New Mexico regulators consider horse racing schedules

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico regulators scheduled a special meeting Monday to consider adding horse races to the to the remaining schedule at Sunland Park and the disbursement of millions of dollars in purse money in the wake of a horse herpes outbreak that forced a weeks-long cancellation of live racing earlier this year.

The outbreak in January led officials to shut down racing for several weeks and implement a quarantine at the track near the New Mexico-Texas border in an effort to limit the spread of the fast-moving EHV-1 virus. Dozens of horses tested positive and several had to be euthanized.

Racing at Sunland Park resumed late last month, but horsemen said they lost 180 races because of the outbreak and purse money was affected as a result. The average purse payout per racing day at Sunland Park ranges from $200,000 to $250,000.

The New Mexico Horsemen’s Association is asking the state Racing Commission to add two races per day for the remainder of the meet along with three additional race days.

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The commission will also consider a request by track officials to raise overnight purses by 15 percent starting Tuesday through May 3.

The New Mexico Livestock Board lifted the quarantine at Sunland Park in early March as state and track officials declared the virus contained. That cleared the way for horses to come and go at the track, but new protocols were adopted to ensure horses have health certificates and vaccinations before entering licensed tracks throughout the state.

The EHV-1 virus is highly contagious among horses, but it poses no threat to humans. Symptoms include a fever, nasal discharge and a wobbly gait. In severe cases, it can cause neurological problems and result in death.

The horsemen’s group said it is urging its membership to continue taking precautions since the virus can spread through the air as well as contaminated equipment, clothing and hands.