Following the recent closure of the Animal Health Trust in July, British racing has launched a tender process to identify suppliers who can take over equine disease support services for the industry.

The AHT’s role when active saw them deliver the four pillars of equine support regarding disease surveillance, diagnostic testing, disease research and provision of expertise to the veterinary pharmaceutical.

Richard Newton, Director of Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance, and Marie O’Brien, Administrator, have been transferred to the payroll of the BHA on behalf of the industry in order to continue providing essential disease surveillance services.

The Horserace Betting Levy Board has funded this work along with substantial contributions from racehorse owners and the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association.

Moving forward, the tender process will intend to identify the suppliers for a long-term, cost-effective solution for the racing and non-thoroughbred horse industry to provide specialist tests while also working closely with the central disease central surveillance team.

The tender process is now open and will close on October 5.

Stephen Atkin, former Chief Executive of the Racecourse Association, has been leading the project on behalf of the BHA and the wider industry, and said: “The service provided by Richard Newton and his team at the AHT was vital for the safeguarding of the racing industry from infectious disease.

“We were all sad to see the closure of the AHT. Never was this more visible than in the exceptional work carried out during the 2019 equine influenza outbreak, when the AHT – supported by the BHA and racing industry – carried out an unprecedented volume of tests to help track and trace the disease and get racing up and running again in a matter of days.

“I am delighted that we have been able to retain the services of Richard and his central team. Since the AHT’s closure on July 31, the team has continued to liaise with equine veterinary practices, working on behalf of their clients in the industry, to ensure that the vital central surveillance of assays carried out by laboratories in the UK continues in a satisfactory manner.

“In the meantime, discussions led primarily by the HBLB and Racing Foundation remain ongoing with the specialists involved and a range of research laboratories for the continuation of important disease research.”