The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has made the decision to halt all horse racing across British racecourses on 7 February following the outbreak of Equine Influenza, casting worries about this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
The shut down follows the Animal Health Trust confirming three positive cases of the virus in vaccinated horses at an active race yard.
Horses from the infected yard have since raced at Ayr and Ludlow following the discovery, which poses a potential exposure risk to a significant number of horses from yards across the UK and Ireland.
However with Cheltenham just next month, there are worries that a long term halt to horseracing might be necessary.
Australia lost more than three months of racing after a similar outbreak of equine influenza. A similar stoppage here doesn’t bear thinking about.
— Craig Forsyth (@CraigForsyth_) February 7, 2019
The Cheltenham Festival in 2001 was cancelled amid a Foot and Mouth Outbreak that stopped horseracing for months.
Veterinarians are concerned that the influenza virus has been discovered in vaccinated horses which casts doubts over the welfare and ability to contain the illness. The action to cancel racing as been welcomed as a necessary decision to restrict, as much as possible, the further spread of equine influenza.
Officials from the BHA have conducted investigations into which yards may have been exposed and to identify the necessary further actions. The horseracing body is currently in discussions with the yards that may have been exposed to ensure that measures are put in place to ensure appropriate quarantine and biosecurity.
The BHA stated: “The full extent of potential exposure is unknown and we are working quickly to understand as much as we can to assist our decision making. The BHA is working closely with the Animal Health Trust and will issue a further update tomorrow.
“We recommend that any trainer who has concerns about the health status of any of their horses should contact their veterinarian.”
An outbreak of the virus rocked the Australian racing industry in 2007 when a nationwide ban was issued to restrict the movement of horses for 72 hours. As a result, Sydney’s spring racing carnival was cancelled, with horse-related activities not resuming fully for months later.
Since the announcement, Wolverhampton has cancelled its race meeting for Saturday 9 February.