Tag Wotherspoon, director of communications and marketing for Grants Pass Downs, takes time to greet race horses. [ANDY ATKINSON/FOR THE MAIL TRIBUNE]

Horses quarantined at Grants Pass Downs

Grants Pass Downs officials have been busy getting ready for the annual nine-day parimutuel race meet that opens June 16, but Thursday they suddenly were faced with a potential crisis when a stabled horse at the Josephine County Fairgrounds tested positive for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) — a blood-born disease comparable to HIV/AIDS in people.

“We do not expect any problems,” said Rod Lowe, president of the meet sponsoring organization — the Southern Oregon Horse Racing Association. “It will not hold up the race meet.”

The 7-year-old quarter horse mare was given a routine Coggins test on Tuesday because it is the first time the horse has been at a sanctioned race track and the Oregon Department of Agriculture Animal Health Laboratory detected a presumptive positive test.

Because of the positive test about 80 horses stabled at the fairgrounds have been quarantined at the facility.

A state veterinarian came to Grants Pass on Friday and tested 40 horses that were in the vincinity of the infected horse.

“The state vet drew blood and we should have those results Monday or Tuesday,” Lowe said. “Things are still going on like normal at the track, We can still train horses.”

Lowe says a majority of horses for the local season will come to GP Downs after the Union race meet June 8-9.

“The disease is not contagious to people or other animals except horses,” Lowe said. “It’s been caught early enough that hopefully the quarantine will be lifted by the middle of next week.

“This disease is not completely unusual in the race industry because we do test for it and find it,” Lowe added. “I’ve never known it to be here. It’s the first case I’ve been involved with in my 30-some years in horse racing.”

Lowe’s understanding was the horse was recently purchased and had been on a farm in the White City area before coming to GP Downs. The horse was born or raised on a farm in Washington that had other horses test positive for EIA, Lowe said.

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