Positive Test Puts 'In-House Racing' Plan in Jeopardy

A positive test for equine influenza has jeopardized a plan to offer "in-house racing" at Randwick.

By Ric Chapman

There is potential good news for the Thoroughbred industry in Australia as the federal minister for the Department of Primary Industries suggested that perhaps horses at their home tracks could conduct in-house racing while the horse lockdown due to equine influenza remains in force.

But the Sydney Morning Herald later reported that a positive test for EI in a horse at Randwick may force officials to scuttle that plan. Authorities were awaiting the results of a confirmation test on the horse from the barn of Anthony Cummings, the newspaper reported.

Ian McDonald floated the idea of racing home-track-only horses at a race meet --meaning, for example, horses trained at Royal Randwick would be the only ones allowed to race at Royal Randwick.

"The Australian Jockey Club was pleased to hear the minister of Primary Industries, Ian MacDonald, raise the potential conduct of ‘local racing’ amidst the turmoil of the EI crisis," said acting AJC chief executive officer Darren Pearce. “The AJC welcomes the potential of conducting ‘local racing’ as a way to get the industry moving forward again.

"Obviously, any such race meetings would operate under strict access conditions, and we will develop the proposal concept further for discussion with RacingNSW, the DPI, and the minister, Ian MacDonald, for possible implementation. At this stage due to bio-security risks ‘local racing’ is anticipated to be a non-spectator, broadcast only product."

The lockdown imposed by the New South Wales state government is scheduled to be looked at Sept. 3, but with the number of confirmed cases now reaching 70, it is unlikely their will be a dropping of the sanction. With 700 horses at Randwick and 600 at Warwick Farm, the AJC believes it could put together an attractive racing product as an interim measure at each venue while official racing remains impossible.

"The AJC recognizes that this is only feasible if no positive tests are recorded in the Thoroughbred community and appropriate risk management frameworks are approved and can be implemented to the satisfaction of the Department of Primary Industries and RacingNSW," Pearce said. "We also need to devise a formula with RacingNSW and other partners around the sharing of wagering revenues to make the events financially feasible.

“We would probably experiment with reverse programming wherein trainers advised the AJC of the type of horses ready to race, and we would form a ‘best fit’ program of races around the type of horses available. We are fortunate to have a very experienced racing manager, Colin Tuck, to develop a program in consultation with RacingNSW that best meets the needs of owners, trainers, and importantly punters."

In other news, the Australian Equestrian Olympic Trials have been postponed indefinitely while the lockdown remains in force in New South Wales. The trials, which doubled as selection trials for the Beijing Olympics and National Championships, were to be held in Sydney this weekend, but those trials are off as no horses are free to move within the state.