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Respiratory tests required for horses displaced by fire

Monday, December 11th, 2017

CYPRESS, Calif. – The California Horse Racing Board is requiring horses based at San Luis Rey Downs at the time of the devastating wildfire last Thursday to undergo a two-stage respiratory exam before being allowed to race this week.

In a one-page memo released Sunday, racing board veterinarians said attending veterinarians will be required to sign a statement detailing that they have examined the horse in question “and have found no evidence of a respiratory inflammation.”

Attending veterinarians must agree “this horse is unaffected by exposure to smoke at San Luis Rey Downs and is fit to race,” according to the memo.

The second stage of the examination will be a race-day scope of airways and lungs by an official veterinarian, according to California equine medical director Dr. Rick Arthur.

“We’ll be very vigilant,” Arthur said in a phone interview Sunday. “Some horses did get out early and may not have the exposure others have. We’ll err on the side of the horse if there is any concern.”

The memo urged trainers to take a cautious approach to exercising horses who may have suffered smoke inhalation at San Luis Rey Downs. The memo was signed by Arthur and state veterinarians Will Farmer, Tim Grande, and Nolton Pattio.

The racing board said on Saturday that 46 horses died in the fire. A small number of the approximately 450 horses based at San Luis Rey Downs have yet to be accounted for.

More than half of the horses formerly based at San Luis Rey Downs are currently being housed at Del Mar.

The fire struck early in the afternoon last Thursday. Some horses were evacuated before the fire reached the racetrack property from the northeast. Transportation to and from the training center was interrupted hen sheriff officials limited traffic on adjacent roads to emergency vehicles.

Because no transports were leaving and fire was approaching, a majority of the horses were released from their stables and set free on the training center property. The fire destroyed eight barns.

By late afternoon, vans of all sizes began to move horses off the property to Del Mar’s stable area, about 35 miles to the southwest.

Training began at Del Mar on Saturday. The racing board’s memo said that horses training at Del Mar will be restricted to jogging until Wednesday.

“We recommend horses shipped to Santa Anita, Los Alamitos, or other facilities be managed similarly,” the racing board’s memo said.

Arthur urged trainers to take a cautious approach this week.

“We’re trying to discourage training until they can evaluate their horses properly,” Arthur said.  “Some issues with smoke inhalation don’t show up immediately.”

The racing board’s statement mentioned that damage from smoke inhalation can take the form of coughing, respiratory distress, nasal discharge, and fever.

“Trainers should use caution in returning horses to training that were exposed to smoke and are encouraged not to race horses exposed to smoke at San Luis Rey Downs until after Christmas at the earliest,” the memo said.

The Los Alamitos December meeting runs through Sunday. Santa Anita opens its winter-spring meeting on Dec. 26.

Three horses based at San Luis Rey Downs are entered on Thursday – Pepe the Legend in the sixth race, Knowitallhouswife in the seventh race, and Scathing in the eighth race.

Trainer Doug O’Neill said on Sunday that Pepe the Legend was taken to Santa Anita after leaving San Luis Rey Downs. O’Neill said Pepe the Legend is being monitored closely and may race “if he looks 100 percent and my vet gives his okay.”

Adam Kitchingman trains Knowitallhousewife and Scathing. He said on Sunday that his stable was based farthest from the fire and that many “got out prior to the disaster.” He said he was taking a cautious approach to whether they would start on Thursday.

“It depends on how the horses are acting,” he said. “I don’t see why they wouldn’t run.”

:: SANTA ANITA, THE STRONACH GROUP AND DEL MAR OFFICIAL GOFUNDME PAGE: Click here to help those impacted by Thursday's fire

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