American Thoroughbred breeders interested in supplying bred mares for the 2008 Australian spring sales should attend a meeting by William Inglis and Son, Australia's leading Thoroughbred sales agency since 1867, at the Keeneland Racecourse first-floor clubhouse Sept. 14 at 4:30 p.m, said Matt Rudolph, Manager of Commercial Development Managing at Inglis.
"The purpose of this meeting will be to update Americans on equine influenza in Australia and inform them of opportunities to supply horses to the Australian marketplace," said Rudolph from the Keeneland sale grounds Sept. 12.
The potential for a loss of half the Thoroughbred foal crop of 2008 could result if the stop-movement orders in New South Wales, Australia, aren't lifted soon, said Rudolph. He said American mares bred on Southern Hemisphere time might be what saves this year's foal crop and next year's sales.
"New South Wales is under a lockdown; that's where the majority of the country's commercial stallions are," said Rudolph. "There's no movement between farms of mares.
"Darley has a roster of 24 stallions, for example, and 19 are in quarantine still without a release date," he said. "Five are on their farm. But the only mares they've got on their farm are their own homebreds.
"Arrowfield Stud, where John Messara (managing director) has Redoute's Choice, had 1,100 mares booked to his stallions, and only 120 (mares) are actually on the farm," he continued. "If this lockdown on transport continues, he'll lose 90% of the mares. A lot of the farms are in the same boat."
Rudolph said the government developed a policy several years ago for containment if equine influenza was introduced into Australia, which has no native equine influenza. "But it's out now," said Rudolph. "It's away and running.
"There's a big push for vaccination, particularly with Victoria," he added. "We've lost the Sydney Spring Carnival, but we don't want to lose the Melbourne one. That's our number-one carnival of the year."
Horses at training centers in New South Wales, such as Randwick, are not holding racing because of flu, but other training centers such as Warwick Farm raced last weekend, and New Castle will race Sept. 15. However, no spectators are allowed at the track; they have to watch broadcasts of the races.
"They are trying to keep something happening and keep people working," said Rudolph of the so-called "phantom racing" meets.
"Racing is a social thing to do in all the capital cities in Australia," he explained. "Every Saturday and every public holiday there is racing. It's the same in Melbourne and every other state. It's a whole social event to go to the races on Saturday."
He had some good news regarding the equine influenza outbreak, which at last count had affected nearly 4,500 horses on 410 properties, with another 359 properties declared "dangerous contacts" due to their influenza risk, and 274 properties with suspect cases of equine influenza.
"As far as the virus goes, it's a very mild strain," said Rudolph. "Horses' aren't going off their feed. Trainers who have got horses with EI (equine influenza), some of them don't even have cough and runny nose. They have a horse with a temperature spike, so they know they've got it."
Breeding Season at Risk
There are 43 shuttle stallions caught in Australian quarantine, said Rudolph. Those include Elusive Quality and Bernardini.
He said the top commercial stallions at this spring's Easter sale were Redoute's Choice (Aus), Encosta Da Lago (Aus), Elusive Quality , Rock of Gibraltar (Ire), and Choisir (Aus), a champion who's a first-season sire. "Out of those five, Redoute's Choice is the only one out of quarantine," noted Rudolph. "The others are all in quarantine.
"Encosta De Lago covers 200 mares plus," he said. "Some years he's covered 250. He covers five times a day. In a space of a month, that will be 150 covers he won't perform."
The Australian breeding season on Southern Hemisphere time started Sept. 1. "We've still got October, November, and December to breed," stated Rudoph. "That's not too bad. But if it gets past the middle of October, a lot of people might just give their mares the season. Some of the (shuttle) stallions might just turn around and go home and not come out for just six weeks. It's hard to estimate."
Shuttle stallions start leaving Australia around Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, to return to their countries of origin.
"John Messara estimated that for the first month (of the stop-movement of horses), the result will be 1,000 less commercial sale yearlings (for next year), and if we go another month, it will be 2,500 less commercial sale yearlings," said Rudolph.
He offered the following insights:
"To give you an indication, we probably sell about 4,000 yearlings in select sales. At our Easter sale, we sell about 600 head. We're looking with three of the top four stallions without representation (if the stop movement isn't lifted).
"The breeders just want to get on with it back home. They're saying, 'Let's just vaccinate and get it over and done with.'
"We've been swamped while we've been here by owners saying we've got mares for sale. Every day I've looked at mares. The longer we've been here, the more it's snowballed. What' we've decided to do is we've asked Keeneland to have a forum here Friday. Robert Clay (owner of Three Chimneys Farm) suggested it. We want basically to update the breeders over here who some of them may be looking to put a mare in foal and send her to Australia. We need to get the mares bought and booked to stallions. Then say we've got these mares in foal for you (to clients in Australia).
"One suggestion is to put mares in foal and ship them down either for private sale or our Easter sale in Sydney that has yearling and broodmare sales. Next year in March the yearling sale starts the Tuesday after Easter Sunday (March 25). Some breeders here are looking at using Rahy and bringing a mare down in foal because we'll have a shortage of broodmares for the market next year, too.
"We're very grateful for these breeders up here. In Australia we're just starting to open up a lot of the international markets, and to have this stop us in our tracks could be quite damaging.
"We can't be more thankful for how the Americans have offered support and how they can help us out. We're very appreciative of that. We want to inform them about our market and what sort of horses Australian breeders would be interested in.
"The other beauty about America is Danehill blood in Australia is very prominent, so there are a lot of bloodlines here that will suite the Australian market to be outcrosses like Rahy, Awesome Again , and Smarty Jones . I got an e-mail through from Vinery that their stallions would be available. Posse would be well met in the Australian market. There are a host of Mr. Prospector line horses that would suit our market.
"We've talked to Three Chimneys farm and we have a USA rep here, Byron Rogers, who knows the Australian market well, and we would encourage anyone booking seasons to book through Byron up here. We've spoken to most of the stud farms, but I haven't talked to all of the farms.
"All the three Chimneys stallions are available. Given how well Elusive Quality is doing in Australia, Smarty Jones will be popular. Rahy's had group I winners in Australia. Those two would be the pick of the bunch there."
Rudolph said some European breeders also have an interest in breeding mares on Southern Hemisphere time for the Australian market.
"If breeders here want to get on with it and start getting mares bred, we've got agents back home that can take them in the Easter sale," he said. "That would be the ideal time to do it.
"I think breeders might be surprised at how strong our market is. At (the Easter sales) our gross has grown by 273% in the last five years. It's a strong market. The sale topper last year was a colt by Rock of Gibraltar that made Australian $3 million, U.S. $2.5 million. We sold a group I winning mare for $3.4 million, about $2.8 U.S."
The Sept. 14 meeting at Keeneland will be designed to help American breeders who might want to breed for the Australian market understand which bloodlines would appeal to those in Australia.
"Woodman, Deputy Minister mares, people will trip over themselves to get those mares back in Australia," said Rudolph. "Australian breeders have been coming to the Keeneland to buy mares. One last year paid $600,000 U.S. for a mare."