This year’s Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival attracting its largest number of international hopefuls has suffered a blow with two major quarantine facilities in Europe found to be unsuitable.
Over the coming weeks, Racing Victoria officials will be fighting to find a solution that frees European thoroughbreds to compete in the spring carnival after the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) declared that stations in Ireland and Newmarket failed to meet their guidelines.
The Ballydoyle quarantine facility in Ireland and the establishment at Side Hill in England both failed to live up to the strict AQIS standards, putting the spring carnival ambitions of many international runners in doubt.
Both quarantine stations were found to allow outside horses too close to the already stabled thoroughbreds, the AQIS specifying at least 100 metres is needed between quarantined and non-quarantined horses residing at the facilities.
With Europe’s major trainers and thoroughbred owners needing to make final decisions on whether to make the trip down under with their horses, the decision not to clear the two facilities has come at the worst possible time.
The first of the major Melbourne Spring Carnival features is the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) running on October 15, and any European horses wanting to run in the iconic showdown must be quarantine by September 24.
By October 8 all international stayers targeting the world’s richest handicap, the $6 million Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m), must be entered in a quarantine station.
Paul Bloodworth, Racing Victoria’s racing operations manager, said they were currently in negations with the AQIS to rectify the situation.
“We’ve had talks with AQIS and we are in regular contact,” Mr Bloodworth said on Sunday.
“We are hopeful that we’ll be able to find a solution to this problem.
“We are vitally aware of the importance of getting European stayers to Australia for the spring.
“But we have regular talks with AQIS, and I’m sure at the end of the day a solution can be found.”
Racing Victoria’s key talent scout for the spring carnival majors, Leigh Jordan will travel to Europe this week to meet with the connections of the European hopefuls and to try to put at ease their concerns with the current quarantine situation.