Sunday, October 20, 2002

Russian execs touring Ky. horse farms

The Associated Press

LEXINGTON - In hopes of opening a new equine trade outlet, state officials are hosting a delegation of Russian race track executives and farm owners who will tour several Kentucky thoroughbred facilities.

The seven-member delegation arrived in Lexington this weekend and will remain in the area until Friday. During the trip, they will visit most of central Kentucky's leading stud farms and sales pavilions at Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton.

"These are longtime, experienced horsemen at the top of the profession," said Judith Robinson, international trade specialist for the U.S. Department of Commerce. "They'll understand what they're seeing when they see our horses. They've already memorized our pedigrees. You should have seen their reaction when we mentioned Storm Cat to them."

State officials are optimistic the trip will lower trade barriers and allow Russian thoroughbred investors to import Kentucky horses.

"Some of the guys are ready to buy and would like to buy from Kentucky," said Kelly Ludwig, Kentucky Department of Agriculture international trade specialist. "They're interested in the sales and veterinary processes here."

Russia does not accept U.S. health certificates for horses because of concerns over the West Nile virus in horses. As a result, any horse exported must remain in European quarantine facilities for three months, making their purchase cost prohibitive, according to Tony Moreno, director of international marketing for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

"We're trying to create an understanding that Kentucky equine products shouldn't get caught up in the bigger world issues. We'll have them work with our people and the veterinary people to realize that what we've got in Kentucky is a top-line product," Mr. Moreno said.

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