After a six-day shutdown sparked by six equine influenza positives last week, British racing will resume on Wednesday in a “risk -managed manner.”
The initial six cases were all from the yard of National Hunt trainer Donald McCain, while on Sunday night four positives were confirmed from the yard of Newmarket trainer Simon Crisford.
Brant Dunshea, the British Horseracing Authority’s Chief Regulatory Officer, 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.”
Jumps fixtures at Musselburgh and Plumpton and all-weather fixtures at Southwell and Kempton will go ahead on Wednesday.
The BHA’s statement Monday evening revealed that individual trainers’ yards will be categorized according to the level of risk they have been exposed to, and the ability of runners to return to racing from those yards will depend on the risk categories the yards are placed in. The statement read, “We are finalising overnight which category individual trainers will currently be placed in. The BHA will contact trainers tomorrow morning to inform them of their category and eligibility to run.”
Trainers with runners for Wednesday are advised to declare at 10 a.m., after which the BHA will review all declarations to ensure none have been declared that do not meet the risk criteria. Declarations for Thursday’s flat all-weather meetings will now be at the 24 hour stage.
No entries or declarations will be accepted from horses that have not been vaccinated in the previous six months. 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.”
British-trained horses were also cleared on Monday afternoon to run in Ireland. The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board shut the borders to British horses when the situation began to unravel last week, but Dr. Lynn Hillyer, chief veterinary officer at the IHRB, confirmed on Monday the ban had been lifted.
“They are fine [to run in Ireland], provided they can fill the requirements that we set out in our release on Friday night, which said that horses need to have received a vaccine for equine influenza which contains Clade 1 virus within eight weeks of their race,” she said. “As long as they can fulfil that requirement, they are fine. Obviously, by definition, they will only be coming from yards which aren’t under restriction from the BHA.
“Having had the opportunity to consider things over the weekend, the board have made the decision that we are able to support that movement–which is obviously good news for everybody. The critical thing is they have to have had the correct vaccination within the eight weeks preceding the run.”