New South Wales racing was to return Sept. 22 to Sydney’s Rosehill Gardens, with 12 races planned and more than 210 horses engaged. It was to be a celebration that equine influenza was in decline.
The morning of the meeting, that all changed. Horses at Warwick Farm, a track that had previously been clean of EI, came down with the virus. Rosehill officials were forced to scrap the meeting, as many horses set to compete had been trained at Warwick.
Just as it had at Randwick last month, Warwick’s horse population is falling at the hand of EI. RacingNSW officials predict it will be at least six weeks before city racing resumes in New South Wales.
Meanwhile EI vaccine, irrespective of the cost, is being introduced to the NSW Thoroughbred community. A shipment of 20,000 doses is to arrive in Australia Sept. 27.
New South Wales Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald said the bulk of it would be distributed in the two infected states - NSW and Queensland. But debate is raging as to whether that would be the most prudent approach.
With the virus thus far unbeatable, it is feared the Victorian racing industry may be next to fall. A leading NSW-based veterinarian believes it is inevitable the bug will reach Victoria "and will probably arrive just before the Melbourne Cup." So said Nick Kannageiter, a Warwick Farm-based vet who predicted three weeks back that containment would not keep the virus from reaching Warwick Farm, despite its geographical isolation from the rest of the race tracks.
"And it is a guarantee it will hit Victoria too, which will put the Melbourne Cup in jeopardy this year," he said on radio.
So the debate is: Should the vials of vaccine go directly to Victoria now or be used to treat the infected NSW horses?
The initial plan is to have just 1,000 doses of the vaccine go to Victoria for racehorses competing in the rich Melbourne Spring Carnival. "The following week another 30,000 doses will arrive and after that we are ordering a further 100,000 doses," said Macdonald.
He said he hoped some horses from NSW may still be able to compete once they are inoculated. He added the plan was to start vaccinating what he called “working horses: breeding and racing horses and the high-level (sport) horses."