Equine Influenza Threatens Start of Aussie Breeding Season

Australia's major studs have been rocked by confirmation that more than 30 of the world's leading shuttle stallions will be detained in quarantine.

Australia's major studs have been rocked by confirmation that more than 30 of the world's leading shuttle stallions will be detained in quarantine for up to a month after the detection of a virus in one horse recently imported from Japan, according to the Racing & Sports Web site.

Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Peter McGauran announced that a horse currently being held in quarantine at Eastern Creek near Sydney is showing clinical signs consistent with the contagious equine influenza virus. It would be the first time the EI virus has been detected in Australia with blood tests of the horse indicating a recently acquired infection.

"While it's too early to be certain, we suspect this to be one of the horses from Japan, given there has been an outbreak of EI in that country," McGauran said in the Racing & Sports report."EI is an extremely serious matter and I will not take any risks with this disease getting into Australia."

The EI outbreak in Japan has brought racing in that country to a standstill over the last week.

McGauran reportedly has ruled that 52 horses currently at the Eastern Creek facility will have to remain in quarantine for a period of 30 days from Aug. 23 to ensure all were free of EI. He also said 27 horses at the Spotswood quarantine facility in Victoria would remain in quarantine for the same 30-day period because some had traveled to Australia with those at Eastern Creek.

McGauran acknowledged that some of Australia's best known and most valuable stallions due to start covering mares from the start of the Southern Hemisphere breeding season Sept. 1 are among those to be detained in quarantine for the next month.

They include nine from Coolmore Stud and 17 from Darley Stud, among them Encosta de Lago, Rock of Gibraltar, Choisir, Danehill Dancer, Elusive Quality, Exceed And Excel and Holy Roman Emperor.

"The extended quarantining of a number of Australia's top stallions will have a serious effect on the breeding industry as the breeding season starts on September 1," McGauran said. "Some of these stallions attract more than $100,000 per service and given they can service up to five mares a day, it will be a heavy financial loss for their studs. Regrettably, there is no way to facilitate their release from quarantine, which may stretch beyond the predicted 30 days if another horse displays symptoms consistent with EI."

Testing will reportedly continue over the next few days. McGauran said the presence of EI still needs to be confirmed but that authorities are operating as if the disease is extremely likely to be present. He added it is likely the detected infection originated from another horse in quarantine that had contracted the virus but had not shown clinical signs of it.

Thoroughbred Breeders Australia president John Messara told Racing & Sports there would be considerable confusion for breeders with mares booked to be served by the stallions detained in quarantine.

"It will be disruptive, as it will congest the season for a lot of the stallions with big books," Messara said. "It may reduce the season by a quarter and have a serious effect on next year's foal crop."

McGauran said the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service is exploring temporary quarantine facilities for other horses due to arrive in Australia.

Shuttle Stallions Standing in Australia for 2007