Horseracing body, The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has made the decision to halt all horse racing across British racecourses on Thursday 7 February following the outbreak of Equine Influenza. The decision has raised concerns about whether this year’s Cheltenham Festival will be able to go ahead.
The shut down follows the Animal Health Trust confirming three positive cases of the virus in vaccinated horses at an active race yard in the UK.
Horses from the infected yard have since raced at Ayr and Ludlow since the discovery, which has posed an 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 to prevent further infection.
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 put a stop to horseracing for months.
Veterinarians are worried that the influenza virus has been discovered in horses that have been vaccinated, casting doubts over the welfare of the animals and the 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 are conducting a number of ongoing 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 also decided to cancel its race meeting scheduled for Saturday 9 February over fears of the virus.