|Lone Star Park Makes Special Preparations
for Breeders' Cup Due to VS Outbreak
With a handful of cases
of vesicular stomatitis (VS) diagnosed in Texas in recent months, Lone
Star Park at Grand Prairie and Breeders’ Cup, Ltd. are making plans
to make sure the disease does not cause a problem with the Breeders’
Cup World Thoroughbred Championships scheduled to be held at Lone Star
Park on October 30, 2004. Those plans include what is being called a “disease-free
zone,” that will allow horses to ship in and out of Lone Star Park.
Horses at three sites in Texas and four in New Mexico are known to be
infected with VS, a painful blistering disease of livestock such as horses,
sheep, swine, and deer. The cases of the viral disease, which appears
spontaneously and sporadically in the southwestern United States, are
the first to be confirmed since 1998.
Thus far, the VS cases in Texas have been located at least 400 miles
away from the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, where Lone Star Park
is located. The Texas Racing Commission recently tested over 1,400 horses
at Lone Star Park and found them all to be disease-free.
According to a report by The Blood-Horse, Breeders' Cup president
D.G. Van Clief Jr. said his staff was informed on June 18 to continue
the planning process for the October 30 event. He said Breeders' Cup remains
in regular contact with the Texas Agriculture Commission, the United States
Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the European Union (EU).
Officials are working on a protocol that would be accepted by the USDA
and EU. Lone Star and the surrounding area, including Dallas-Fort Worth
International Airport, would be in a zone subject to surveillance. Horses
would be tested, and various procedures would be implemented to ensure
their health and safety.
A similar plan was enacted in Colorado in 1998 to allow an equestrian
event to go on as scheduled in the wake of a VS outbreak. Breeders' Cup
officials received that protocol the week of June 14 and will use it as
"No matter what happens through the summer, we should be able to
maintain free movement of horses in and out of Lone Star Park for the
Breeders' Cup," said Pam Blatz-Murff, senior vice president of Breeders'
Cup operations. "Everybody is working with us. We have everybody's
cooperation up and down the ladder. We feel strongly we'll get the approvals."
Blatz-Murff said about one-third of the starters in the World Thoroughbred
Championships usually come from outside of the U.S. "We have to be
proactive," she said. "We'll have a plan in place and a facility
that is secure. And there will be enough time after the event where horses
can double back."
The state agriculture commission has been monitoring the area around
Lone Star and will determine the number of premises that contain livestock.
After that study is complete, the parameters for a disease-free zone will
It remains to be seen how long the VS outbreak will last. VS-infected
animals and other livestock on a premises must remain quarantined until
30 days after all VS blisters or lesions heal, a process that usually
takes two or three weeks.
The Texas cases have occurred in the western part of the state. Blatz-Murff
said a risk remains but given past patterns the disease, which is transmitted
by flies, it is expected to move north out of Texas.
The first VS cases of the year were confirmed May 19 in three horses
at a ranch in Reeves County in western Texas. Dr. Bob Hillman, the Texas
state veterinarian who heads the Texas Animal Health Commission, said
the most recent cases involve three horses on a ranch in Yoakum County,
about 80 miles southwest of Lubbock, and one horse in Val Verde County,
about 150 miles west of San Antonio near the Rio Grande River on the Mexico
Dr. Steve England, state veterinarian for New Mexico, said a "handful"
of horses on four premises near Carlsbad, N.M., have been infected since
June 4. The animals remain quarantined. Carlsbad is located about 75 miles
west of the Texas border.