Reeling already from having eight of their best stallions stranded in quarantine at New South Wales' government controlled Eastern Creek facility, Coolmore Australia has decided to send three of its star stallions home to Ashford Stud.
The potential for the EI bug to hit Coolmore Australia is high as it sweeps without care across the Hunter Valley. So the three high profile studs - Tale Of The Cat , Johannesburg and Lion Heart - "will be sent back to America to avert any chance of them being stranded in Australia at the end of the breeding season," said Coolmore media rep James Bester.
Management at Coolmore in Australia is crushed but it is a decision that had to be made as there appears no end in sight to the mare lockdown, even though on Tuesday, in principle, it has been agreed by the government to set up a Purple Zone in the NSW Hunter Valley for breeding.
These three stallions would have been inundated with mares as the numbers of high quality sires in the Hunter at present is down as a result of the quarantine restrictions.
In explaining why, Bester said: "American importation rules insist that no horse can come into the country unless it has been on a disease free farm for at least 60 days prior. While Coolmore at Jerry's Plains is to this point free of equine influenza, it was regarded as a prudent decision to send some of the horses back to America." Coolmore was granted a special permit to move the horses to Sydney to board a waiting plane as the stud has been free from equine influenza, is outside any current restriction zone and the horses were not remaining in Australia.
Coolmore Australia general manager Michael Kirwan added: "It was a compromise that had to be made for Ashford Farm in America. We're between a rock & a hard place. It's impossible to keep everyone happy, although in retaining Fusaichi Pegasus , Dehere and Royal Academy, we still have some high profile horses for Australian breeders.
"The Americans have Tale Of The Cat & his son Lion Heart, plus Johannesburg: so it's an even split, with 3 each."
Strategic plans are hurriedly being put together to have the Hunter Valley Purple Zone operational as quickly as possible and all the farms in the region will be announcing in the next 72 hours which stallions they will let cover mares.