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The Federal Court in Australia is set to give its decision on the lawsuit for restraint of trade that Bruce McHugh brought against the Australian Jockey Club and others more than three years ago.

McHugh claimed that the regulation of the Australian Jockey Club requiring live breeding covers for the resulting Thoroughbred foals to be eligible for registration (similar to regulatiions worldwide) constitutes a restrictive trade practice.

The suit was filed more than three years ago, on October 21, 2009, and the judgment of Justice Robertson is expected about 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 19. The timing of the decision at the end of the Southern Hemisphere breeding season is seen as having dire implications for the defendants: AJC and others.

To overstate the implications of this ruling would be difficult. Every Thoroughbred racing jurisdiction operates under the dictum of “live cover,” and if the decision comes for the plaintiff, it will be met both with ire and secret jubilation.

According to some overseas sources, there are countries anticipating the change in favor of AI with enthusiasm. Those countries would prefer to switch to regulations allowing live covers or AI, but there are Jockey Clubs in a few countries, most notably the US, which are adamant that the change will not happen there.

If the Australian verdict overturns “live cover only,” the legal decision affects only the breeders of Australia immediately, but then all Thoroughbred owners could be looking at a divided world stud book, with horses eligible for registration in some countries but not in others.

That is only one of the shock waves the ruling could set off on Wednesday. We shall know the verdict soon.

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