Sunland Park racing suspended because of equine virus

EL PASO, Texas (AP) – A horse racing track near the border of New Mexico and Texas will be shut down for at least two weeks to prevent the spread of disease.

Live racing at the Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino in Sunland Park, New Mexico, was suspended Friday after some horses were found to have the equine herpesvirus, or EHV-1, the El Paso Times reported. The virus can cause severe neurological problems in horses.

Currently, no horse from the racetrack’s stable or nearby training centers is allowed to leave the area, and no new horses can enter. There have been 12 confirmed cases of the virus so far.

“This has been hard on everyone,” said trainer Justin Evans. “It’s a situation where lots of good, hard-working people may go bankrupt. There is no money coming in from purses, but we still have to pay the bills. We’re hopeful that racing will be back soon, but there is the possibility that this could last for some time. We just want the horses to be safe and secure, that is the most important thing right now.”

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The average purse payout per racing day at the track ranges from $200,000 to $250,000.

While no economic impact figures were available for the Sunland Park racetrack, those who depend on it say its impact is just as big as that of the track in Ruidoso. That track has an economic impact of around $45 million per year for its community

Two showcase races that were scheduled for this weekend have been canceled. Even the Sunland Derby, a March race used to prep horses for the Kentucky Derby, could be in jeopardy if the disease doesn’t clear up.

“This could have long-ranging effects on the meet, perhaps even the Sunland Derby,” said Evans. “If you are a trainer or owner, would you want to risk bringing your horse here even if there has been clearance given to resume racing? There could still be a chance that your horse could be quarantined.”