Australian broodmares may be left waiting at the breeding shed this year. The breeding season in the Southern Hemisphere launches next week and many of the world's premier "shuttle" stallions will be kept in extended isolation at a quarantine station after an outbreak of equine flu.
The outbreak was reported today by the Australian racing news agency, Racenet.
A shuttle stallion is one that serves mares in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres; these stallions are breeding mares during the January-March season in the North and September to November in the South.
Thoroughbred racing and breeding is set up for foals to be born at a certain time of the year, as they all age one year on January 1 in the Northern Hemisphere, and July 1 in the Southern Hemisphere. Earlier foals would be larger foals at the time of yearling sales or more mature when they are ready to race, so breeders are always trying to get their mares bred as early as possible. A significant effort is also made to breed the mare back on the "foaling heat" instead of waiting for her to cycle normally.
Racenet is reporting that the stallions, many of whom are already booked for Australia's top mares, will be required to stay at the quarantine farm for another 30 days. Every time a new horse at the farm comes down with the flu, the release date is extended another 30 days.
Among the horses detained is the American champion Bernardini, winner of 2006 Travers Stakes at Saratoga, who is in his first year of breeding service.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the quarantine affects two groups of recently-landed Thoroughbreds, totalling about 80 top stallions from leading international stud farms.