Australians Seek American Help in Fight Against Equine Influenza

In a Sept. 14 meeting at Keeneland Race Course, William Inglis and Son -- Australia's leading Thoroughbred sales agency since 1867 -- sought American help to fight the ramifications of an equine influenza outbreak.

In a Sept. 14 meeting at Keeneland Race Course, William Inglis and Son – Australia’s leading Thoroughbred sales agency since 1867 – sought American help to fight the ramifications of an equine influenza outbreak that could result in the loss of half of the country’s Thoroughbred foal crop of 2008.

The EI outbreak in Australia began in late August, when the virus reportedly was brought there by a horse that shipped in from Japan.  EI had recently caused the cancellation of racing by the Japan Racing Association this season for the first time in 36 years.

New South Wales, the hub of Australia’s breeding industry and location of many commercial stallions, has been under a virtual lockdown since the outbreak occurred. Forty-three Southern Hemisphere and shuttle stallions have been forced to remain in quarantine – including nine from Coolmore Stud and 17 from Darley Stud. Among them are Encosta de Lago, Rock of Gibraltar, Choisir, Danehill Dancer, Elusive Quality, Bernardini, Exceed And Excel and Holy Roman Emperor.   

According to Matt Rudolph, Commercial Development Manager for Inglis, the average commercial foal crop in Australia comprises about 4,000 select yearlings. It is estimated that the market will experience a shortage of 1,000 commercial yearlings within the first missed month of breeding, while another month of EI could result in a shortage of 2,500 yearlings. Since three of the top four sires from this spring’s Easter sale remain in quarantine while the Southern Hemisphere breeding season began Sept. 1, Rudolph said, “A lot of very well-bred stallions are not available.”

“It’s an impossible situation, to tell you the truth,” he added. “There’s been a lot of talk that several of those stallions won’t come out of quarantine even if they’re given the green light to do so before the end of the breeding season. Obviously, the New South Wales area is where the majority of commercial Thoroughbred farms are, and quite a number of the area stud farms have been affected.”

While members of the Australian government are working on a vaccination program and a method that would allow farms to continue breeding while containing horses in quarantine-like zones, Inglis is supporting a plan to bring American bloodlines to the Australian industry.

“Since the announcement of the ban on equine transportation, we’ve been approached by quite a few American breeders who have been willing to assist in any way to try and boost our foal crop numbers for next season,” said Rudolph. “The main concern is that this outbreak will have damaging effects on the quality of the horse crop for the corresponding sale year.”

According to Byron Rogers, the U.S. representative for Inglis, three main options are available to American breeders looking to explore the Australian market.

“The first option is to sell the mare privately,” he said. “We’ve been doing a lot of that on the basis that once the mare is 42 days in foal here in North America, the sale will go through, because if the mare isn’t in foal it’s of no use to us in Australia, of course. That suits both the buyer and the seller. Then there’s the option of taking the mare down there to sell, which an American breeder could easily do during the April sales. The final option is to foal here and raise the foal, which you would want to do in a warmer climate like Florida, and then ship to the yearling sales in Australia.”

Multiple farms in Kentucky, including Three Chimneys and Vinery Stud, have opened their stallion rosters for breeding specifically to aid the Australian situation.

“Our market is looking for young, early-maturing speed types that run on grass,” Rudolph said. “We recommend speaking with an agent who is familiar with the Australian market and work out where you’re headed. The market in Australia has been thrown open due to the supply of shuttle stallions in the past 15 years, and it is a market that will reward you if you bring the right horse.”

An Inglis release stated: “Maiden mares would be preferable with good black type close up. The Australian market is strong enough to pay global market price for this type of quality. Australian breeders would rate pedigree and type over race performance, so mares that are out of graded stakes winners of half-sisters to graded stakes winners will have more appeal than mares that have run in stakes races but do not have the depth of female pedigree.”

Broodmare sires who would immediately appeal to the Australian market include Awesome Again , Carson City, Danzig, Dehere, Deputy Minister, Diesis, Distorted Humor , Dixie Union, Dixieland Band, Dynaformer, El Prado, Elusive Quality, Forest Wildcat, Forestry, Forty Niner, Fusaichi Pegasus , Gone West, Grand Slam, Gulch, Hennessy, Kingmambo, Machiavellian, Miswaki, More Than Ready , Mr. Greeley, Mr. Prospector, Mt. Livermore, Nureyev, Pulpit, Rahy, Rainbow Quest, Red Ransom, Royal Academy, Seeking The Gold, Silver Deputy, Smart Strike, Storm Cat, Stravinsky, Successful Appeal , Tale Of The Cat , Thunder Gulch, and Touch Gold.