Challenge to throughbred breeding practices fails


AI-foalFormer bookmaker and Sydney Turf Club chairman Bruce McHugh has lost his multimillion-dollar challenge to the Australian thoroughbred industry’s insistence on live cover of mares.

Australian federal court judge, Justice Alan Robertson, handed down his 375-page judgment yesterday in the case, which was heard during a six-week trial late last year.

McHugh, once Australia’s biggest bookmaker, took on the Australian Racing Board, the Australian Stud Book, Thoroughbred Breeders Australia, the Victoria Racing Club and the Australian Turf Club over the ban on the registration of thoroughbreds produced by artificial insemination – a practice allowed in the standardbred industry but not within the thoroughbred ranks.

McHugh, represented in the case by Ian Tonking, argued in the case that the ban on artificial insemination meant powerful interests maintained a stranglehold on the lucrative racing industry.

He argued that allowing artificially bred horses to race would increase competition and make the industry more affordable to smaller breeders.

Thoroughbred jurisdictions around the world have built up a multibillion-dollar breeding industry based on the requirement for live cover.

Desirable stallions command high service fees – up to $A200,000 in Australia – and some travel the globe as shuttle stallions, serving mares in several countries each year.

McHugh argued the restriction on artificial insemination represented a restraint of trade and breached section 45 of the Competition and Consumer Act.

Justice Robertson found that McHugh had failed to show the AI ban,  introduced in the 1940s to prevent the attribution of incorrect paternity to a thoroughbred horse, represented a restraint of trade.

McHugh also failed to satisfy the judge that the AI rule had substantially lessened competition, which is the test under the Competition and Consumer Act.

Had McHugh won the case, Australia would have become the only country in the world to allow artificial insemination of thoroughbreds. A win would likely have triggered similar challenges in other racing jurisdictions.

Australian Racing Board chairman Michael Duffy welcomed the decision.

“The ARB has maintained throughout that naturally bred thoroughbreds were the basis of the domestic and international sport of racing and AI proponents were free to establish their own industry as they wished.

“The long-running case has created an element of uncertainty in the industry which will lift following this decision.”

The full judgment can be read here.

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