In a late night announcement, The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has announced a ‘risk-managed return’ to racing will take place from Wednesday this week after a hiatus caused by an outbreak of equine flu. After consultation with its veterinary committee, and based on the latest tests conducted by the Animal Health Trust, the BHA’s Chief Regulatory Officer Brant Dunshea has confirmed that racing could resume, but only with strict biosecurity controls in place.
The BHA said that the decision to return racing in a controlled, risk-managed manner was unanimously supported by the industry veterinary committee.
Dunshea said: “Our approach since hearing about the first positive results last Wednesday has been based on accumulating as much information as we could as quickly as possible so we could properly understand the risks of this virulent strain of flu spreading to more horses. That would be harmful to them and damaging to any trainers’ yards that became infected. It has also been our intention to ensure that we avoid an issue that could result in a long-term disruption to racing with the risk of many of our major events being unduly impacted.
“After analysis of thousands of samples, and no further positive tests on Monday, we still only have two confirmed sites of infection. We have put robust containment measures in place around both. From the testing and analysis conducted the disease appears to be contained at present. The BHA veterinary committee believe that the swift controls on movement that were put in place have clearly helped to restrict the spread of this virus.
“There have been significant logistical issues associated with testing and processing so many tests in such a short space of time. Fortunately, owing to the tireless efforts of the Animal Health Trust, trainers and their local vets, and BHA staff, the vast majority of yards which had been placed on hold will be in a position to resume racing. Clearly, there is some risk associated with returning to racing. This risk has been assessed and, based on the evidence – and ensuring biosecurity measures are in place – the level of risk is viewed as acceptable.”
As such the BHA has confirmed that two scheduled Jump fixtures will go ahead at Musselburgh and Plumpton on Wednesday 13 February, alongside the All Weather fixtures at Southwell and Kempton.
As part of the controlled return, the BHA said that it has developed a risk framework which allows it to categorise individual trainers by the level of risk they have been exposed to. The ability of runners to return to racing from those yards will depend on the risk categories the yards are placed in.
In addition to the risk factors outlined above, and as an interim measure, the BHA has ordered that no entries or declarations will be accepted from horses that have not been vaccinated in the previous six months. Trainers are advised to check current vaccination records before declaring tomorrow morning. In addition, all trainers will be required to provide a health declaration upon arrival at a racecourse.
The BHA’s Director of Equine Health and Welfare David Sykes said: “The BHA and the veterinary committee agree that, on balance, the level of risk is acceptable for a return to racing. We have developed a risk model, which the veterinary committee support, in order to assist the return to racing.
“We will observe closely those horses who are taken to the racecourse and will intervene as a precaution to prevent a horse running or accessing a racecourse if we believe it might put other horses at risk of infection. The veterinary committee are of the view that an unprecedented amount of this disease has been identified in Europe. This is not a typical endemic period and it was essential that precautions be taken to protect the horse population.”
The news has been greeted with relief for fans of the sport and most stakeholders. Stephen Power, the ‘Racing Blogger‘ summed it up thusly:
Racing goes ahead on Wednesday ?? pic.twitter.com/fXu1xSzpNi
— Stephen R Power (@racingblogger) February 11, 2019