Maryland horses will be allowed to race at Aqueduct Racetrack in New York beginning March 18, according to Maryland trainers Mike Trombetta and Dale Capuano, both of whom could run horses there in major stakes races that day.
Both Trombetta and Capuano said they had discussions with Dr. Anthony Verderosa, the chief examining veterinarian for the New York Racing Association, yesterday and were told they could enter their horses.
Maryland horses stabled at Pimlico Race Course, Laurel Park and the Bowie Training Center have not been allowed to race outside the state since early January when the equine herpes Type 1 virus first appeared here.
Wednesday, the Maryland Department of Agriculture declared the virus attack over, with no more active cases in the state. Yesterday, at the Fair Hill Training Center, where the virus was found in one horse in mid-February, clearance tests taken Monday on all the horses stabled in the affected barn came back negative, backing up the state's declaration of health.
Fair Hill horses in other barns are already being allowed to run in New York and Pennsylvania with clean health certificate documentation.
"Basically, I talked to [the New York] state vet and we met all their criteria," said Trombetta, who trains Sweetnorthernsaint, a prize 3-year-old that could run in the Grade III, $200,000 Gotham Stakes. "They're going to start allowing Maryland horses back there on that day, and I can take my horse there if I want to."
Capuano confirmed a similar conversation with Verderosa and said he plans to enter his undefeated filly, Celestial Legend, in the Grade III, $100,000 Cicada Stakes on March 18.
"I'm definitely taking her, and I'm very glad to hear that they'll begin to let Maryland horses in that day," Capuano said. "I'd like to see Charles Town [in West Virginia] do the same. There are a lot of horsemen here that need to go to that track to make a living."
Trombetta said the Gotham Stakes is his first choice for Sweetnorthernsaint because the horse already has a winning record at Aqueduct, having won a six-furlong maiden race there in January, but he hedged just a little.
"It's likely," he said. "But I'm still keeping my options open."
Trombetta said he is looking for the "best spot" for his horse, which is also eligible to run in the Grade III Tampa Bay Derby and the Grade III Rebel Stakes at Oakmont, Ark.
Trombetta said he will make a choice by Sunday. But wherever Trombetta takes his horse, the good news for Maryland horsemen is that they can take it outside the state to race.
"I am not yet aware that New York is planning to lift its restrictions," said Georganne Hale, the Maryland Jockey Club's racing secretary. "But it makes sense. Mike and Dale have two nice horses and New York officials want them to run there. It's news that could cause other states to open their doors to our horses and in return we'll be able to get horses from other states entered in our races. We're looking forward to that."