Australia's equine flu outbreak spread to the thoroughbred industry when a horse tested positive at Sydney's premier racetrack and more than 700 horses were confined to stables on Thursday.
"Randwick right now is under lockdown," said trainer Anthony Cummings, whose horse tested positive.
All racing in Australia has been cancelled since equine flu was detected last week. Officials have been trying to prevent the disease spreading to the thoroughbred industry.
Cummings said a second test would be carried out on the horse later. "If this case proves to be positive then that is probably the end of the Randwick spring carnival," he said.
Australia's spring carnival is the industry's most lucrative period, with Randwick in New South Wales (NSW) one of the main venues and home to some of Australia's best horses and trainers.
The racing shutdown is costing the industry tens of millions of dollars each day, with officials warning a week of no racing will cost the country's biggest wagering firm Tabcorp an estimated A$100 million ($82 million).
Racing NSW Chief Executive Peter V'Landys said he did not expect Randwick to stage spring carnival races, while other racetracks in Sydney could be restricted to "phantom" race meetings where horses race but the public is barred from tracks.
"This is devastating news. I think there is zero chance of a spring carnival in Sydney," V'Landys told reporters.
"I think the best-case scenario is that Randwick shuts down for 28 days, so those horses will not be competing for one or two months," he said.
The highly contagious disease is not infectious to humans but has the same debilitating effect on horses as influenza has on people; causing high fevers, coughing, sneezing and lack of appetite. In rare cases, it can be fatal to horses.
More than 90 horses have been diagnosed with equine flu and hundreds more horses are suspected of being infected.
Australia has some of the toughest quarantine rules in the world and officials suspect equine flu might have come from Japan, which has just been hit by a large outbreak. Racing was cancelled in Japan for the first time in more than 35 years after almost 100 horses tested positive.
Australia's first equine flu outbreak has forced a national ban on horse movements until Friday.
In the worst affected state, NSW, racing has been stopped indefinitely. Racing has been cancelled in Queensland until next week although other states hope to resume racing at the weekend.
Australia's outbreak of equine flu has occurred on the eve of the country's thoroughbred breeding season when some of the world's top stallions arrive from the northern hemisphere.
About 40 international stallions have been quarantined in Australia and the New Zealand government has closed its borders to horses from Australia, including dozens of top American, European and Asian stallions worth an estimated $500 million.
V'Landys said scores of people involved in the racing industry, from track riders to transport workers, had been laid off and he called for government assistance.
"This is a major crisis. People have woken up this morning and their jobs have gone. I know a single mother who does track work to supplement her income who can't even pay her rent," he said.
Last Mod: 30 Ağustos 2007, 11:06