Aussie Shuttlers on Hold; Awaiting Test Results

Shuttle stallions at Sydney's quarantine station are awaiting clearance after a virus scare. Results of tests conducted on blood samples taken from an unnamed Canadian harness-horse at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory at Geelong, Victoria, are expected within 24 hours.

Earlier reports suggesting that the Canadian horse imported to Australia is carrying the West Nile virus are premature. The horse in question was isolated soon after his arrival and immediately he showed an elevated temperature.

Bruce Christie, Chief Veterinary Surgeon with the New South Wales Department of Agriculture said the pacer had not been diagnosed as suffering or carrying a virus as yet and is recovering. There was an outside chance he would have to be euthanized, but that quickly passed.

"We have eliminated most of the possibilities but we're still awaiting tests on West Nile and other viruses including types of Equine Herpes."

Whether shuttle stallions will be released to their studs or remain at the Eastern Creek QS west of Sydney depends purely on the outcome of the tests. Delays are certain with Coolmore likely to cancel its open day and stallion parade Sept. 1, the first day of the Australian breeding season.

Other major farms affected include Woodlands, Arrowfield and Widden, who host the largest number of northern hemisphere stallions.

It should be a matter of a few days if the tests are negative. A positive to West Nile, however would throw the breeding season into chaos with many of the shuttles on tight schedules due to oversized books.

It is an anxious time for stud and stallion owners with horses coming in from North America and Europe, including Fusaichi Pegasus, Fantastic Light, Danehill's replacement Giant's causeway and many other invaluable sires. Stallions from Japan such as Darley's Carnegie and Sunday Silence son Fuji Kiseki are not affected as they flew directly into Melbourne and are quarantined there.

Christie said if the virus turned out to be West Nile it cannot be transmitted form horse to horse. "If it was West Nile the chances of it being spread are minimal. Which isn't to say that after the dreadful experience in North America that every possible precaution is and will be taken."