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Randwick Lockdown

First, the good news — the ban on the movement of horses within Western Australia has been lifted, as they have remained free of equine influenza. Unfortunately, that’s about all the good news — Sydney’s Spring Racing Carnival is officially cancelled as a number of horses stabled at Randwick racecourse have tested positive for the disease. All horses at the track will be under quarantine for at least a month, and quite probably longer — and now racing in New South Wales is suspended entirely for three months.

Among the possibilities being discussed is the staging of ‘phantom races‘ — horses under quarantine could run, but there would be no fans allowed at the track — all viewing (and, more importantly for the track, betting) would take place at Canterbury race track. However, that seems more unlikely in the short term now that a number of horses at Randwick are already ill.

While so far free of the disease, Victoria will naturally be suffering as well since many probable contenders for Melbourne’s Spring Racing Carnival are under lockdown in Sydney, not to mention the loss of international starters from Japan and elsewhere.

While it is heartening to see that the government is intervening and has set up a fund for those affected by the outbreak, the $1500 grants won’t go very far — and exactly who needs to be footing the bill is a larger question:

Mr V’Landys [Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’Landys] and the Randwick trainers have no doubt Eastern Creek is the source.
“We want some answers,” Mr V’Landys said.
“If it’s been an act of negligence on someone’s part at the quarantine centre, someone has got to pay up.
“This will have a devastating effect on the viability of the racing industry for a long time to come.”

One of Randwick’s most successful trainers, John O’ Shea, said the situation had the potential to end his career.
“It might put me out of business,” Mr O’Shea said.
“It costs me $110,000 per month just to open my doors.
“I am pointing the finger fairly and squarely at Eastern Creek quarantine centre.
“(Federal Agriculture Minister) Peter McGauran needs to get out of bed a bit earlier and smell the roses. If he doesn’t he’s going to have one hell of a disaster and a legal case on his hands.”

It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

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