09/25/2007 12:00AM

Stallions released in Sydney

EmailShuttle stallions quarantined in Australia's Eastern Creek facility near Sydney have been released after an extended stay of nearly two months, but the country's first-ever equine influenza outbreak, which began in their ranks, continued to disrupt the Australian Thoroughbred industry.

Almost a month after the Southern Hemisphere breeding season was to begin on Sept. 1, and almost two months since their initial planned release, 40 shuttle stallions - including Encosta de Lago, standing at Coolmore, and Elusive Quality, at Darley - headed for their Australian bases to start the long-delayed breeding season.

But not all of the horses originally intended to cover mares will remain in Australia, as both Coolmore and Darley have opted to send some of their stallions back to the Northern Hemisphere rather than risk missing the Northern Hemisphere season because of the continuing influenza outbreak. Among the stallions leaving Australia are Darley's champion Bernardini and Coolmore's Danehill Dancer and Holy Roman Emperor, according to local reports.

The stallions have been released to stand in a "purple zone" established in negotiations between Thoroughbred Breeders Australia and the government of New South Wales, an Australian breeding center. Horses will be allowed into the zone for breeding purposes andmust stay there until veterinary authorities give the all-clear to lift a statewide transport ban.

Amidst the good news of the stallions' release, there was more bad equine influenza news for Australian racing. On Monday, the highly contagious but rarely fatal respiratory disease was confirmed in racehorses in Brisbane's suburbs, prompting likely cancellation of all Brisbane racing until February, according to racing officials there.

Brisbane is in Queensland, which, like New South Wales, has been hard hit by the outbreak, which began in August when the quarantined Eastern Creek stallions began coming down with the disease.

Veterinary and government authorities believe the outbreak began with a stallion imported to the facility from Japan, where influenza prompted authorities to shut down racing earlier this summer.

The Australian outbreak has also caused Magic Millions, an auction house that conducts Australia's first major yearling sale each January, to announce that it will postpone the sale in 2008.