Horse flu causes Murwillumbah Cup meeting cancellation

SAD but sensible. That was Tweed River Jockey Club chairman Bernie Quinn's assessment of the board decision on Thursday night to abandon plans for the staging of Murwillumbah's 2007 Melbourne Cup meeting. "The club's board of directors were very disappointed in having to take that decision, but there was no viable alternative in this menacing landscape of Equine Influenza (EI)," Mr Quinn said. "On the one hand you have the strict requirements stipulated by the Department of Primary Industries for the staging of even a limited, so-called 'special' meeting, and on the other the unpredictable, fluid nature of the situation in terms of EI. "Also, the board felt that caution needs to be paramount at this time, when considering the safety and long-term well-being of the region's thoroughbred racing industry. "These are some of the practical considerations which resulted in having to make the decision." NSW Government regulations concerning biosecurity have curtailed any prospect of a "phantom meeting" being held on the day. The annual Murwillumbah Melbourne Cup day meeting is by far the biggest event on the jockey club's calendar. Mr Quinn said that the jockey club remained forward looking and optimistic, and was keen for planning to get under way for a huge 2008 Murwillumbah Melbourne Cup Day meeting to make up for the current disappointment. It is understood that inoculations of the race horse population in the region began last week. Jockey club secretary Steve Huggins said the club had no idea of when racing would be able to resume. Huggins said Racing NSW would be holding a meeting next week to consider future regional meetings. According to a Racing NSW release, until vaccinations within the racing industry had been completed, schedules for country racing meetings could not be established. Meanwhile horse trainers at Coffs Harbour have voted to boycott races in Grafton today due to fears their horses could be exposed to horse flu before they are vaccinated in the next three days. Coffs Harbour Racing Club chief executive Russ Atkinson said the trainers wanted to race, but deemed the risk was too high. "We certainly don't want to impact on Grafton's race meeting, but with the vaccinations coming to the area they just want to get the horses vaccinated and then hunker down," Mr Atkinson said. Vaccination for is scheduled to start in Grafton and Coffs Harbour today. Clarence River Jockey Club chairman Bob Pavitt said the boycott was disappointing and largely unwarranted. "We understand in part where the trainers are coming from, but in general terms I think it's an over-reaction," he said. Mr Pavitt said the race meeting would still go ahead, but entries had reduced markedly from 176 to 60 horses and the number of races had gone down from nine to six. He said horses had been transported from Grafton to Coffs Harbour for races without any problems. But Mr Atkinson said moving 90 horses to Grafton would pose a threat not just to them but to the regional industry. Grafton veterinarian Oliver Liyou said there was always a risk of infection when moving horses, but it was not high. "It seems wherever they keep racing they get outbreaks, so it does increase the chances," Mr Liyou said. Punters will not be allowed at the racecourse today, but can watch the races and make bets next door at the greyhound track.



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