Study Shows Racehorse Performance Not Affected by Hendra Vaccine
Researchers have determined, via a world-first study, that vaccination against Hendra virus does not appear to affect Thoroughbred horses’ racing performance.

“The Queensland Racing Integrity Commission (QRIC) funded the ground-breaking study so industry regulators and participants can base their decisions on accurate information and science rather than rumor and speculation,” said Commissioner Ross Barnett.

Study researchers examined 1,154 Thoroughbreds’ Timeform ratings over 12,066 race starts and assessed their performance one and three months before and after vaccination, with no difference in form detected. Timeform ratings are used to measure a horse’s performance in a race, taking into account how the race was run and where the horse finished.

The QRIC’s chief vet Martin Lenz, BVSc, says many factors can potentially affect the performance of racehorses, so it was important for the study to be large enough to distill out any impact that vaccination might have.

“The large numbers of horses and race starts examined means we can be confident of the findings, which back up the instincts of many astute trainers who already vaccinate their horses,” he said.

Kathrin Schemann, BAnVetBioSc, PhD, MBiostat, was the study’s lead author and is a Research Fellow in Veterinary Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of Sydney.

“Analyzing the performance of each horse before and after vaccination over a short time period was the best way to assess the impact of vaccination as each horse acted as its own control,” she explained.

The research team was led by Associate Professor Navneet Dhand, BVSc&AH, MVSc, MACVSc, PhD, GradCert (Higher Edu).

“This is one of the largest studies of its kind conducted to investigate the effect of any vaccine on horse racing performance anywhere in the world,” he said. “Thoroughbred racing participants can be confident of the results given the number of horses assessed.”

Racing Queensland estimates Thoroughbred horse racing makes a $959-million contribution to the Queensland economy and sustains more than seven-and-a-half thousand jobs.

“Vaccination protects participants and animal welfare in an industry that is a sizeable contributor to the Queensland economy,” said Barnett. “The Commission will continue to encourage vaccination through programs like the first vaccination free offer for the 300 Standardbred foals expected this breeding season.”

The study, “Investigation of the effect of Equivac HeV Hendra virus vaccination on Thoroughbred racing performance,” was published in the Australian Veterinary Journal.