EI EI OH!

      Australia is almost three months
into its first Equine Influenza crisis,
yet it is becoming more and more
evident that the effects will last for years.
In fact, a report released on October
31 by research body IBISWorld, suggests it
could take a decade for Australia’s racing
industry to recover from the horse flu
crisis.
    This report said revenues this financial
year for the horse and greyhound
racing industries (combined), were set to
sink by 31.5 per cent to $1.21 billion.
At the time of writing, Victoria had
still not been affected by EI, but the racing
industries in New South Wales and Queensland have been virtually shut down for 10 weeks.
     The IBISWorld report said if Victoria
did become affected, the revenue falls
would be a staggering 80 per cent across
the nation.
     The report went on to quote its
General Manager, Jason Baker, as saying
that while it was unclear how bad the
long term outlook might be, “we believe
10 years is a reasonable estimate for the
industries to get back to the heady levels
enjoyed during 2006-07.”
     He added with little or no revenue
streams from racing activities across NSW
and Queensland, participants would have
no income, and many would leave the
industry.
     Both New South Wales and Queensland
are hoping to be back racing by mid-
December. The harness racing industry in
NSW has aimed at early January of 2008,
but says the horse pool has been seriously
diminished because of EI.
      Sydney’s famous metropolitan track,
Harold Park, has a restricted-class meeting
programmed for January 4, but its
chief, John Dumesny, is still undecided
about full-on metropolitan class racing
resuming.
     “We still don’t know when the
horses will be ready to race. They have all
had EI and been through the problems that
it causes and the horsemen are telling us
they need more time,” he said this week.

      “Some, who had EI early, will be
ready before others, but we need a big
pool of horses to have competitive high
class racing, and that is going to take
time,” he added.
     Harness Racing Victoria, which has
not had to deal with EI within its state,
this week announced it will proceed with
next year’s much anticipated Inter Dominion
series.
     Despite the fact many of the main
contenders from NSW and Queensland
‘may’ not be permitted to participate,
HRV decided it was in the best interests of
the industry to conduct the series.
     There are several changes to its’ format,
but the most significant one is the
reduction in prize money for the Grand
Final from $1 million to $750,000.
     With many things still unclear, and
many not agreeing with predictions of
doom and gloom, it is very interesting
to look at what is happening inside the
breeding industry in this part of the world.
     While it is impossible to look at every
major harness racing breeding operation
in Australia, we will take a quick
look inside the two biggest breeding
establishments.
     Nevele R Stud and Alabar are clearly
the two premier operations in the southern
hemisphere, so let us look at what is
happening there.
     While Nevele R is based in New Zealand,it has a major presence in
Australia, one that has been rapidly increasing over the past five years.
     Alabar is the biggest breeding farm
in Australia, standing a long list of sires
to meet the budget requirements of most
breeders. Alabar also stands stallions in
Canada and New Zealand.
     Bob McArdle, one of the founding
owners at Nevele R, believes it is not
only EI, but also the dramatic drought
throughout Australia responsible for
many problems.
       McArdle says next year’s foal crop will
be down 30 to 40 per cent on this year.

    “The combination of EI and the
drought is really quite scary. Many people
in NSW and Queensland can’t move
mares, and they don’t have the facilities
to serve their mares,” he said.
     “On many farms vets are not welcome,
because they have been on other
farms with EI, and the cost of feed is extraordinary. They are paying up to $30 for a bale of hay. Here (in NZ) we pay $3.50 (about $3.10 Aus.),” McArdle said.
      “I know of one breeder in Victoria
who has 18 mares and he’s not breeding
any of them because he says it is just too
expensive to feed them. The costs and
sourcing of feed is prohibitive, and it is
having a big effect.”
McArdle has many of his clients
throughout Australia actually leasing
Nevele R mares in New Zealand, breeding it, then having the foal reared, educated and broken in before flying it to Australia if ability is shown.
      “They all say it is much cheaper to
do that than breed one in Australia. (One
way flight charge is approximately $5,500
Aus.). I will finish with a lot of people leasing mares from us. Mathematically it’s
very smart,” he says.
     And yet, the breeders with better
quality mares, wanting to use the higher
quality sires, have not changed their
ways.
      Nevele R has books ‘full and closed’
on Falcon Seelster (fee $7,700, 250
mares), McArdle ($6,600, 250 mares), and
Red River Hanover ($5,500), while Little
Brown Jug winner P Forty Seven will get
200 mares,and New Zealand’s leading sire, Live Or Die, could get as many as 300.
     Nevele R has the frozen semen rights
to the now deceased but legendary
Artsplace (at $13,250), and McArdle says
he will get 100 mares throughout Australia
and New Zealand.



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