalina are at Gulfstream Park and are not expected to come to Laurel. Poolestaran third at Aqueduct yesterday in the Rare Treat Handicap.
Other possible Fritchie starters, and their weights, are: Daimon, 116 pounds; Winka, 115; Sentimentaldiamond, 114; Jeano, 113; Lea Carter, 113; Mighty Rose, 113; Suspect Terrain, 112; Tell Margie, 112; Tenacious Tiffany, 112; Another Natalie, 111; Fleeting Ways, 111; Mixed Appeal, 111; Fortunate Charmer, 110; Incinerate, 108 and Known As Nancy, 106.
Hale said Jeano, recently second in the Shirley Jones Handicap at Gulfstream Park, will accompany Tenacious Tiffany to Laurel from Florida tonight.
Neil Drysdale, who is headquartered at Santa Anita Park and is considering running Mister Jolie on Monday in the $200,000 General George Stakes, said that he and fellow California horseman Jack Sadler, trainer of Another Natalie, could charter a plane together to fly their horses to Maryland. "But we're still undecided if we'll come," Drysdale said yesterday.
NOTES: Marathon runner Asserche, owned and trained by John Alecci, won the $35,000 St. Brendan Handicap by five lengths yesterday over Time Killer. The horse set a Laurel record for the 14-furlong distance, running 1 3/4 miles in 2 minutes, 58 2/5 seconds. Asserche is the third 1994 Laurel stakes winner for jockey Larry Reynolds. Reynolds has previously won added-money races this year with Foxie G. and Suspect Terrain. . . . Jockey Santos Chavez was not seriously injured after his mount, Wanna B. Alive, stumbled and fell with him after completing yesterday's first race.