Equine virus test forces trainer to scratch seven

January 24, 2008|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN REPORTER

Trainer Rob Bailes said yesterday that he has had to scratch seven horses from races this week because it was one of his horses who is being tested for the equine herpes virus.

The trainer's livelihood is wrapped up in the 19 horses in his Bowie Training Center barn that are not allowed to race or train while waiting for the test results that are due back no later than today.

Bailes, 43, said this is his first experience with a horse showing symptoms of the disease that causes respiratory infections that can lead to neurological problems and death.

Bailes said the suspect horse, which he wouldn't identify, looked good yesterday morning and that none of his other horses have shown any signs of the disease.

"And I'm hoping they won't," said Bailes, who trains for nine owners. "But as I told one of my owners, `If one even crosses its legs the wrong way, we'd notice it today.'"

In early 2006, the Type I equine herpes virus caused the death of six horses and made 18 others ill at Pimlico Race Course, Laurel Park, a Kent County farm and the Fair Hill Training Center near Elkton.

Maryland Jockey Club officials said no new suspected cases were reported yesterday.

Race fans might remember Bailes as the trainer who campaigned Scrappy T at the 2005 Preakness. The then 3-year-old ran second to Afleet Alex. Bailes said the horse who showed signs of the virus is not Scrappy T.

"I'd say we're all definitely more alert to the signs now [after the 2006 outbreak], and my vet, she immediately spotted it and laid out a plan," Bailes said.

Dr. Carol Swandby, a member of the Maryland Veterinary Group, immediately moved the horse to an empty barn and called the Department of Agriculture to do nasal swab and blood tests.

sandra.mckee@baltsun.com

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