One day after a horse at Laurel Park became the latest thoroughbred to test positive for the equine herpes virus that has become a crisis in Maryland, another horse - this one at the Bowie Training Center - is suspected of having the virus.
As soon as Bowie trainer Chris Grove noticed one of his horses was having neurological problems, he called the Laurel Park stewards yesterday morning to cancel his entries.
Grove also spoke to Maryland Racing Commission veterinarian David Zipf because he feared the horse might have contracted the virus that has so far caused the deaths of four horses and possibly a fifth.
This would be the first case of the virus at Bowie.
Yesterday afternoon, the state Department of Agriculture placed an "Investigational Animal Hold Order" on Barn 1 at Bowie, pending the outcome of tests due back no later than Tuesday.
Grove said his horse raced at Laurel Park on Jan. 11, but had no contact with any horse that has the virus.
"But who knows who pops up with it next that might connect the lines?" he said.
Lou Raffetto, the Maryland Jockey Club's chief operating officer, said the appearance of what is possibly a new case of the virus would have no impact on his plans to lift the quarantine at Pimlico, perhaps as early as Wednesday, if no further incidents occur there.
"I'm not saying this is a case or it isn't," Raffetto said. "I don't know. But this horse has always had a weak behind and is exhibiting no other signs. ... The good news is things are going well at Pimlico, with no new case since Jan. 19."
Raffetto also said in conversation with the horse's former trainer that he learned the animal had been treated for equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM), a central nervous system infection. Grove was unaware of the treatment when he claimed the horse, and the horse has been off medication since being claimed.
Officials hope a reaction to being off the medication could be an explanation for the horse's neurological problems.
Grove claimed the horse about three months ago and since then has noticed it is "a little different in his back end."
Always a little more unsteady than most, the horse has worried Grove the past 2 1/2 to three weeks because of lameness in a hind leg.
"It's been on and off and has now gotten worse," Grove said.
The other horses that have been affected by the herpes virus have shown neurological problems in the back end.
"Maybe I've overreacted or maybe I'm justified," said Grove, 36, who has been a trainer for seven years. "But we don't know if this virus is mutating. I moved the horse as soon as the neurological signs appeared and I'm keeping my other horses in the barn.
"We're dealing with the entire [race] horse population in Maryland. Hindsight is 20-20, but you wish they'd handled it this way at Pimlico when it first started.
"But we're all learning. Rodney [Jenkins, the Laurel Park owner who is keeping his horses in the barn after losing Hey Ralphy, who tested positive for the virus Tuesday] and I look like smart people, but that's only because we've learned from the people who had this happen to them before us."
Note -- Horses at Charles Town Races & Slots have been quarantined to prevent the animals from contracting the herpes virus which has surfaced in racehorses in nearby Maryland, track officials said. The action prevents breeders from bringing horses to the track, and no horses can leave the track to race elsewhere and email@example.com
The Associated Press contributed to this article.