In the wake of a positive West Nile Virus test to a Canadian standardbred horse, almost 50 Thoroughbred shuttle stallions were released from Australia's major quarantine station outside Sydney on the morning of Aug. 30.
The decision for the release of Astreos and the other stallions came after a national telephone hook-up the previous day. The conference involved veterinary surgeons and administrators from the quarantine center, the Geelong Animal Heath Laboratory, and from the government body the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS).
Despite testing confirmation that Astreos had contacted West Nile, they agreed that any danger of further infection had long since passed and ended the confinement for all stallions. As Astreos had made a complete recovery the Little Brown Jug winner was among nine standardbred stallions given the all clear.
The massive exodus of horses from the Eastern Creek complex started at 6 a.m. (Australian Easter Standard time) with all stallions rostered in the Hunter Valley arriving at their destinations by early afternoon. The North Ameican- based commuters included Belong to Me, Bianconi, Favorite Trick, Fusaichi Pegasus, Gilded Time, High Yield, Irgun, King Cogat, King of Kings, Langfuhr, Lion Cavern, More Than Ready, Real Quiet, Red Ransom, Royal Academy, Sandpit, Twining, and Urgent Request.
Staff at Coolmore, Darley, Vinery, Widden and Woodlands, the studs most effected by the embargo, were greatly relieved that the wait was over. In many cases the delay caused when Astreos fell ill amounted to a mere three days, but could have been much longer and thrown the entire breeding season, which starts on Sept. 1, into chaos.
As the stallions were readied for departure, however, there is another potential breeding spanner in the works caused by Viral Abortion. A reported three cases in the Hunter Valley have followed the notification of around eight mares aborting on studs in Victoria.
Australian Thoroughbred Breeders' president, Richard Turnley, yesterday warned breders to be 'extra vigilant' in the care of pregnant mares. He also delivered a reminder that vaccination was no guranantee a mare was not a carrier.
"A mare carrying VA cannot spread the disease in normal circumstances, Turney said. "It is only contagious when the mare becomes stressed and aborts her foal.".