An Insider’s Look At The Equine Influenza Crisis
   Australia’s horseracing industry is in
a crisis never seen before and all due to its’ first exposure to Equine Influenza.
    Racing of both Thoroughbred and
Standardbred codes has virtually ceased
across New South Wales and Queensland,
the two states so far ravaged by
EI. The long term ramifications to the
industry, the third biggest in Australia are
catastrophic.
     Victoria, statistically the number one
racing state in Australia, has managed
to stay free of EI, but one has to wonder
how long that will last. When EI was confirmed in NSW in mid-August, racing of
both codes was immediately halted.
    The EI virus, never before detected in
Australia, was confirmed on a dual hemisphere Thoroughbred shuttle stallion
at the Eastern Creek Quarantine Centre in Sydney.
    By the time this stallion was confirmed
positive to EI, many other horses had
left the quarantine centre and EI spread
to many areas in NSW.
And so it began. The highly contagious
disease spread at an extraordinary rate.
     The Coles Notes version of the developments is that it spread from one horse centre to the next, missing no horse along the way, effectively shutting down racing in a matter of days.
    Australia’s Department of Primary
Industries (DPI) immediately set about a
policy of containment, banning the movement of all horses in the entire country.
Horseracing ceased across the country in
the first week of the outbreak.
     As this article goes to press the EI
outbreak has new developments happening
every day. Most recently, there was
serious consideration to cancelling the
Inter Dominion Championships set for
Moonee Valley in Melbourne early next
year. This follows on the heels of new
cases of EI being confirmed at the huge
Doomben Thoroughbred training centre
in the middle of Brisbane (Queensland’s
Capital).
     There has been no harness racing in
metropolitan Brisbane or Sydney for six
weeks and it is expected there may not
be any racing at these centres before
Christmas. Harold Park in Sydney is not
expected to reopen for live racing until
sometime in December at the earliest.
     Racing in Victoria cautiously re-started
after a week and is now operating at
normal levels, but the unique TA B-funded
racing system in Australia sees it doing so
at a huge loss. Unlike North American
racing, the prize money is actually based
on wagering and not subsidized from slot
machine revenue.

     Harness Racing Victoria, the controlling
body in this state, last week announced prize money cuts totalling $1.5 million for the remainder of the season.
     And its’ CEO, John Anderson, is predicting more of that unless the NSW and Queensland industries come back online so to speak.
     “The financial impact of the outbreak
is not confined to New South Wales
and Queensland as some people believe,” he said.      
     “This is a national issue and one
that has had a significant impact on our
bottom line. Even though we have a full
racing schedule, the ban on racing in those states is having a detrimental impact on revenue (wagering),” he continued.
    “New South Wales and Queensland
equate for almost 40 per cent of our
turnover.”
    Australia’s racing industry (Thoroughbred, harness racing and greyhound racing) is primarily funded by a share in totalisator turnover, thus when the turnover drops the industry’s income drops. And while Victoria is putting on the
party, it has also incurred the not insignificant and radical bio-security measures put in place by the DPI at all meetings.
    “We are incurring additional expenses



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