The Australian Spring Carnival in Sydney will not be held because of a virulent outbreak of equine influenza, of which there are now eight confirmed cases in Thoroughbreds.
Racing will be suspended in New South Wales for at least three months. Hundreds of jobs will be lost, and RacingNSW has called on the government to bail out thousands of Thoroughbred industry workers following the complete collapse of the sport in New South Wales.
Officials said an Anthony Cummings-trained 4-year-old gelding that returned a first-round positive for EI had been found positive after a confirmatory test. Then, another seven horses in the Cummings barn were found to have contracted EI.
“The fact it has come to Randwick (race course) and is spreading is sad and extraordinary,” Cummings said. “But it is here now, and we need to just get on with life.”
Along with the cancellation of racing, mares will not be allowed to leave their farms to visit stallions. The quarantined shuttle stallions at Eastern Creek are under lock and key until late October.
Cancellation of the $35-million Spring Carnival is a serious blow, officials said. “It is shocking news,” said Ian McDonald, a top New South Wales official. “It’s the worst possible we could have received. The racing industry is now completely shut down and will be for quite a few months. Everyone is absolutely devastated.”
Officials in Victoria are still hopeful the $75-million Victorian Spring Carnival featuring the Melbourne Cup (Aust-I) will be held. Two American horses are set to arrive in Australia within two weeks to compete in the $3-million W.S. Cox Plate (Aust-I) during the Victorian carnival. As long as the virus is contained within New South Wales, Victorian racing will continue.
RacingNSW chief executive Peter V’Landys said the news that EI had been found in the 700-strong horse population at Randwick is destroying thousands of people. “Many people in the sport are on $50,000 a year or less, and this is going to destroy them,” V'Landys said.
Until the positive in the Cummings horse, the EI outbreak had been confined to the non-racing horse community. The eventing horse that contracted the virus nine days ago has died, officials said.
No horses from New South Wales will be able to cross the border into Victoria, which plays host to the biggest week of racing in November.
“It is the darkest day in New South Wales racing history,” V’Landys said. “We have 50,000 participants who are already suffering. One horse transport company has already laid off 50 people. This will have a devastating effect and will cost hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Even though officials are predicting the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival will proceed as scheduled, it will do so without any New South Wales horses.