Derby biosecurity keeps racers afoot

Derby biosecurity keeps racers afoot

Jun 01, 2006

LOUISVILLE, KY. — The Thoroughbred racing Mecca was amid heightened biosecurity following recent outbreaks of equine herpesvirus and a mysterious illness that claimed the life of Kentucky Derby contender With a City.

Churchill Downs required proof of current vaccinations for all horses during Derby weekend.
Though the Thoroughbred's notoriety drew significant media attention and its illness remains a mystery, the inability to identify the illness that sparked its demise is a fairly common occurrence, says Kentucky State Veterinarian Dr. Robert Stout.

"It's a very difficult thing because it's subjective; many things look the same, and there is not always a specific lesion that leads you to a specific disease diagnosis," he says. "But this seems like an isolated situation with that horse. Tests for [herpesvirus] were negative; PCR tests were negative."

Stout says the horse exhibited some rather peculiar, continuous and worsening neurological signs before it was put down. With a City was stabled at Churchill Downs and was treated at Hagyard Medical Institute in Lexington.

The development came as Churchill Downs was ramping up for the 132nd Kentucky Derby. But Stout says the race might have been the safest horse race ever as heightened fears of communicable diseases prompted Churchill to require papers and proof of vaccinations of no more than 90 days and at least 14 days prior to entry.

"We're being more diligent than we were as far as checking horses on and off all kinds of venues, whether it be horse shows or trail rides or racetracks. And the racetracks in particular are very conscious of security now at a level that they probably haven't been in the past," Stout says. "It's critical to treat each stable and each barn as a separate thing and try to contain anything that might happen within an area."

Barbaro overcame an early stumble to win the first leg of the Triple Crown by six-and-a-half lengths.