NOBBLED: A horse strapper all his life, Bart Blanch, of Ballina, has never seen a tougher time in racing. Picture: JACKLYN WAGN
NOBBLED: A horse strapper all his life, Bart Blanch, of Ballina, has never seen a tougher time in racing. Picture: JACKLYN WAGN

Decision on cup today, but crippling cost of flu keeps rising

By STEVE SPINKS and AAP

THE future of next week's Ballina Cup will be announced this morning after a meeting was held at the Ballina Jockey Club last night.

The race meeting, which is supposed to run on September 13, has been put under threat by the equine influenza virus which has shut down racing in NSW since August 25.

The Ballina Jockey Club met with Ballina council officials last night to discuss various options for the Cup carnival but refused to divulge the findings of the meeting to The Northern Star.

It is believed the meeting would have discussed three options for the Cup.

The first option is asking NSW Racing for a limited permit to allow Northern Rivers horses or those stabled along Racecourse Road, Ballina, to compete in a purely local race.

There are more than 100 horses stabled on Racecourse Road, enough for a limited meeting.

However, trainers would have reservations about entering their horses due to a lack of preparation.

A way round this problem is dropping the distance of the race from 1600m.

The second option is rescheduling the Cup for next month.

This possibility was mooted by the BJC last week. The October 14 Lennox Head Cup meeting was mentioned as a possible replacemment date.

However, a significant amount of prizemoney would be lost and the meeting would be conducted on a Sunday, away from the traditional Thursday afternoon. The BJC could also ask for a special permit to run the race on a new date, but this would be in the hands of NSW Racing officials.

Complicating this option, is the fact the Ballina half-day holiday is set down for September 13. It is believed that is why Ballina council officials were involved in discussions last night.

The third option is cancelling the meeting altogether.

If the Cup is cancelled, the BJC would lose around 30 per cent of its income for the year.

Warwick go-ahead Meanwhile, racing is set to resume in NSW on Saturday after officials were yesterday granted in principle permission for a restricted meeting to proceed at Sydney's Warwick Farm.

Tentative approval was given for a phantom meeting limited to horses trained at Warwick Farm and with no spectators.

The approval came despite Minister for Primary Industries Ian Macdonald yesterday extending the ban on the movement of horses in NSW for at least another week as a result of the EI outbreak.

Mr Macdonald said scientific advice suggested the EI crisis should begin to ease over the next seven days.

Mr Macdonald said a meeting tomorrow would determine whether the Warwick Farm program went ahead, as would the western Sydney track remaining EI free.

A total of 835 horses on 119 different properties across the state are now confirmed to have EI while almost 3000 horses on 319 properties are suspected to have the virus.

No horses on the Northern Rivers have been confirmed as having equine influenza.



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