Vets hunt for deadly ticks

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 March, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 March, 2000, 12:00am

Hong Kong Jockey Club veterinary staff yesterday began an onerous sweep of the Sha Tin training complex.

They were searching for, but desperately hoping not to find, the tick from the rhipicephalus family, which spreads the potentially fatal equine disease piroplasmosis.

A furore has erupted after piroplasmosis was earlier detected in the retired five-year-old gelding Casa Grande but then exported to Australia in an unimaginable Jockey Club and Government veterinary blunder.

Half the Sha Tin stables complex has so far been scrutinised and no ticks have been found despite ticks being ubiquitous in the New Territories.

Grass is their natural habitat and dogs usually their host. Dogs are regularly walked on the Sha Tin racetrack by those who live on site.

Jockey Club director of racing Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said yesterday: 'We still believe our stables are tick-free but we are not leaving anything to chance.

'Half the stable area has been searched so far and not one [tick] has been found.' Finding them is no easy task. The rhipicephalus family of tick starts off the size of no more than the tip of a ballpoint pen but they expand to just over half a centimetre across once they feed on their host and engorge.

Casa Grande's export to Australia has caused a furore as the Jockey Club's vets and the relevant vet in the Government's Agricultural Fisheries and Conservation department were in possession of documentation which showed he'd tested positive to the disease.

The Jockey Club is blood testing all 1,538 horses at Sha Tin and in its riding schools for the disease.

Meanwhile, champion jockey elect Robbie Fradd has confirmed he will not appeal against the four-day careless riding suspension imposed following Wednesday night's final event.

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