Horse racing canceled in Britain over equine flu outbreak

Doncaster racecourse

After British race meetings were cancelled with an outbreak of equine flu, trainer Richard Fahey says it was the right decision.

Following the British Horseracing Authority's announcement that racing is suspended in Britain because of equine influenza and consultation with the IHRB Board, Veterinary Committee, Irish Equine Centre and HRI overnight, the IHRB confirm these decisions in the context that at present within Ireland the disease risk status in racing Thoroughbreds has not yet changed.

Ayr and Ludlow confirmed the BHA had ordered a "level 2 deep clean" which requires the racecourses to disinfect all facilities where horses were prepared pre- and post-racing.

McCain also sent a runner to Wolverhampton's meeting on Monday evening and all horses which competed on the card will be tested for equine influenza, along with all runners at the meetings at Ludlow and Ayr on Wednesday.

However, these three reported cases are the first to have come from an active yard and in vaccinated horses, raising concerns that the strain could be immune, putting thousands of horses at risk.

Equine influenza, sometimes referred to as equine flu or horse flu, is a highly contagious respiratory infection.

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"The disease can take up to three days before symptoms are visible, meaning it will take until Sunday at the earliest before the BHA can gather all the information required".

A further update on the possible continued extent of disruption is expected from the BHA - with a packed weekend of Cheltenham trials and other big races scheduled at Newbury, Warwick, Musselburgh and in Ireland.

In a statement, the BHA said: "This precautionary approach is meant to ensure we put the health of the horse population and control of the virus first, and avoid any unnecessary risk that might come from returning to racing too quickly".

"This may then allow declarations to take place on Tuesday in time for racing on Wednesday, with 24 hour declarations for all fixtures on this day, should racing be able to resume". It follows we would never race any horses that we could have known were infected.

A BHA release said the cross-over of horses at the tracks could cause infection to horses around Britain and in Ireland.

In 2001, an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease wiped out racing for two months in Britain, leading to the cancellation of the Cheltenham Festival, which is held every March.

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