The suspected diagnosis of equine influenza in a quarantined stallion is potentially the biggest risk ever faced by the billion-dollar Australian Thoroughbred industry, federal Agricultural Minister Peter McGauran said.
Meanwhile, the Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders Association said they understand the decision to keep stallions in quarantine, but noted the move is likely to have far-reaching ramifications. There are suggestions changes will be made to the way horses are shipped to Australlia.
One option would be to bring forward the date the horses are shuttled to Australia. The major stud farms, however, may push for their own quarantine facilities, the Australian Associated Press reported.
McGauran said a high-priced stallion, one of 79 horses in quarantine in Sydney and Melbourne, was showing all the clinical signs of the first-ever Australian EI case with a high temperature and persistent coughing, according to the Australian Associated Press. He wouldn’t confirm the infected horse is champion sire Encosta De Lago, who is due to cover three-time Melbourne Cup (Aus-I) winner Makybe Diva this season.
McGauran said he is confident that should the horse test positive for EI, the virus would be contained within the quarantine facilities at Eastern Creek in Sydney and Spotswood in Melbourne. However, the Aug. 25 program at Randwick, the Sydney racetrack where 700 horses are stabled, was under threat after 15 horses stabled at nearby Centennial Park were found to have respiratory problems, the news service reported.
McGauran said all the horses at quarantine stations would remain there for 30 days unless any other horses showed similar symptoms. That would trigger another 30-day quarantine period, he said.
The Australian Associated Press reported the infected stallion is among 52 horses at Eastern Creek, while another 27 who traveled with them are in quarantine at Spotswood. McGauran said up to 25 shuttle stallions are at quarantine facilities.
Among those affected are nine Coolmore Stud stallions including Encosta De Lago, Rock of Gibraltar, Choisir, Danehill Dancer, and newcomer Holy Roman Emperor. Sheik Mohammed’s Darley Stud has been hard hit with 17 of its stallions quarantined, including Elusive Quality and Exceed and Excel.
Racing Victoria director of veterinary services Dr John McCaffrey said the Australian Thoroughbred racehorse population isn’t vaccinated against the disease, and therefore it was vital authorities and the industry acted swiftly. “Australia’s quarantine protocols, which are amongst the most stringent in the world, have proven very effective and are designed to control the risk of horse flu entering Australia,” he told the news service.
McGauran said a confirmed diagnosis of EI would cost the Thoroughbred breeding industry millions of dollars. He said 21 of the 79 horses had returned from Japan, where an outbreak of EI had been detected 10 days ago. The Australian breeding season starts Sept. 1 but will be delayed three weeks and possibly longer, the Australian Associated Press reported.