A WARRNAMBOOL horse racing stable was last night locked down as Racing Victoria stewards tried to stop an outbreak of a disease which has the potential to wreck next week’s May Racing Carnival.
A 24-hour watch has been placed on horses trained at Warrnambool’s racecourse after five horses were reported to have symptoms of a respiratory illness.
Racing Victoria’s Rob Montgomery, who will be chairman of stewards at the carnival, confirmed to The Standard last night that strict quarantine measures had been put in place at the course.
“We’ve closed down a Warrnambool stable after being advised that some horses in the stable were showing signs of an upper respiratory tract disease that may be strangles,” he said.
“Samples from the affected horses have been forwarded to a clinical laboratory for confirmatory testing.”
Mr Montgomery said he hoped results would be known today.
“We’re taking all precautions — we’ve notified 15 Warrnambool trainers of what is happening.
“All trainers have been notified that if their horses show signs of a high temperature, nasal discharge or swollen lymph node glands in the throat, to get in contact with us straight away.”
Click the photo to see a gallery of last year's May Racing Carnival
The trainer at the centre of the storm, who declined to be named, told The Standard he had contacted his vet, Dr Mick McCluskey from the Allcare Equine Centre at Geelong, to visit his stables on Wednesday.
“We’re not sure what is wrong with the horses,” he said.
“I’ve got six horses here and five of them had shown symptoms of something for the past few days. Mick spoke to Dr Brian Stewart, the head vet at Racing Victoria and the tests were taken. My horses have not been out of their stables for about a week.”
Mr Montgomery said he hoped it was not strangles — a contagious disease that is rarely fatal.
Any horse with strangles has to be isolated for three months, according to animal health company Pfizer, but horses that show no signs of the disease during an outbreak can be vaccinated against it.
“I really don’t want to think about it if it’s strangles and what may happen,” Mr Montgomery said.
“We’ve got trainers from all over the state bringing horses to next week’s carnival and many of them will be stabled at the racecourse.
“We’ve advised all the Warrnambool trainers to put biosecurity procedures in place.”
These include twice daily temperature monitoring and hygiene procedures to prevent the introduction and transmission of the disease.
Warrnambool Racing Club chief executive officer John Green said the club had to wait for the test results.
“The stable has been quarantined,” Mr Green said.
“We’ve just got to wait and see what happens next.
“It’s all out of our hands.
“All our trainers have been notified about the matter.”
Strangles is rarely fatal and has a low risk of airborne transmission.
It’s commonly transmitted via direct contact between horses and material contacted by nasal discharges, including racing gear.
Stable hygiene and controlling the movement of horses, equipment and personnel between stables are important control procedures.