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May 16, 2013

Herpes virus brings harness racing to a halt

I’ve been going to harness horse race tracks my entire life. My family has been in the business for years.

I remember my grandmother packing all of us kids (my brother, cousins and I) into her vehicle and heading to Vernon Downs. That is the closest and most convenient track to get to. We always had a contest to see who could find the “big ball” first. This was what we all called the big water tower that could be seen miles before getting to the track. 

I’ve never really been interested in the betting aspect of it all, although as kids we would bring our pennies and all chose our favorite before the start of each race. I would generally choose the dark black ones or the ones with the funniest names. My dad used to tell me to look for a sparkle in their eyes. 

I am not much of a risk taker or gambler, so I have only bet a couple dollars a few times. I have found I am luckier if I keep my money in my pocket. In fact, I once chose the winner of all 12 races one night (my brother as my witness). Had I bet, I guarantee I would have jinked those horses. 

Vernon Downs was recently closed because of an outbreak of the equine herpes virus. Four horses stabled on the race track grounds were known to be infected with one having to be euthanized. No horses were permitted to ship in or out until the Department of Agriculture and Markets determined that the infected horses stopped showing symptoms. Barn No. 4 and barn No. 2 at Vernon Downs are under strict quarantine, and the only persons permitted to enter these barns are horse caretakers assigned to those barns. Horses in these barns are prohibited from racing or training on the track.

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