British racing shutdown to end on WEDNESDAY after Equine Influenza outbreak as testing of hundreds of racehorses remains ongoing
- BHA is to end the shutdown of British racing after Equine Influenza outbreak
- Six-day blank period will end with four meetings on Wednesday
- Testing of hundreds of racehorses is still ongoing after 10 tested positive for EI
- The enforced hiatus is estimated to have cost the sport £25million
The BHA has ended the shutdown of British racing prompted by the outbreak of Equine Influenza at the Cheshire stable of Grand National winning trainer Donald McCain.
The six-day blank period will end with four meetings on Wednesday at Kempton and Southwell on the Flat and Musselburgh and Plumpton, Southwell over the jumps.
While testing of hundreds of racehorses is still ongoing, the BHA took a pragmatic approach after a risk analysis of the situation.
The BHA has ended the shutdown of British racing prompted by outbreak of Equine Influenza
The decision was made after a late-night meeting of the BHA’s veterinary advisory committee and against a backdrop of increasing pressure to get the sport back up and running after a hiatus which has cost an estimated £25million.
The decision to start racing again is expected to be followed on Tuesday by announcements over whether it is possible to reschedule Saturday’s lost meeting at Newbury which would have featured a clash between Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River and King George VI Chase winner Clan Des Obeaux in the Denman Chase.
Ten horses have tested positive to highly contagious EI – six from the McCain stable plus four from the Newmarket yard of trainer Simon Crisford which emerged on Sunday evening.
But calls for the BHA to end the shutdown got appreciably louder on Monday as racing’s body was pressed to come up with an exit strategy from the lockdown of the sport.
The six-day blank period will end with four meetings on Wednesday with testing ongoing
Trainers including Nigel Twiston-Davies and Colin Tizzard had questioned the BHA shut-down policy while prominent owner Dai Walters said they had ‘lit a fire they can’t put out.’
Authorities in Ireland, where there have been EI outbreaks but not in active racing yards, also lifted a temporary ban imposed on runners from Britain.
That had left the bizarre possibility that British runners could run in Ireland but not in their own country if the BHA had failed to end the shut-down.
Explaining the decision to lift the ban on British runners, Lynn Hillyer, chief veterinary officer for the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, said: ‘On Friday, we upped the requirements for runners here of a mandatory (booster EI) vaccination within eight weeks of the run and enhanced bio-security.
‘Having seen how that went over the weekend, the Board re-convened and made the decision that provided British horses meet those extra requirements and they are coming from a yard that is not under any restrictions from the BHA, those horses are no further risk than our own horses.’
Over the last three days around 2,100 tests for EI have been conducted the Animal Health Trust, as many as it would normally conduct in a year.
Six horses owned by Donald McCain have been diagnosed with equine influenza
They have prioritised horses and stables that appeared most at risk because they may have come into contact with runners from the infected stables.
That included stables that had runners at Ayr last Wednesday where McCain’s Raise A Spark ran and subsequently tested positive to EI.
But critics of the BHA policy pointed out that the number of positives was a tiny percentage of the number of tests and a figure that would normally be expected if testing the racehorse population with Equine Flu endemic among the equine population.
The stables of both Crisford and McCain still face a prolonged period of shutdown until they are given the all-clear. In the immediate future Crisford will have to exercise his horses in isolation on Newmarket heath.
Crisford’s stable had been identified for testing because he had run Sajanjl ran at Newcastle on February 5, a meeting which subsequently produced a ‘suspicious’ but ultimately negative test for a runner from the Rebecca Menzies stable.
However, it was four stablemates rather than Sajanjl which tested positive.
Crisford said: ‘The swabbing occurred following Sajanjl’s race at Newcastle last Tuesday and she has tested negative. There is no obvious connection between Sajanjl and the four identified horses.’
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