Horse racing canceled in Britain over equine flu outbreak

All races have been cancelled on Thursday  Image Getty

In a statement the British Horseracing Association (BHA) said yesterday that it had chose to suspend racing today after three positive equine flu tests for vaccinated horses in an active racing yard were discovered.

A total of 174 racing stables have been placed in lockdown while tests are carried out - though the six positive cases identified to date all came from the Cheshire stables of Donald McCain.

Horses from the infected yard raced on Wednesday - including at Ayr - potentially exposing a significant number of other runners to the virus.

"This precautionary approach is meant to ensure we put the health of the horse population and control of the virus first, and avoid any unnecessary risk that might come from returning to racing too quickly", said a BHA statement.

"The BHA has worked quickly to identify which yards could have potentially been exposed today and identify the further actions required".

It is not yet known how long the current shut-down of racing may have to last - but inevitably for thousands of racing followers, and of course those directly involved in the industry, there will be uncomfortable echoes of the foot-and-mouth crises of 1967 and 2001.

It said that a decision on whether to suspend further days of racing was likely to be made this evening.

Horse racing has been canceled in Britain until Wednesday Feb. 13.at the earliest, due to an equine flu outbreak.

Elsewhere, Wolverhampton have been forced to cancel their meeting on Saturday as a result of what has happened.

"When I first heard the news, like everyone else, my thoughts turned to the Cheltenham Festival, our sport's FA Cup Final, and how bad it would be for so many people if it was put in jeopardy", ITV racing presenter Ed Chamberlin told Reuters.

On each occasion, the racing calendar was affected for two months - and in 2001, the Cheltenham Festival was abandoned.

Under the rules of racing, Irish horses in training must be vaccinated for equine influenza, a disease which shows symptoms ranging from increased temperature, coughing, nasal discharge, being off feed, and more severe respiratory signs.

The Grand National, the world's greatest steeplechase, is due to take place in Liverpool on April 5 and could also be under threat if the disease is not brought under control. If racing is back on by the end of next week, key races may be rescheduled at Ascot.

"The cancellation of that meeting alone could deprive the betting industry of up to £20 million in lost turnover and it looks unlikely punters switch their interest to racing from Ireland or further afield".

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