09/02/2007 11:00PM

Aussie breeders eye Kentucky

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - As Australia's equine influenza outbreak continued to hamper the nation's Thoroughbred breeding and racing season, the Australian auction house William Inglis and Son is encouraging Australian breeders to breed in Kentucky if local stallions are unable to serve their mares.

The Inglis company has announced it has been "liaising with contacts in Kentucky to secure access to numerous stallions who will be able to serve mares to Southern Hemisphere time."

Among the stallions Inglis is advertising for potential Southern Hemisphere matings are Awesome Again, Dynaformer, El Prado, Exchange Rate, Flower Alley, Good Reward, Malibu Moon, Medallist, Officer, Point Given, Rahy, Sky Mesa, Smarty Jones, War Chant, and Yes It's True.

"Inglis is concerned they'll have a very short, small crop of horses for their 2010 sale season," said Byron Rogers, Inglis's North American representative and the director of stallion operations at Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky. "Inglis asked me to call a few Kentucky farms and secure some seasons."

Rogers said most of the Kentucky Southern Hemisphere seasons cost about half the price of Northern Hemisphere fees, in line with the typical market in Australia.

The practice of covering Northern Hemisphere mares on Southern Hemisphere breeding time is not new but may now be more attractive to Australian breeders facing a shuttle-stallion shortage during the influenza crisis. The major Australian breeding center of New South Wales has been under a strict equine transport ban since the highly contagious - but rarely fatal - equine influenza virus was discovered in a Sydney-area quarantine station almost two weeks ago. Seventy-nine stallions, including some of Australia's most sought-after shuttle stallions such as Coolmore star Encosta de Lago and Darley's debuting champion Bernardini, remain in quarantine in New South Wales indefinitely due to an influenza outbreak. The virus has since affected areas outside the quarantine station, including Sydney's Randwick racecourse.

Australia's first outbreak of equine influenza also has prompted the postponement of Thoroughbred sales at both Inglis and Magic Millions.

The transport ban in New South Wales has been extended until Sept. 10, but the shuttle stallions' quarantine leaves many breeders without their mares' intended mates. The adjoining state of Queensland also is under a transport ban.

Meanwhile, in the state of Victoria, which borders New South Wales, racing officials cautiously staged a race meeting Saturday at Caulfield with heightened biosecurity measures. Those included segregating participating racetrack officials, jockeys, and trainers from racegoers and keeping owners well away from their horses. In a bid to allow New South Wales runners to contest the prized Melbourne Cup on Nov. 6, Victoria racing authorities floated a plan over the weekend to build two new quarantine facilities between New South Wales and Victoria for Melbourne Cup shippers. But a new case of equine influenza Monday in another Sydney-area training center, this time at Hawkesbury, could scrap the plan, according to a report in the Australian newspaper The Age.