Mindful that the 2019 Cheltenham Festival is just a few weeks away, the British Horseracing Authority has taken the difficult decision to cancel all British racing fixtures today as they look to prevent the spread of an equine flu virus which was detected earlier this week. These developments have sent the sport into a state of panic and the decision was taken following reports that an unnamed trainer revealed how some horses which had been vaccinated had somehow managed to contract equine flu and that he had sent runners to Ludlow and Ayr that same day.
Clearly the BHA had to act very fast to prevent a potentially disastrous spread of the virus and they released a statement last night:
“The British Horseracing Authority, with unanimous support of the BHA’s industry veterinary committee, has taken the decision to cancel racing at all British racecourses on Thursday 7 February 2019,”
“This is following the BHA being informed this evening by the Animal Health Trust of three confirmed Equine Influenza positives from vaccinated horses in an active racing yard.”
“Horses from the infected yard have raced today at Ayr and Ludlow, potentially exposing a significant number of horses from yards across the country and in Ireland.”
“The fact that the cases have been identified in vaccinated horses presents a cause for significant concern over welfare and the potential spread of the disease and the action to cancel racing has been viewed as necessary in order to restrict, as far as possible, the risk of further spread of the disease.”
Clearly this will be a massive disappointment to punters up and down the country but the decision certainly won’t have been taken lightly and is undoubtedly in the best interests of the sport in the longer term.
Equine influenza poses no immediate danger to humans but it is nevertheless very contagious and potentially harmful to horses, symptoms including coughing, respiratory problems, nasal discharge and high fever. The virus is transferred through the air so the likelihood is that horses which have the virus will have affected any other horses which have been in close proximity to them. Indeed Gordon Elliott landed a treble at Ayr yesterday so the possibility remains that his stable will now be affected.
Today’s worrying events will doubtless summon up sad memories of 2001 when Foot and Mouth disease tore apart British racing for many months.
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