Thursday races in Britain cancelled over equine flu

Thursday races in Britain cancelled over equine flu

An outbreak of equine flu forced racing into a dramatic six-day shutdown to blow the biggest hole in the sport's programme since the foot-and-mouth crisis that put paid to the Cheltenham Festival in 2001.

The British Horseracing Authority said that no new positive cases have been received since it announced early Thursday (NZT) that three vaccinated horses in an active racing yard had flu.

It also means that the seven races at Newbury, including the Betfair Hurdle and the Denman Chase, have had to be cancelled.

Humans do not get infected with equine influenza, however humans can physically carry the virus on their skin, hair, clothing and shoes and can therefore transfer the virus to other horses - they are transmitters of the virus.

It is the most potentially damaging of the respiratory viruses that occur in United Kingdom equines and disease symptoms in non-immune animals include high fever, coughing and nasal discharge.

Veterinarians worked around the clock on Thursday testing thoroughbreds for equine influenza - but results will not come back until Sunday evening at the earliest.

Racing's rulers are set to make a further assessment on Monday as to when racing can resume after the virus was detected.

According to the BHA, the disease may be serious in unvaccinated horses, although symptoms in vaccinated horses are usually mild and transient.

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This includes several from stables in Ireland, including five from the yard of Gordon Elliott, one of Ireland's most successful trainers.

Horses from the infected stable, which has not been named, raced on Wednesday at Ayr and Ludlow, which raised the possibility that a number of horses in their vicinity could have been exposed to the highly-contagious infection. The BHA is working closely with the Animal Health Trust and will issue a further update tomorrow. "This may then allow declarations to take place on Tuesday in time for racing on Wednesday".

"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".

Its effects are still unknown and that's what makes the stance taken by Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) and the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) to continue racing as normal all the more surprising.

"Over the last two months, all potential runners have been scoped and their blood checked within 36 hours of their races to ensure that only healthy horses compete for the yard".

Responding to the news, Newbury's chief executive Julian Thick said: "We're clearly disappointed, it's a major race meeting for us, but horse welfare comes first".

"I'm estimating that there will be 1,500-plus taken overall today", Henderson told BBC Radio 5 live of the swab tests being carried out across Britain by vets.

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