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Equine flu crisis: biggest shutdown since foot and mouth hits racing

08 February 2019

On Thursday four British meetings in Huntingdon, Doncaster, Ffos Las and Chelmsford, were cancelled.

Her Majesty is not in a unique position - horse racing in the United Kingdom is now in complete lockdown whilst the British Horse Racing Authority (BHA) tries to contain the outbreak of the highly contagious flu.

"Once we know whether there has been a spread (of infection) there or not, we will be in a much better position to know where racing is".

Are Irish authorities dicing with death by keeping the show on the road while our near neighbours go into total lockdown?

Cases of equine influenza had been reported in recent weeks, originally in France but spreading to Ireland and Britain.

Horses from the infected yard raced at Ayr and Ludlow, potentially exposing a significant number of horses from yards across the country and in Ireland.

'Some of ours aren't going to run again before Cheltenham - some of them, I hoped to run again.

As well as being air born the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) says the virus can be transmitted indirectly, including via people, although stressed there are no known consequences for humans associated with exposure to the disease.

Equine flu is a highly contagious respiratory virus which affects horses, mules and donkeys.

While prevention is better in that instance, perhaps that same mantra should have been applied in terms of postponing the Irish racing calendar until the picture becomes a little clearer in Britain in a few days.

The Queen's upcoming racing schedule has been thrown into jeopardy following an outbreak of equine influenza in the United Kingdom.

It also impacted the New South Wales racing and breeding industries for eight months, costing close to a billion Australian dollars to eradicate.

The cancellations will cost the industry tens of millions of pounds, and is the biggest loss of fixtures for reasons other than freezing weather since the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001.

It was mentioned that they may need to put quarantine and biosecurity measures in place.

'This is a standard contingency in the event of an infectious disease affecting our horses.

The BHA have responded to public concerns by providing a Q&A on equine influenza, which can be read here.

"We look forward to racing resuming as soon as possible, and hope that this will be well in advance of The Festival in five weeks" time'.

The crisis was sparked on Wednesday night when three vaccinated horses tested positive at the Cheshire stables of Grand National-winning trainer Donald McCain - whose late father Ginger saddled the legendary Red Rum to a record three National wins in the 1970s.

Equine flu crisis: biggest shutdown since foot and mouth hits racing