Magic Weisner, a favorite with racing fans across the country but especially in Maryland, is being treated for an undetermined illness at a Pennsylvania clinic after exhibiting signs of a potentially fatal neurological disease.
Although Magic Weisner is not out of the woods yet, Dr. Bob Vallance, a Maryland veterinarian in daily contact with doctors at the New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, Pa., said yesterday that he is encouraged by the 3-year-old gelding's condition.
"They're not really sure what's wrong with him," Vallance said of the Laurel-based Preakness runner-up. "But I'm very optimistic because his condition is improving rather than deteriorating."
Vallance said Magic Weisner is eating and feeling better after being treated for brain swelling and other neurological problems. He is undergoing tests to determine whether he has West Nile virus, herpes myelitis, equine protozoan myelitis or some other malady, Vallance said.
Nancy Alberts, who bred, owns and trains Magic Weisner, visited him at New Bolton yesterday after transporting him there Monday by van from Laurel Park.
"He's a sick horse," Alberts said. "He's listless, but he's eating and drinking. They're not disappointed in how he's doing. This has got to run its course, and they hope he'll be 100 percent."
A lifelong Maryland horsewoman, Alberts bred Magic Weisner from a crooked-legged mare she had bought for $1. He shocked the racing world by finishing second in the Preakness at odds of 45-1. Then he finished fourth in the Belmont Stakes, won the Ohio Derby and finished second in the Haskell Invitational Handicap.
Alberts had planned to run him Monday in the Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park. But last Friday, after Magic Weisner didn't eat his lunch, Alberts discovered that her horse had a slight fever.
Despite treatment from local veterinarians, the fever didn't recede, and Magic Weisner became sore to the touch and began losing his balance. Vallance recommended that Alberts take Magic Weisner to the New Bolton Center, a renowned veterinary clinic that is part of the University of Pennsylvania.
Vallance said it would take three weeks for blood tests to determine whether Magic Weisner has West Nile virus, which is transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes. Two Frederick County horses were recently euthanized after displaying symptoms of the disease. They were the first horses in Maryland this year reported to have contracted West Nile. Vallance said racehorses infected with the disease usually survive.
"It's weird," Alberts said of her pride and joy. "He's never been sick, even as a 2-year-old. I never remember missing any training with him. ... He's such a sweet horse."