Racehorses unaffected by Hendra vaccination: study

Racehorses unaffected by Hendra vaccination: study


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Phillip Bate analyses news from the Queensland racing scene.

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AN extensive study for the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission published in the Australian Veterinary Journal last week demonstrates that vaccinating against Hendra virus (HeV) does not reduce racing performance.

Whether the vaccinations can diminish a horse’s ability on the racetrack has been a major discussion point in racing in recent years.

A vaccine has been available since 2012 but media reports indicate less than 25 percent of the racehorse population has been inoculated. The Hendra virus was first discovered in Brisbane in 1994 and since then more than 100 horses and four people have died as a result of it.

The Royal National Association has had compulsory vaccination against Hendra virus for all horses at the ‘Ekka’ since 2013 as the best available preventative measure to mitigate the potential risks of the deadly virus.

Some individuals and performance horse associations voiced their concerns about potential performance impacts caused by the vaccine during an eight months Queensland Parliamentary inquiry in 2016 into the Hendra Virus vaccine and workplace practices by veterinarians.

For example the Thoroughbred Breeders Queensland Association described anecdotes of alleged adverse reactions in racehorses and brood mares after Hendra vaccination. The  breeding and racing industry then claimed a huge win in convincing the parliamentary inquiry that HeV vaccinations should not be made mandatory.

In contrast, the Australian Veterinary Association said Hendra vaccination did not impact performance of top racehorses while the Queensland Horse Council submission to the inquiry also fully supported the vaccine.

As a result of lacking objective information about any effect of vaccination on racing performance, the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission funded the University of Sydney’s Equine Infectious Disease Research Group to investigate the issue last year.  “The results will allow industry regulators and participants to base their decisions on accurate information and science rather than rumour and speculation,” Commissioner Ross Barnett said.

The world-first extensive study examined performance data using Timeform ratings of 1154 Thoroughbreds over 12,066 race starts in the three months before and after receiving Hendra vaccination. Horses were selected if they had raced at one of the six major southeastern Queensland racetracks between July 2012 and December 2016.

Important implications

THE Hendra virus (HeV) vaccination findings have important implications for horse owners, trainers, the Australian horse industry and its regulators, equine veterinarians and government animal health authorities.

The most frequently given reasons for non-adoption of HeV vaccination by some horse owners and horse associations have been concerns about the potential for adverse reactions and effects on performance caused by vaccination. The findings of this research provide evidence to diminish concerns regarding the HeV vaccine’s safety and specifically its potential effect on horse performance.

“Equine veterinarians can use these results to provide evidence-based recommendations regarding preventive horse healthcare and allow horse owners to make informed decisions regarding HeV vaccination. Similarly, horse racing regulators and those of other performance horse industries, as well as government animal health authorities, may use this information to guide policy decision-making on HeV vaccination,” the report said.

Associate Professor Navneet Dhand, who led the research team at the Sydney School of Veterinary Science, said: “This is one of the largest studies of its kind conducted to investigate the effect of any vaccine on horse racing performance anywhere in the world.”

Lead author Dr Kathrin Schemann, a Research Fellow in Veterinary Biostatistics and Epidemiology, explained: “Analysing the performance of each horse before and after vaccination over a short time period was the best way to assess the impact of vaccination as each horse acted as its own control.”

The QRIC’s chief vet Dr Martin Lenz said many factors could potentially affect the performance of racehorses, so it was important for the study to be large enough to distil out any impact that vaccination might have. “The large numbers of horses and race starts examined means we can be confident of the findings, which back up the instincts of many astute trainers who already vaccinate their horses,” Dr Lenz said.

The research was conducted by Dr Kathrin Schemann, Dr Ed Annand, Associate Professor Peter Thomson and Associate Professor Navneet Dhand of the Equine Infectious Disease Research Group; Dr Martin Lenz from QRIC and practising veterinarian Dr Peter Reid. Dr Reid has had extensive clinical involvement in the first recorded Hendra virus outbreak in 1994 and advises governments and industry. Dr Annand is also a practising veterinarian who attended the first cases of Australian bat lyssavirus in horses in 2013.

Riverside debuts with record Classic Sale

It’s official – the first ever Inglis Sale at Riverside Stables adjoining Warwick Farm racecourse in Sydney, NSW from February 10 to 12 has doubled as the best Classic sale in the company’s history.

Book 1 ended with all key year-on-year indicators on the rise.

The sale’s average ended at $94,486 – a 34 percent increase from last year – while the median ($75,000, up 36 percent) and gross ($48,188,000, up percent) were also significant risers.

The clearance rate ended at a remarkable 92 per cent.

In a phenomenal sale:

  • A total of 53 vendors enjoyed a 100 percent clearance rate through Book 1, led by Sledmere Stud (21 from 21).
  • Leading vendor by aggregate was Newgate Farm ($2,897,500) while by average (for three or more sold) was Carramar Park ($199,375).
  • Leading buyer was Darby Racing with 15 purchases for $1,367,000 while the spread of the buying bench covered the majority of Australian States to the USA, Singapore, New Zealand,  Japan and Hong Kong.
  • Leading stallion by aggregate was Newgate Farm’s Deep Field, with 29 of his progeny selling for $3,474,500 while Yarraman Park’s I Am Invincible topped the averages (for three or more sold) at $260,455.
  • A total of 187 lots sold for $100,000 or more compared to 107 last year and 10 in 2013.

Inglis managing director Mark Webster was stunned by the overall results.

“As far as I’m aware there has never been a select yearling sale anywhere in the world that has enjoyed a clearance rate as high as 92 percent before, so to our loyal vendors and all of our buyers, I thank you,’’ Webster said.

“The statistics are a testament to the quality of horse that has been presented over the past three days. It’s a new era at Riverside Stables and it’s a new era for the Classic sale. The great thing about it is the improvement in quality over the past few years has made this a sale of international quality yet Book 2 is still very accessible for those who haven’t been able to get on the board yet or whose budgets are not as strong as others.’’

A Classic record sale price occurred when Honk Kong based Orbis Bloodstock paid $480,000 for a Brazen Beau/Written Dash colt offered by Tyreel Stud, Agnes Banks, NSW.

Queensland vendors were prominent with Gleeson Thoroughbred Connections, Chinchilla selling a Spirit Of Boom/Our Dreaming colt for $410,000 to Blue Sky Bloodstock for $410,000 and Lucas Bloodstock, Boonah, selling a Deep Field/Uncommon colt for $300,000 to prominent trainer Tony McEvoy.

Other Queensland vendors were: Aquis Farm, Wonglepong (15 lots averaged $81,467): Canning Downs, Warwick (4, $83,750); Eureka, Cambooya (5, $93,200); Gainsborough Lodge, Toowoomba (4, $81,50); Highgrove Stud, Westbrook (3, $116,667); Jorson Park, Wondai (3, $83,333); Kenmore Lodge, Wyreema (4, $75,000); and Raheen Stud, Gladfield (4, $127,500). 

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