BHA admits to risks in resuming racing but backs biosecurity measures
Racing will wake up to good news on Tuesday after an unsettling week and nervy Monday night while the BHA wrestled with letting racing resume following the equine flu outbreak.
Last Thursday morning many awoke to find racing had been cancelled due to the flu alert and the following Monday was quickly identified by the BHA as D-Day for a decision on whether six days would amount to a sufficient shutdown period.
An industry veterinary committee was key to the cessation of racing, and the same committee gave the BHA confidence to lift the ban late on Monday night.
The BHA statement added: "This decision to return racing in a controlled, risk-managed manner was unanimously supported by the industry veterinary committee."
Brant Dunshea, BHA's chief regulatory officer, said: "After analysis of thousands of samples, and no further positive tests on Monday, we still only have two confirmed sites of infection. We have put robust containment measures in place around both.
“From the testing and analysis conducted the disease appears to be contained at present.
"Clearly, there is some risk associated with returning to racing. This risk has been assessed and, based on the evidence - and ensuring biosecurity measures are in place – the level of risk is viewed as acceptable."
The veterinary committee
David Sykes (Chair) – BHA
Alasdair Topp – Association of Racecourse Veterinary Surgeons
Amanda Piggot – BHA
Antony Clements – British Equine Veterinary Association
Clive Hamblin – NTF
Charlie Pinkham – ROA
Dr Richard Newton – Animal Health Trust
James Wigan – Independent
Prof Sidney Ricketts – TBA
Simon Knapp – RCA
The Animal Health Trust has been in the midst of analysing thousands of equine nasal swabs from racehorses in Britain, and optimism had been raised of racing returning following two batches of swabs, numbering well over 1,000, coming back negative through the weekend.
Late on Sunday night hopes looked to have been dealt a blow when it was revealed there had been four positive tests for the highly contagious virus from Simon Crisford's Newmarket yard.
That took the total number of known cases in racing yards to ten, following six positives from Donald McCain's Cheshire base.
Crisford's stable was one of 174 to be placed in lockdown, in his case because he had a runner at Newcastle last Tuesday, after which Sedgefield trainer Rebecca Menzies, who had also had runners at the meeting, reported a 'suspicious' case.
However, all the horses at Menzies' yard subsequently tested negative for equine flu and Crisford revealed the test on his runner at Newcastle – Sajanjl – has returned negative as well.
A statement released by Crisford read: "None of the four horses who returned a positive test for equine influenza displayed any clinical sign of respiratory illness, including nasal discharge and elevated temperatures, prior to the mandatory swabbing undertaken on Friday.
"The swabbing occurred following Sajanjl's race at Newcastle last Tuesday and she's tested negative. There's no obvious connection between the filly and the four identified horses.
"All horses at Kremlin House Stables, totalling 92 boxes, undergo a strict vaccination check and programme on their arrival. All four identified horses have been vaccinated within the last six months along with the rest of the yard and in line with vaccination protocol."
Crisford will be temporarily exercising his string on the Heath in isolation as Jockey Club Estates attempts to ensure the chances of the disease spreading are kept to a minimum.
Newmarket: racing's headquarters
Newmarket is the largest training centre in Britain with around 80 trainers overseeing in the region of 3,000 horses. The town centre divides the training grounds into two with Bury Side to the east and Racecourse Side to the west, with trainers sharing facilities across the 2,500-acre site. It is also home to two racecourses, the Rowley Mile and the July Course, and acts as a huge breeding centre.
Plumpton and Musselburgh, which lost its last two meetings to a combination of the weather and the flu, are the two tracks which had prepared for the BHA affirmative with preparations in place.
Plumpton clerk of the course and head groundsman Mark Cornford said on Monday: "We've set the track up ready and I've got my fingers crossed.
"It's heavy ground but things are improving. It was dry most of yesterday during daylight hours and has been dry today. If we get as far as declarations it should be more soft, heavy in places."
The declarations stage for Wednesday's four meetings will be at 10am on Tuesday. Declarations for Thursday’s Flat all-weather meetings will now be at the 24-hour stage.
Several big races are imminent on the jumping calendar, while Tuesday marks four weeks until the Cheltenham Festival.
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