February 21, 2019

Equine flu outbreak causes Newbury races to be cancelled

08 February 2019, 02:43 | Randall Craig

Doncaster was one of four racecourses scheduled to be open for business on Thursday Credit GETTY IMAGES

Doncaster racecourse

Her Majesty is not in a unique position - horse racing in the United Kingdom is now in complete lockdown whilst the British Horse Racing Authority (BHA) tries to contain the outbreak of the highly contagious flu.

The blanket ban means a total of at least 23 meetings will be lost, including Newbury's Betfair Hurdle card on Saturday.

It is the most potentially damaging of the respiratory viruses that occur in United Kingdom equines and disease symptoms in non-immune animals include high fever, coughing and nasal discharge. An outbreak in New South Wales in 2007 resulted in the closure of Sydney's racetracks from late August until early December, although this was in an unvaccinated racehorse population.

That decision has been extended to ensure there will be no racing into next week in Britain.

The decision that British horses should be barred from entering Irish races was deemed "a prudent step in the short term" by the IHRB's Dr Lynn Hillyer as the risk to disease in Irish thoroughbreds was unchanged.

Horses from the infected yard raced on Wednesday - including at Ayr - potentially exposing a significant number of other runners to the virus.

Irish trainers Gordon Elliott, John Carr, Shane Nolan, Stuart Crawford, Ronan McNally, Caroline McCaldin and David Christie have had the runners they had in Britain on Wednesday quarantined, away from their stable.

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

Racing had been due to take place on Thursday at several tracks, with more races planned for the weekend. 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.

"It can be quite serious, especially for a race horse, which might take six months to fully recover and return to racing", says the chief vet at Uttoxeter and Aintree racecourses, who is also chairman of Fyrnwy Equine Clinic at Baschurch in Shropshire.

"Once we know whether there has been a spread (of infection) there or not, we will be in a much better position to know where racing is".

"We did have two horses running at Ludlow on Wednesday where there was a horse that has come from Donald's yard, and it could have been in contact with an infected horse", said Henderson.

"Equine influenza is a virus that affects the respiratory system and is very specific to horses".

"They stop being contagious once they have recovered, and like with most other species the influenza plays itself out in about three weeks although seriously affected horses may take longer to recover or be left with permanent damage to their lungs".

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