TRAGICALLY, as it stands, not many South African racehorses will be able to compete at the Dubai World Cup Carnival next year due to the restrictions imposed on South African exports after an outbreak in the African horse sickness in the control area of the Western Cape earlier this year, reports NICCI GARNER.
The Carnival has been renamed from the Dubai International Racing Carnival, which was first held in 2004, and the racing calendar was announced earlier this week. The first Carnival fixtures are scheduled for Thursday 5 January and Friday 6 January 2012 which feature the third Meydan Masters Jockey Challenge series.
Image by Andrew Watkins.
The Meydan racing season ends with the running of the world’s richest race for thoroughbreds, the $10-million Dubai World Cup on Saturday 31 March. A total of $26.25 million will be paid out on the eight races on Dubai World Cup night.
Ten race meetings (excluding Dubai World Cup night) will be held during the Dubai World Cup Carnival and the traditional “Super Thursday’’ fixture has been moved to the weekend as “Super Saturday’’ on 10 March.
Sadly, horses like South Africa’s triple champion Igugu, who is co-owned by Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum, are not likely to compete at the Carnival because no agreement has been reached to allow South African horses to fly directly into Dubai.
The only “way out’’ for South African horses is through Mauritius on a journey of nearly five months and Igugu’s trainer, Mike de Kock – the most successful international conditioner in Dubai – has decided not to put his horses through the arduous trip.
Negotiations for a direct export route after a quarantine period are still underway between South African and various international veterinary authorities and Racing South Africa’s Peter Gibson said on Tuesday that he had not given up hope that a deal could be struck before the beginning of October when horses being aimed at the Carnival would have to be put into quarantine.
“There is a high demand for our high-end competition horses – not only our thoroughbreds,’’ he said.
This protocol would demand that South African horses are exported only at the low-risk time of year (the winter months when the culicoides midge that transmits African horse sickness is inactive) and that the horses are exported from the African horse sickness free zone of the Western Cape, which has never had a recorded outbreak of the virus. The horses would be stabled in the vector-protected Kenilworth Quarantine Station for 60 days (much longer than the accepted incubation period) and be allowed limited exercise at certain “safe’’ periods of the day. Before being flown out, they would be tested for African horse sickness.
“We are all looking to provide a healthy, controlled and safe method to deliver our competition horses overseas and in the most economical way feasible,’’ said Gibson. “Not only safe for the importing country, but also for the horses themselves.
“Obviously, a single flight (rather than three – to Dubai via Mauritius and Europe) is far safer for the horses and much more economical. Plus the trainers will land happy, healthy and fit horses.
“The Mauritius transit route is clearly not ideal, not only because of the time it takes but because horses have limited exercise facilities in Mauritius, where they are resident for 90 days, the last 40 of which are in pre-export quarantine. They also have to cope with different climatic conditions, food, water and handling at every stop, and the veterinary facilities in both South Africa and Dubai are superior to those in Mauritius, which does not have an equine hospital.’’
The equine sports’ elite are not the only people affected by the export restrictions, Gibson added. “I’ve had to lay off 20 grooms from the Kenilworth Quarantine Station because there is just no work for them. We’re a developing economy and it was a really hard decision, but without money coming in, we just couldn’t sustain our workforce.’’