Pre dawn action behind the scenes at Sunshine Coast Racetrack, Corbould Park.
Pre dawn action behind the scenes at Sunshine Coast Racetrack, Corbould Park. John McCutcheon

Horse breeder fears Ross River virus risk at Corbould Park

VETERAN breeder Richard Foster refuses to send his horses to Corbould Park stables out of fear they may contract Ross River virus.

While he has the utmost respect and admiration for the park's facilities, trainers and stablehands, he is "not game" enough to risk it.

It's led him to go elsewhere.

A Sunshine Coast Turf Club spokesman said the disease was not present at its stables and as a result no preventative measures were necessary.

He said if a problem was identified it would support an eradication program.

Mr Foster, who sits on the board of the Thoroughbred Breeders Queensland Association, says the industry's livelihood was at stake if the problem was ignored.

"It's a real shame. The cost to the industry would be enormous if it continues," Mr Foster said.

"Research into this disease would be a godsend. No way can horses race with the virus, they'd be working way too hard.

"They can test for it, but the vets are a long way behind - I believe it's as serious as malaria.

"I know a trainer who sits in with a mozzie coil constantly burning there. The mozzies are that thick."

Mr Foster knows the signs of the virus all too well having personally been infected in the 1970s. He knows of horses that have died because of it.

"I found it extremely painful, had maximum temperatures, the sweating was enormous and my bed sheets went yellow from my liver not working," he said.

"In my case it attacked my joints and it was extremely painful.

"One of my horses got sick at Caloundra too. The vets had no answer for it.

"The horse had this massive temperature for a really long time and it even caused him ulcers.

"It's a big problem and an untapped one, there is not nearly enough research being done."

He believes the disease is being spread by the Corbould Park's wild duck population.

"You only have to look at the amount of wild ducks at Corbould, they breed and carry it," he said.

"We've started feeding specific enzymes to our horses to beef up their immune systems.

"If you can eliminate the viruses a young horse can get, you have a great advantage."