Racing authorities in Australia are adamant the Melbourne Cup will not be affected by what is believed to be an equine influenza outbreak in Sydney.
After one horse showed signs of suffering from the highly-infectious influenza, a greater number were put into isolation at a stable in Sydney, where they will remain for 30 days until any possible infection has run its course.
The scare comes after a horse flu outbreak in Japan forced a halt to all scheduled racing in the country last week.
“An iron curtain has fallen, and we’re not releasing any of them until every single one of them, without any calculable risk, has been cleared of equine influenza,” said Federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran.
But Racing Victoria’s operations manager Leigh Jordan does not expect horse flu to disrupt November’s Melbourne Cup.
“The horses that come in for Spring Carnival actually don’t quarantine at Spotswood. They actually quarantine at Sandown Racecourse – we have a quarantine centre there,” he said.
“So I’d obviously have to get confirmation from AQIS (Australian Quarantine Infection Service), but really at this stage, as they don’t go into that quarantine station and it’s quite a separate event, I don’t think it’ll impact the Spring Carnival.”
Jordan said the virus had the potential to devastate the industry, but that quarantine procedures had done their job.
“Thirty odd years ago when there was an outbreak in South Africa, within say three or four days, the virus spread and covered an area probably similar to New South Wales and Victoria,” he added.
“If it got out into the general horse population, it would have a rather catastrophic effect, but I think the pleasing part is the horses are in quarantine.”