Sports

Thursday races in Britain cancelled over equine flu

Thursday races in Britain cancelled over equine flu

The decision has been made by the British Horseracing Authority after three vaccinated horses in an active yard were tested positive for the disease on Wednesday.

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.

BHA chief regulatory officer Brant Dunshea addressed the situation on Thursday afternoon and said: "We've taken the decision to cancel racing in Britain until Tuesday inclusive in order to enable us to make a full assessment on Monday of whether we can return to racing on Wednesday".

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

In 2001, an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease wiped out racing for two months in Britain, leading to the cancellation of the Cheltenham Festival, which is held every March.

Bosses at Dunstall Park announced the move to abandon the Saturday evening meeting as the probe into the outbreak was being investigated today.

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".

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The British Horseracing Authority instructed that today's meets be cancelled in an attempt to restrict the spread of the virus.

"The Cheltenham Festival is still five weeks ago so there's time to get things in place", he said.

Four British meetings were scheduled for Thursday - Huntingdon, Doncaster, Ffos Las, Chelmsford.

Horses that have contracted equine flu can develop a high fever, coughing, nasal discharge and sometimes swelling of the lymph nodes.

There are no known consequences for humans associated with exposure to the disease. However, this strain has affected vaccinated horses. Although rarely fatal, it can have a huge impact on competition and breeding due to restriction of horse movements.

The Animal Health Trust are working alongside the racing industry on the matter and a further update is expected later on Thursday.

They raced on Wednesday and the BHA says they potentially exposed the flu to a "significant number of horses from yards" in Britain and Ireland.


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