Britain will not stage any racing until Wednesday, February 13 at the earliest following the outbreak of equine influenza in the stable of Cheshire-based trainer Donald McCain, which so far has affected three horses.
The BHA will reassess the situation on Monday, February 11 and decide whether racing can resume later that week.
After McCain contacted the governing body on Wednesday to confirm the outbreak in his yard, the BHA made the decision to cancel all meetings on Thursday, February 7.
Trainers who had runners at Ayr and Ludlow on Wednesday and at Wolverhampton on Monday, where McCain also had runners, have been informed that their yards have been placed under a temporary hold, which means that they will not be able to make any declarations until their horses have been tested and cleared.
In a statement, the BHA said: “The BHA’s veterinary team has today been in contact with more than 50 trainers and veterinarians to allow it to make an informed assessment of the risk of equine influenza spreading. Whilst no further positive tests have been received, at least three more days are required before it will be possible to make a decision about whether it is safe to resume.
“The disease can take up to three days before symptoms are visible, meaning it will take until Sunday at the earliest before the BHA can gather all the information required. This approach will allow samples to be collected and assessed by the Animal Health Trust in order that a fully informed decision can be made on Monday.
“This may then allow declarations to take place on Tuesday in time for racing on Wednesday, with 24-hour declarations for all fixtures on this day, should racing to be able to resume. Declarations for Thursday would revert to the usual procedures.”
The statement added: “We are grateful to trainers and veterinarians for the rapid flow of information and feedback we have received today. Because of this, we have been able to make an informed decision earlier than we expected and before we have any test results back from horses from the affected yards that travelled to the three meetings.
“This precautionary approach is intended 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. We appreciate the impact that this may have on the sport commercially, but disease control in order to mitigate the risk of further disruption to the sport – and safeguard the health and welfare of our horses – must be a priority.”
One of the major meetings lost following the BHA’s announcement is Newbury’s card on Saturday, which featured the Grade 2 Denman Chase and Grade 3 Betfair Hurdle. The BHA are to construct a plan for the rescheduling of key races – and those which may provide important opportunities for horses to run – which are lost during this period.
Equine influenza is highly contagious and may be serious in unvaccinated horses, although symptoms in vaccinated horses – every racehorse in Britain receives a vaccination – are usually mild and transient. Symptoms may include a raised temperature, a cough and nasal discharge.
Those visiting a racing yard have been advised to exercise appropriate caution and check with the trainer before visiting. Trainers are advised to limit where possible the movement of people to and from their yard.
Deidre Carson wrote about the subject of equine influenza in the November 2013 issue of Thoroughbred Owner Breeder, which you can read here