Flu reins in local economy
By Jamie Brown
WITH nine of Bart Cummings race horses testing positive to the dreaded equine 'flu, and a long lock-down certain to dampen the Sydney spring racing scene, local punters are anxious to know if Lismore and Ballina race days will get the green light.
For Lismore women, Brenda Harris and Lisa Moffatt the threat of a cancelled race day is too awful to contemplate.
"I've already organised my mum to babysit," said Lisa.
"I've got three dresses to choose from and I've found a fascinator on eBay. But now I don't know if I should buy it."
For Brenda, the official face of Lismore racing, the Spring Carnival season celebrates a beautiful time of year.
"The whole city gets involved," the young mother said.
"Everybody gets dressed up. It's a big thing for Lismore girls."
In fact, the women have been going to the races for the past decade, but only met this year when Brenda ordered a spray tan from Lisa's mobile business.
If race day is cancelled, small businesses like Lisa's will be affected, along with a host of beauty salons and fashion outlets.
For Ballina horse trainer, Stephen Lee the threat of a local viral outbreak is serious.
"We don't want it here," said the veteran trainer of 20 years and the winner of the Northern Rivers Premiership for the past two years.
"It will bugger us."
Mr Lee found out first hand the pain associated with the outbreak, after sending a promising filly to Randwick last Friday to train with Cummings' son Anthony at Randwick.
The horse, named Flying Feline, is owned by Lee and some others and produced two wins and a second from three starts. Now it faces months of confinement and an uncertain future.
"We are devastated," he said.
"Without racing there is no industry. People don't realise the extent of our industry. My operation alone costs me $8000 each week before I even open my doors.
"Up here on the North Coast we are very nervous. We are lucky we haven't had an outbreak - we might be far enough away."
Ballina trainer, Danny Bowen said the outbreak was downright scary.
A horse trainer since 1969, the industry veteran said this was the worst season in his experience.
"This is all being done for the love of the horses, but without races there is no work," he said. "We can still work with the animals, but we can't even put them out to pasture to cut owners' costs.
"Hopefully, our horses all have good owners, but how long can you go on like this?"