A Pall of Gloom Descends Over The Indian Racing Scene
What started as a mild ailment of "fever and coughing" detected during the latter part of the Pune Season, has turned into an epidemic and has been detected as Equine Influenza. The infection has spread rapidly and more than 700 horses are reported to be on the sick list. This dreaded disease is known to have caused havoc in Australia, when racing came to a standstill for a few months in that country. A large majority of the horses stabled at Pune have been affected, and the authorities at the RWITC have decided to defer their shifting to Mumbai. They have made an optimistic announcement with regards to the commencement of the Mumbai Season 2008-09. Although the official spokesman said that the delay would be only for a few weeks, the general belief amongst the knowledgeable remains that this period could be much longer. The disease has also surfaced in Delhi where the ongoing activities have been halted, and no formal announcement has been made with regards to the resumption of racing in the National Capital. Equine Influenza is a respiratory disease which affects a horse for 3-4 weeks. The horse comes down with fever, cough, nasal discharge and general fatigue. Horses affected by Equine Influenza are known to take a fair amount of time to recuperate and get back into shape. The disease is seldom fatal. The virus is easily transmitted. It passes on from horse to horse in a stable. Human beings can be carriers for it as well. A person who has handled an affected horse can carry the germ on his clothing, and any contact with another horse could spread the disease. It was for this very reason that when Equine Influenza had affected racing in Australia, even human beings were quarantined. Any person, who had been in an affected area, was barred from leaving for a period of 30 days after the last horse was infected. Indian Racing is now faced with a multitude of problems. Turf Clubs that are affected with Equine Influenza have to take measures to eradicate the same. Others have to make sure that it does not reach their shores. The first thing that must be enforced is a total ban on horses moving out of the affected areas. It is believed that the Ministry Of Agriculture has decided on a blanket ban on the movement of horses within the country for a period of three months. A formal notification on this decision is expected shortly. Hyderabad, Bangalore and Kolkata are set to start their seasons in the next few days. The respective authorities have to ensure that their premises remain free of this menace and take preventive steps that are necessary to do that. Stable staff who are known to have recently worked in Pune and Delhi should be barred from entering the premises of HRC, BTC And RCTC. Even horse vans which may have been transporting horses in the affected areas should be banned from doing business elsewhere. Each Club needs to establish specific quarantine areas and get prepared for all eventualities. The delay in the commencement of activities at Mumbai shall have a far reaching effect on Indian Racing. The whole process of holding the "Indian Classic Races" at Mahalakshmi shall be delayed. The owners of top class horses at other centres may become sceptical about taking their wards to have a tilt at the many "Million" races held at that centre. To top it all, it is the turn of RWITC to hold the 2009 edition of the Turf Invitation Cup. A lot of re-scheduling may have to be done and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that the Turf Authorities Of India may decide to shift the Invitation Cup and hold it during the Bangalore Summer Season. Another activity that will be adversely affected will be the movement of two year olds at the time of auction sales that are conducted every year at Pune. Breeders may not be inclined to bring their expensive bloodstock into an already affected area. Buyers may ask the breeders to give them deliveries at their home centres. In order to do business, Breeders may have to start inviting prospective buyers to their respective stud farms. The whole exercise will be more complicated than it sounds. It is reported that the horses belonging to the Indian Army stationed at Pune, Jaipur and Delhi have also been suffering. This is going to have a negative impact on the Polo Season, which normally starts in mid November.