Stored Horse Semen May Upset Monarchs, Billionaire Race Fans, Lawyer Says
Allowing artificial breeding of racehorses would threaten traditions behind the sport’s appeal to kings, queens, sheikhs and billionaires, said a lawyer opposing an effort to lift a ban on artificial insemination.
Tony Bannon, attorney for the Sydney Turf Club, went before Sydney Federal Court today to defend the club’s rule that requires racing thoroughbreds to be the offspring of two horses that physically mated.
The rule is being challenged by former Sydney Turf Club Chairman Bruce McHugh, who claims the ban on artificial insemination is an illegal trade restraint. McHugh said the rule makes breeding expensive and dangerous for the animals, who must be shipped to stud farms, and prevents him from getting into the business.
Thoroughbred racing has always been a contest between horses bred by “direct cover,” Bannon today told Justice Alan Robertson, who is hearing the case and will determine the verdict. The challenge of breeding a champion racehorse under that rule is what attracts the rich, famous and ordinary people to the sport, he said in his opening statement.
“We are being forced to change the industry to one where a stallion never dies,” Bannon said, adding that artificial insemination would lead to semen being stored for use long after a stud’s death. “Literally, a dead horse is being flogged.”
‘License to Print Money’
International rules banning the registration of thoroughbreds produced by artificial insemination are outdated and designed to protect large-scale commercial stud farms who now have a “license to print money,” Ian Tonking, McHugh’s lawyer, said in his opening statement Sept. 5.
“This rule, anywhere around the world, has never been declared invalid,” Bannon said today.
The American Quarter Horse Association dropped its ban on registration of foals produced through embryo transfers, a form of artificial insemination, as part of an out-of-court settlement in 2002 after a Texas judge ruled the restrictions violated the state’s antitrust law.
McHugh can breed horses using artificial insemination and race or sell them in standard-bred, or harness races, Bannon said.
“Mr. Hugh is not restrained,” Bannon said. “The argument is he won’t get as much money.”
McHugh’s lawsuit has rattled a multibillion-dollar global industry, where a thriving breeding trade has developed. Each year, owners of the world’s most-prized horses, including Dubai’s ruler Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, owner of two stud farms in Australia, send so-called shuttle stallions around the globe to breed with mares, collecting fees that have exceeded $330,000 per mating episode.
Those are “powerful economic interests” who want to maintain the status quo, Tonking said.
The status quo also maintains the tradition that has made the sport so popular, Bannon said. Just as European leagues would not boost goal-scoring by making the nets bigger, tradition precludes organizers from changing the rules, he said.
“Tampering with the traditional appeal risks destroying that appeal,” Bannon said.
The case is Between Bruce McHugh and the Australian Jockey Club Ltd. NSD1187/2009. Federal Court of Australia (Sydney).
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