Race Fans in Australia get Bizarre Relief from Horse Flu Ban: Camels

Fans starved of horse racing because of an outbreak of equine influenza received relief when camels took to the track in Sydney.

The strictly no-betting, amateur-jockey race meet took place Friday night (Oct. 12) at Harold Park Paceway, which is among tracks where racing has been suspended during the disease outbreak.

Equine influenza was first detected in Australia in August and spread widely among horse populations in New South Wales and Queensland states. Horse movements were stopped and racing was halted, but has resumed on a limited basis. The cost of the outbreak has been estimated at as much as 1 billion Australian dollars (US$900 million; €635 million).

John Dumesny, the chief executive of Harold Park, said the camel meet gave a moral boost to track workers who have been hit hard by the disease outbreak.

"They've had no work for six weeks, and it's given them a lift and the gloom has sort of gone," he said.

Several thousand people attended Friday night's races, with the same six camels running in seven races. Jockeys were selected from volunteers from the crowd, and cheered on as the beasts loped around the track--and were rewarded with a bucketful of grain after each race.

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The Associated Press

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