08/26/2007 11:00PM

Australian breeding season adjusted

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Amid Australian breeders' concerns that their breeding season would be compromised because of an equine influenza outbreak, the Australian Stud Book moved Monday to open the breeding season early by allowing stallions to be bred to mares resident on the same farm.

A shipping ban on horses in New South Wales and Queensland remains in effect. Meanwhile, 79 stallions, including such prominent horses as Encosta de Lago, standing for Coolmore, and Bernardini, at Darley, remained sequestered Tuesday under a 30-day quarantine extension that began last week.

In anticipation of a rush of mares to stallions once the shipping ban is lifted and shuttle stallions are released from quarantine, the registry said it would recognize foals of 2008 born from Aug. 1 and resulting from coverings taking place beginning Aug. 27, 2007.

"Even though the change only added five days to the covering season, this move would ease the pressure later in the covering season when the ban on the movement of horses is lifted," Michael Ford, Keeper of the Stud Book, told Racing and Sports.

Also on Monday, four Thoroughbreds at Randwick racecourse with trainers Gai Waterhouse and Bart Cummings tested negative for equine influenza after running high temperatures. That prompted the course to reopen after closure while the tests were performed. Through Monday, no racing Thoroughbreds outside Australia's main quarantine facilities - where the outbreak began - have yet tested positive. But 51 other horses, including some in a riding stable not far from one of the quarantine facilities, have tested positive, and a total of 415 horses in New South Wales and southeast Queensland have shown symptoms of the infection, according to Australia's Minister of Primary Industries, Ian Macdonald.

The Melbourne Cup is due to be contested as planned on Nov. 6.

Equine influenza is a respiratory illness that can be spread easily via saddlery, humans moving between horses, or from horse to horse. It is rarely fatal and is not believed to be transmitted from horses to humans.