An outbreak of equine influenza has forced the British Horseracing Authority to take the difficult decision to suspend all race fixtures across the UK today, the governing board mindful that the Cheltenham Festival and Randox Health Grand National are on the horizon. The latest development has spread panic in British horse racing circles, however the decision has been deemed necessary following the discovery of the virus earlier this week. Reports revealed how a trainer discovered that vaccinated horses had contracted the virus and that he had sent runners to Ayr and Ludlow that very same afternoon.
The BHA had little choice but to act swiftly to help prevent the spread of the potentially disastrous virus, especially since some of British racing’s showpiece events are just a few weeks away. The BHA had this to say on the matter:
“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.”
This is without a doubt a massive blow to the sport as well as a big disappointment to punters across the country, however the decision won’t have been taken lightly and clearly it was made with the best interests of horse racing in mind.
While equine flu poses no risk to humans, it can be extremely serious for horses. It is very contagious and causes respiratory issues, high fever and severe coughing. It is an airborne disease and as such can easily affect any horses which come into contact with it, the Gordon Elliott stable certain to be on high alert following his treble at Ayr yesterday.
It was in 2001 that foot-and-mouth disease decimated British horse racing and the BHA will be doing their utmost to avoid a repeat of the disruption caused by that outbreak.