Australian Minister For Primary Industries Ian Macdonald confirmed Sept. 6 there are 1,319 horses infected with equine Influenza on 146 properties in in New South Wales, plus another 3,376 suspected cases on 405 properties.
As he made that announcement, a devastating blow came from Queensland: Australia's premier harness horse, Black's A Fake, has come down with EI.
He is the first official champion in either code of racing to be struck with the virus. Bill Dixon and Natalie Rasmussen, his trainers, have not let anyone into the stables. Black's A Fake is housed three-quarters of a mile down the road from a facility with horses that had been to Warwick, a town affected in August by EI.
The champion pacer, based on the Gold Coast hinterland, was one of seven horses trained by Dixon and Rasmussen to test positive for the virus at the Tamborine property.
"I was concerned and called the (agriculture department) in to test a few (horses). As an afterthought, I asked if they tested Black's, as well. And he returned a positive," said Dixon. "Now it seems the best possible outcome is for the bug to quickly spread through my barn. I have 48 horses here and they all will get it."
Black's a Fake has won the last two Inter Dominions -- the biggest race in Australasia -- and earned Aust$2 million in prize money.
"The only possible way my horses could have contracted (influenza) is by the wind, but the odd thing is, the wind blows from our property to theirs, not the other way around. I now just don't know. But it is spreading unbelievably quickly," added Dixon.
At another farm in the Queensland region, a broodmare and her newly born foal have contracted influenza. They are both standardbreds.
Tests clear Warwick Farm and Rosehill
Meanwhile, Macdonald announced tests from Warwick Farm and Rosehill tracks in Sydney were negative for equine influenza. Trainers at Randwick, however, said they felt the news may promote a false sense of security, as they are sure the virus will travel there. Said Macdonald: “The horses’ health will continue to be monitored; however, authorities are confident they are not infected with the disease.”
Negative EI tests at Albury
Racing Victoria announced tests of 13 horses performed by NSW Department Of Primary Industries officers in the stables of trainer Brett Cavanough at Albury on the NSW-Victoria border “have been reported as negative to equine influenza.” Racing Victoria chief veterinary surgeon John McCaffrey said, “This is great encouragement that the virus has not spread outside the containment areas of NSW.”