Equine Flu Shock For UK Racing

All races have been cancelled on Thursday  Image Getty

All races have been cancelled on Thursday Image Getty

Horse racing in Britain has been cancelled until at least Wednesday over an outbreak of equine flu.

Racing in Britain will not resume until at least Wednesday, February 13 to minimise the risk of the spread of an outbreak of equine influenza.

The British Horseracing Authority made the decision to cancel Thursday's racing after the Animal Health Trust confirmed three positives tests from vaccinated horses in an active racing yard.

"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".

Separately, as a precaution, all of the trainers who had runners at the fixtures at Wolverhampton, Ludlow and Ayr this week 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.

The BHA conceded "the full extent of potential exposure is unknown" but is working as fast as possible to gather information about any potential spread of the outbreak.

The sport's ruling body said it had identified yards that could have potentially been exposed today.

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However, the statement added that runners from Britain would not be permitted to race in Ireland until further notice.

As a result all meetings on Thursday have been abandoned.

Responding to the news, Newbury's chief executive Julian Thick said: "We're clearly disappointed, it's a major race meeting for us, but horse welfare comes first".

Looking further ahead, the loss of meetings could have an impact on running plans for yards looking to ready horses for the Cheltenham Festival, which is due to begin on Tuesday, March 12.

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. "The festival isn't for five weeks and we hope that the BHA's early actions will resolve this matter quickly".

The action to cancel Thursday's races was taken with unanimous support of the BHA's industry veterinary committee and will affect meetings at Huntingdon, Doncaster, Ffos Las and Chelmsford.

Equine influenza, or equine flu, is a strain of flu that effects horses.

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