Horse virus fears -- Tweed racing, pony, greyhound clubs hit

By ED SOUTHORN

TWEED horse lovers and the local horse-racing industry are reeling from the horse flu outbreak.

The crisis threatens to deprive local horse trainers of their income and force the cancellation of a pony club annual jamboree scheduled to draw 600 horses and their owners to the Tweed this coming weekend.

The flu crisis has already cost the Tweed Heads Greyound Racing Club income because the cancellation of race meetings across most of Australia at the weekend meant there was no Tabcorp betting at Border Park on Saturday afternoon.

Greyhound club chairman Harry Pledger said the ban on movement of all horses was necessary because the flu was highly contagious.

"Hopefully, it can be contained to the 72-hour shutdown, but this will cost the racing industry dearly," Mr Pledger said.

Tweed police patrols yesterday were advised by senior officers, acting on advice from medical and horse-racing authorities, to stop any vehicles towing floats with horses on board and to ensure the drivers headed home.

Tweed River Jockey Club secretary manager Steve Huggins said all track work at the Murwillumbah racecourse had been cancelled and only a few horses stabled at the track are allowed to remain there.

Up to 80 or more horses a week trained by 15 to 20 local trainers use the Murwillumbah racecourse for track work.

Murwillumbah's next race meeting in October at this stage is expected to proceed as scheduled, but the club will miss out on fees from trackwork cancellations.

Jockey club chairman Bernie Quinn, who is deputy chair of the Northern Rivers Racing Association, said he expected the Grafton race meeting tomorrow to be% cancelled. "It's a pretty scary situation because this flu is very contagious," Mr Quinn said.

"There's a lot of money tied up in the racing industry, and a lot of people are %dependent on it for their income. "All the clubs, ours included, get a %proportion of TAB revenue, so we'll miss that."

Mr Quinn said he expected there would be a phone hook-up of Northern Rivers race club chiefs today to discuss the horse flu crisis.

Tweed Heads Pony Club president Rob Corbutt said an end-of-year zone jamboree at the pony club grounds near the Gold Coast Airport scheduled for this coming Saturday, with horses from as far as Grafton and Casino, at this stage was still on.

"We'll be closely monitoring what happens over the next few days," Mr Corbutt said.

"We're in lock-down now, it's just such a disappointment. "We used to be the lucky country because we're so very far away from %everywhere else, and diseases like this didn't get here, but unfortunately not anymore."

Mr Corbutt said horse owners were anxiously waiting to know if samples taken yesterday from three NSW horses at a Warwick horse event in southern Queensland had tested positive for the flu.

Tweed Heads Pony Club stalwart Lindy Smith said a final training session for %Saturday's jamboree was held yesterday morning, but horses not already on the pony club grounds could not participate.

"This flu could have a devastating impact on the whole equestrian industry," Ms Smith said.

"It's not fatal, but it is highly contagious and it needs to be treated properly."



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