Snitzel in the frame, stud unconvinced
Former High Court judge Ian Callinan could reach no precise findings in his report on the outbreak, but concluded that the virus had most likely been carried from quarantine on a person or a piece of equipment that had not been properly disinfected.
He also concluded that it was likely an intake of horses from Japan namely, Snitzel, along with three others was infected or contaminated with the virus when they arrived at Eastern Creek on August 8.
Snitzel had been in Japan as a stud horse and was returning home to Arrowfield farm.
The president of the Thoroughbred Breeders Association and Arrowfield stud's managing director, John Messara, said he doubted Snitzel had brought the virus to Australia.
''We had a groom with the horse at all times and they never saw the horse being sick,'' he said.
''He [Snitzel] may have been a carrier but at no stage was Snitzel sick. But because there was a similar strain of the virus in Japan they have put two and two together and got this. Poor old Snitzel. They have sort of fingered him but they aren't certain. It's quite possible EI was brought in by a human being.''
Mr Callinan said the rapid spread of the virus in NSW and Queensland had been traced to a three-day equestrian event held at Anambah, near Maitland, from August 17-19.
Some 200 entrants competed in the event at Rutherford polocrosse ground and at Carrolls Ranch.
Veteran trainer Frank Cleary, who has 15 horses in training at his Catbird stables at Queanbeyan Racecourse, said he welcomed any improvements to the rules governing horse imports but would oppose any move to make the industry pay for it.
''That'd be a real stiff ask, after the kick in the arse that we've already had from this thing,'' Mr Cleary said.
Mr Cleary's response was typical of the Canberra region racing industry's in general.
Mr Callinan, whose report brought down 38 recommendations, has called for upgrades to unloading areas at Sydney and Melbourne airports and for increases in the fees charged for using the quarantine stations.
''I don't think that too many people would be real keen on that,'' Mr Cleary said.
''It wasn't the trainers' fault that this thing broke out so we shouldn't have to pay for it.''
Mr Cleary said the outbreak, which is estimated to have cost Australian racing up to $1 billion, was felt less keenly in the Canberra region than in other parts of the nation but the local industry still felt the financial pain.
''We all lost money,'' he said.
''It's all right to say that they gave us the grants and helped us out a little bit.
''But at the end of the day you've still got to race and win prizemoney because you still have to pay your feed man and your track riders.''
The Golden Slipper-winning trainer said he was not thinking of suing the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service over losses incurred during the outbreak.
''That'd be a long drawn-out process and I reckon that if you broke square at the end of the day, you'd be lucky.
''So you move on.''
Another Queanbeyan-based trainer, Mike Petrovic, also reacted coolly to the idea of taking legal action against quarantine authorities.
''I'd be cautious because I'm not clear on the legal side of things,'' he said.
''I'd have to speak to my owners and see what they think.''