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JAM USA/0605 CRICOS PROVIDER NO 00121B
news April 23 - 29, 2010
7The Independent Weekly
sport in SA
Three years after an outbreak
of the deadly equine flu in
Australia, the horse industry
remains exposed to another attack
without a government or industry
State and federal agriculture
ministers will vote in Darwin today
whether to allow the voluntary use
of the horse flu vaccine.
The injection is not now avail-
able in Australia and some horse
industry groups believe it should
stay that way.
"It s a knee-jerk reaction," said
specialist horse vet Bill Marmion
of the Morphetville Equine Clinic.
"The majority of the veterinary
community would be against the
Before the 2007 horse flu outbreak
Australia was considered free of
the disease. Mr Marmion said the
virus has since been eradicated
and horse health is back at pre-2007
standards, meaning there is no need
for the vaccine.
Some horse industry groups
worry that if the vaccine is
introduced, a disease outbreak will
be harder to detect.
"If you get vaccinated animals
then they can get the infection and
it s very difficult to recognise it.
As a consequence they are more
likely to spread it around before
it s detected," said Horse Industry
Council CEO Roger Lavelle. Mr
Marmion said use of the vaccine
could also affect the Australian
horse export market.
"Some countries that import
horses from Australia insist that the
horse does not have any antibodies,
even ones contracted from a
vaccine. Those countries wouldn t
accept the horses from Australia
anymore," he said.
Mr Lavelle argues that recently
improved quarantine measures
are effective prevention which
mean "the likelihood of EI coming
through is practically zero".
Others in the industry see
vaccination as the only option to
protect themselves from the kind of
financial hardship suffered in 2007.
"The reality is that in Europe the
thoroughbred industry does vac-
cinate and it reduces the potential
for the disease to spread," said SA
Thoroughbred Breeders president
"The racing industry suffered
the most financially during the last
outbreak. We should be able to say
we want to do it and be listened to."
SA agriculture minister Michael
O Brien is yet to decide with which
side he agrees.
"I m going to Darwin with an open
mind to listen to the views put by
the Commonwealth and other state
ministers at the meeting. I want to
hear those views before making a
final decision," Mr O Brien told The
Matilda Lovegrove riding Backtrack at North Adelaide Parklands: everyone from
recreational riders to racehorse trainers is arguing about horse flu. Photo: Kate Elmes
Horse health hiatus
Philip Bentley, the rattled SAJC
chose to jettison the CEO, along
with the chairman and vice-
So certain was Bentley and the
TRSA that the beleaguered
CEO must pay the ultimate
price -- according to records seen
by Ploubidis -- the minutes of the
SAJC meeting that sacked him
were in fact pre-ordained by the
racing regulator, not the club
But what is most galling for the
now-unemployed CEO is that only
insubstantive innuendo and gossip
More than 12 months on,
Ploubidis faces no criminal
charges, with recent media reports
stating the government agency
investigating the matter had
recommended no prosecutions be
So why did Ploubidis suffer the
ignominy of adverse headlines
and the deeper hurt of having
the youngest of his five children,
who range from 28 to 12, shunned
at school "because your father is
going to jail"?
Why does he have to put up with
his wife Katherine s mocking
that he was brought undone by
a 75-year-old (Spear) that "you
could have got rid of -- aren t you
supposed to be smarter than that",
and face the disintegration of his
family because he is unemployed?
Ploubidis, whose wife doesn t
work, recognises the dangers that
lie ahead in his unemployed state
and the hurt he has inflicted on his
family by his previous wish not to
talk about the personal pain he was
"Males, particularly European
males, tend not to express their
feelings with their partner," he
"The problem is if you do that
you are sending out a message that
you don t care about how they feel.
"What you are actually doing is
trying to protect them from what
is actually going on because you
know it will make them even more
"One of the biggest reasons
families fall apart is financial pres-
sure. This (sacking) has derailed
plans we had as a family and that is
"It has put great strains on my
relationship with my wife because
of the imposition on the family.
"My daughter is a talented
French student and has plans to
go to France this year. She is still
going but it will place enormous
financial pressure on us.
"And recently, when I was out
with my 13-year-old son, I said:
'How about an ice-cream? He
replied: 'It s okay, Dad, we can t
"Apart from that, we have
parents at the kids school who
would otherwise want to socialise
with us and are suddenly turning
their back, ignoring us.
"Walking down the street, people
talk about you and you can hear it.
"My two eldest sons, who are in
banking and real estate, have felt it.
"When my real estate son has
his name in big letters on leasing
arrangements he is recognised and
it s affecting him.
"The media have chased us down
the street and followed us. I could
not believe the attention this has
"However, on the other side, the
Treasurer Kevin Foley stopped and
mentored my sons while we were
sitting in a cafe.
"He spent about 10 minutes
telling them that this hell we have
been going through is the price of
prominence. It was very helpful."
On the anti-Ploubidis side, there
is not a tear in sight.
Spear said he took the final
action against Ploubidis and the
rest of the board of which he was
a member only because he was not
satisfied the recruitment of new
members was constitutional.
Ploubidis role in that "cause
célèbre" will be played out in his
Federal Court breach-of-contract
case against the SAJC.
Shortly before his sacking,
Ploubidis received support via a
letter to media outlets from local
heavyweights, including business-
man and sports patron Rob
Ploubidis recalls an incident
when he negotiated a deal with
SAJC patron Rob Gerard to buy a
giant TV screen for the in-field at
"We probably paid $300,000 less
than we should have, thanks to Rob,
but we did it on the condition he
could use it for four weeks a year at
the Clipsal V8 car races.
"Spear raised the four-week loan
at the board meeting as if I had
done some deal with Rob Gerard
and there was something in it for
"This was only one of a number
of allegations. His only mission
was to plot my downfall," he
When approached a second time
to answer in detail the various
allegations Ploubidis makes about
Spear s campaign against him, Mr
Spear used board confidentiality
not to comment.
"This will all come out in the
Federal Court when Ploubidis is in
the witness box," he said.
"Then I am prepared to stand and
deliver. But if I was to comment on
Ploubidis and these allegations,
it would be used against me," he
So after all the gnashing of teeth
and the shredding of reputations,
where does this leave racing in SA
and the future of the SAJC?
While the regulatory TRSA has
the financial destiny in its hands,
it s important the SAJC functions
profitably and promotes the
Quirky new chairman David
Peacock, who is in his second stint
on the board and admits "financial
analysis is not my strong suit",
said colorfully after announcing an
operating loss of $3 million and a
debt of $5 million on November 20
that: "We inherited the wind -- now
we have to tame it".
Maybe a reference to the "winds
of change" would have been more
appealing to stakeholders who still
race their horses for a third of the
prize money available in the east.
But perhaps, at the end of the day,
like Yugoslavia, there is just too
much history for anything in SA
racing to change.
Richard Zachariah has offered
consultancy services to identities in
the racing industry.
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