Club seeks ways to beat horse flu impact on HK

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2007, 12:00am

Jockey Club officials are hopeful the Australian equine influenza outbreak will not effect its Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races showpiece in December, but are resigned to an impact on bread-and-butter racing.

Melbourne racing continues although Sydney's has shut down and Melbourne-based stars such as Miss Finland, Miss Andretti and Apache Cat are reportedly aimed towards Sha Tin on December 9.

The Jockey Club's manager for international races, sale and development, Mark Player, said the club hoped temporary importing of horses could be arranged for the big event.

'The head of international liaison, Dr Brian Stewart, is in Australia looking at the situation with pre-export quarantine for those horses,' said Player. 'I think we will be able to put something in place for temporary imports, even though the landscape down there changes daily and it is hard to make any final decisions now.'

Player said the International Sale faced a major problem, since many of the horses already purchased were bought in Sydney and at the Magic Millions on the Gold Cast and left in the flu-affected states of New South Wales and Queensland.

And the club's planned return to a subscription griffin set-up this season will also be severely hit.

'Obviously, things have changed in both situations there. While I'm not going to elaborate on it, I have submitted a recommendation, which will be considered at next week's racing committee meeting and I think we may have a suitable alternative plan,' Player said.

However, the full impact of the outbreak is yet to be felt on the permanent imports.

'There was a shipment cancelled at the time of the initial outbreak, so we are already behind, but with 40 per cent of the horses here coming from Australia it must have serious consequences for our numbers down the track,' Player said.

'We have the capability to catch up quickly when it's clear to import again, because we have the Olympic quarantine facility now with a bigger capacity. But we are talking months rather than weeks for when that will be.'