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Bruce McHugh, chairman of the Sydney Turf Club, last month filed suit against the Australian Jockey Club, the Victorian Racing Club, and the Australian Racing Board on the grounds that requiring live covers for Thoroughbreds is restraint of trade.

The 2010 breeding season in the Northern Hemisphere will not be affected by this because the decision is not expected for six to 12 months, but an early decision could have a radical result on the 2010 Southern Hemisphere breeding season if the decision comes in favor of McHugh’s complaint.

A ruling in favor of McHugh’s complaint would allow the use of artificial insemination in the production of Thoroughbreds, and such a change in the rules would have international implications for breeding and racing.

If AI becomes accepted in Australia, it would be the only country (of 69) in the International Federation of Horseracing to allow AI. But it would not be the last.

The expense and potential for massive losses through disease or accidents would almost certainly move other countries to follow suit if Australia becomes the test case for this red-hot issue.

If McHugh’s case succeeds and AI is allowed in Australia, Northern Hemisphere farms with shuttle stallions would have to decide whether or not to ship their horses — at considerable risk and expense — and accept the further complication of deciding whether the foals from those breedings (if AI or potentially AI) would be registered elsewhere.

A further complication would arise because Thoroughbreds bred by AI would not be distinguishable from those bred by live cover. So how could Jockey Clubs in other jurisdictions accept the horses from Australia, which might or might not be bred on AI, and refuse to allow AI in their stock bred at home?

These questions are only touching the tip of a massive iceberg lying submerged under the surface of this issue that goes to the heart of the politics, power, and money in Thoroughbred racing and breeding.

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