Australia's Rules Banning AI Upheld by Court

Prominent breeder-owner Bruce McHugh contended the rules restrain trade.

In a highly publicized case that could have had ramifications worldwide, the Full Federal Court of Australia has unanimously dismissed a challenge to that country's ban on artificial insemination in Thoroughbreds.

As a result of the ruling, the Australian Stud Book rules related to natural breeding of Thoroughbred horses, and subsequently the Australian Rules of Racing of Thoroughbreds, have again been found to be valid and enforceable, according to a statement from the Thoroughbred Breeders of Australia.

The April 17 decision by the federal court upholds judgment handed down by Justice Robertson in December 2012.

In upholding the current Thoroughbred breeding standard that requires a mare to be covered, Robertson ruled Dec. 19 that prominent owner-breeder Bruce McHugh's argument that the current breeding policies restrain trade comes up short on evidence. McHugh is a former bookmaker and former chairman of Sydney Turf Club.

"A great deal of industry time and financial resources have been spent over the past five years in defending this matter," Australian Racing Board chairman John Messara said in a statement regarding the latest decision in the convoluted case.

"The issue of artificial insemination is settled once and for all. We have said from the outset that our sport was not anti-competitive or a restraint of trade as proponents of AI are perfectly free to establish their own industry. Fortunately the federal court agreed with us.

"Racing and breeding has many challenges now and into the future and the finality of this case will allow us to concentrate fully on what matters most to participants, punters, and stakeholders."