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.
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.
Churchill Downs required proof of current vaccinations for all horses during Derby weekend.
"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.