Racing received the news it had been hoping for late on Monday evening when the BHA announced that action will resume on Wednesday following the equine influenza crisis that had placed the sport in lockdown.
Having consulted with its veterinary committee and following the latest tests conducted by the Animal Health Trust, the BHA’s Chief Regulatory Officer, Brant Dunshea, confirmed racing would be staged but only with strict biosecurity controls in place.
Dunshea said: “Our approach since hearing about the first positive results last Wednesday has been based on accumulating as much information as we could as quickly as possible so we could properly understand the risks of this virulent strain of flu spreading to more horses. That would be harmful to them and damaging to any trainers’ yards that had become infected.
“It has been our intention to ensure that we avoid an issue that could result in a long-term disruption to racing with the risk of many of our major events being unduly impacted.
“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. The BHA veterinary committee believe that the swift controls on movement that were put in place have clearly helped to restrict the spread of this virus.
“There have been significant logistical issues associated with testing and processing so many tests in such a short space of time. Fortunately, owing to the tireless efforts of the Animal Health Trust, trainers and their local vets, and BHA staff, the vast majority of yards which had been placed on hold will be in a position to resume racing.
“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 two confirmed sites of infection mentioned in Dunshea’s statement are six horses in the Cheshire yard of Donald McCain and four horses in Simon Crisford’s Newmarket stable.
David Sykes, the BHA’s Director of Equine Health and Welfare, added: “The BHA and the veterinary committee agree that, on balance, the level of risk is acceptable for a return to racing.
“We have developed a risk model, which the veterinary committee support, in order to assist the return to racing.
“We will observe closely those horses who are taken to the racecourse and will intervene as a precaution to prevent a horse running or accessing a racecourse if we believe it might put other horses at risk of infection.
“The veterinary committee are of the view that an unprecedented amount of this disease has been identified in Europe. This is not a typical endemic period and it was essential that precautions be taken to protect the horse population.”
Wednesday will see two jump meetings at Musselburgh and Plumpton alongside all-weather fixtures at Southwell and Kempton.
Both the Grade 3 Betfair Hurdle and the Grade 2 Denman Chase, lost from Newbury last Saturday, have been transferred to Ascot this Saturday, while Warwick’s Grade 2 Kingmaker Novices’ Chase will be run at Sandown Park on Friday.
The introduction of an interim measure from the BHA ordering that no entries or declarations will be accepted from horses that have not been vaccinated in the previous six months has caused disruption to a significant number of trainers.
Nicky Henderson is among those affected, issuing an update on Twitter in regards to the horses that he is unable to run this weekend that includes Crimbourne Stud’s Champion Hurdle hope Verdana Blue and RSA Chase prospect Santini.
Deidre Carson wrote about the subject of equine influenza in the November 2013 issue of Thoroughbred Owner Breeder – which you can read here