Wed, Aug 29, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Australian racing to resume by weekend


Racing is expected to resume in most Australian states by the weekend, but the transportation of all horses continues to be banned following the country's first outbreak of equine influenza.

A casualty of the equine emergency is the mounted police unit that was scheduled to help with security and crowd control at next week's APEC meeting. US President George W. Bush, along with 20 other world leaders, is scheduled to attend the meeting in Sydney.

Up to eight police horses were showing signs of equine influenza and all 36 horses at an inner-Sydney depot are now under quarantine. Police said yesterday that while there would be an impact on their ability to deal with protesters, the protection of visiting dignitaries would not be compromised.

The ban has also forced the iconic Birdsville Cup, a bush race in northwest Queensland state that attracts thousands of revelers each year, to be canceled.

The 12-race program, scheduled for this weekend, was canceled yesterday -- only the second time the Birdsville races have been stopped in their 125-year history. The first was during World War II.

Racing was halted across Australia on Saturday, three days after the discovery of equine flu in a stallion at a quarantine facility in eastern Sydney and subsequently at an equestrian complex at Sydney's Centennial Park.

The respiratory disease knocks a horse out of action for two to three weeks with a fever, hacking cough, nasal discharge and tiredness. Virtually all horses exposed to the virus become sick, making it particularly dangerous -- and costly -- for the racing community.

The disease is not infectious to humans.

Yetserday, Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran said an undetermined number of horses at more than 80 properties are infected with the illness in New South Wales and Queensland states.

"We still cannot track the actual source of the infection and therefore blame or liability cannot be assigned," McGauran said. "We just don't know."

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