The Blooded Horse Sale, which had been held four times a year at the Delaware County Fairgrounds, has been moved to the Champions Center Expo at the Clark County Fairgrounds.
The sales, normally held in February, May, August and November, were moved when the Delaware County Agriculture Society Board of Directors asked to postpone the February sale due to an outbreak of the equine herpes virus (EHV).
The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) in February strongly encouraged horse owners to limit the movement of their animals to reduce the spread of the virus.
Mark Bruce, ODA communications director, said EHV is an airborne virus that is highly contagious and deadly to horses. He said every move, from one stable to another, places the horse at risk of contracting EHV.
“The best way to get control of the EHV is not to move the horses around,” he said. “Lebanon Raceway (Lebanon, Ohio) was placed under quarantine.”
Bruce said the virus is non-threatening to humans but is easily spread from horse to horse. He said trainers and jockeys were asked to practice strict biosecurity and biocontainment measures.
Bruce added all quarantines that were in place have been lifted by the ODA in Ohio.
Jerry Haws, a major stockholder of the Blooded Horse Sales Company based in Wilmore, Kentucky, said he didn’t really want to comment on the change.
However, “We didn’t really want to leave, but Delaware broke the contract,” he said.
According to Don Howard, Delaware County Agricultural Society Board of Directors president, the board didn’t break the contract with the Blooded Horse Sales Company.
“We had our race secretary, Tom Wright, reach out to the Blooded Horse Sales asking to postpone,” he said. “The keyword there is postponed.”
Howard said he “can’t comment on the details” because the matter is now being handled by attorneys.
“We learned of the sale moving from Delaware to Springfield through a Facebook post,” he said. “The problem was exposing the animals to the virus and nothing to do with the sale.”
Howard said the sale included horses from 22 different states and Canada. He said the quarantine is a three- to four-week period, and the board didn’t want to go to the last day of the quarantine and the virus flare back up.
“With that many horses, we asked to postpone the sale out of concern for the animals,” he said. “It was on the TV news. That’s how bad this was.”
Howard said when the horses were quarantined, trainers complained of not being able to make money because they weren’t allowed to race. He said the only thing they could do was stay in place and take care of their horses.
Ron Potter, a horse trainer at the fairgrounds, said he has been going to the horse sale since the purchase of his first horse in 1971.
“The reason why it was canceled is that the directors got together asking to cancel the February sale due to the outbreak of the virus in Ohio and Pennsylvania,” he said. “It was in the best interest of the owners not to have had the sale. There are horses that come from out of state and from Canada. They didn’t want to contaminate the horses, cause a quarantine, and shut down the race.”
Potter said there were 160 horses stabled at the fairgrounds over the winter, and Wright made the final call on canceling the sale.
“We the horse owners actually thanked him for doing that,” he said. “We appreciate them for looking out for us.”
However, Potter said he wasn’t sure why the company moved all the sales to Springfield.
“It must have been some miscommunication or something,” he said.
Bill JanTausch lives in Delaware and worked the horse sales when they were at the fairgrounds.
“This hurts me because now I have to go to Springfield and get a motel room to spend the night,” he said. “It seems ever since the bed tax started, the fairgrounds doesn’t need the money.”
The county’s five-year, 3 percent bed tax for infrastructure improvements to the fairgrounds, approved by voters, has collected $2.9 million in revenue as of April 16, according to Deputy County Administrator Seiji Kelli. The tax has exceeded the projected estimate of $200,000 in yearly revenue as printed in a pamphlet from “Friends of Your Delaware County Fair,” which was used to educate voters before the March 2016 election.
“From what I know is the fairgrounds didn’t talk to the owner, and he had to make a decision,” JanTausch said. “I don’t understand it. If you don’t want someone there, you don’t ignore them. Write a letter, but don’t ignore them. It’s bad business.”
JanTausch also said City of Delaware Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle resigned from the fair board recently, which he thinks was over the sales being moved.
Riggle told The Gazette that she had been on the agriculture society board for 11 years but decided to quit because she is very busy.
Riggle also said she planned to attend the sale in Springfield in a couple of weeks.
A concessions vendor, who asked to remain anonymous, said there was a year left on her contract as the exclusive vendor for non-fair events when the board broke the contract. She said she no longer had exclusive rights as the only vendor and was bumped to a preferred vendors list.
“It was pretty devastating,” she said. “It’s got to be devastating to the city because thousands of people spent money in Delaware. This new administration wants to make changes.”
Howard said the loss of the sale isn’t the end of horse sales at the fairgrounds.
“There are a lot of horse sale companies out there,” he said.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.