Equine flu outbreak causes Newbury races to be cancelled

Kenny Tucker
February 8, 2019

The BHA said horses from the affected yard had raced on Wednesday at Ayr and Ludlow, which raised the potential for several yards across the country and in Ireland to have become infected.

The cancellations, ordered by the British Horseracing Authority, will cost the industry tens of millions of pounds and is the biggest loss of fixtures for reasons other than freezing weather since the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001 when even the Cheltenham Festival was lost. The BHA is working closely with the Animal Health Trust and will issue a further update tomorrow.

Donald McCain's yard was the only one represented at both tracks.

Australia suffered an outbreak of equine influenza during 2007, which halted thoroughbred racing nationwide on August 25.

There were four meetings scheduled in the United Kingdom on Thursday at Chelmsford City, Doncaster, Ffos Las and Huntingdon along with Thurles in Ireland.

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Horses that have contracted equine flu can develop a high fever, coughing, nasal discharge and sometimes swelling of the lymph nodes. The BHA said on Thursday evening that its veterinary team "has 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". 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 may then allow declarations to take place on Tuesday in time for racing on Wednesday".

Trainer Donald McCain looks on ahead of the Cheltenham Festival during a media open day at his Bankhouse Stables on February 26, 2013 in Cholmondeley, Cheshire.

In a statement, the BHA said: "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".

It's not usually fatal if the infected horse is healthy and fully grown, however foals, pregnant mares, and horses who are already sickly are particularly vulnerable to equine flu, and could die as a result of exposure to the disease. We recommend that any trainer who has concerns about the health status of any of their horses should contact their veterinarian'.

"The horses we ran at Ayr yesterday never came back to our yard and instead went to a non-racing isolation yard that is about 25 minutes away from where we are based". Other stables around the United Kingdom are in lockdown for testing by vets.

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