British racing to get back on track
Four meetings planned in 'risk-managed' return with missed marquee races rescheduled for weekend
Racing in Britain will resume with four meetings tomorrow, following a six-day shutdown because of an outbreak of equine influenza, the British Horseracing Authority announced late last night.
The sport has been on hold since last Thursday, after three cases of the highly-contagious virus - subsequently rising to six - were identified at the yard of Grand National-winning trainer Donald McCain in Cheshire.
Hopes of a resumption being possible this week appeared to fade late on Sunday night, when it was revealed four positive tests had been discovered at Simon Crisford's stable in Newmarket, however, last night's announcement declared that it would resume "in a controlled, risk-managed manner".
The news means fixtures will take place over jumps tomorrow at Musselburgh and Plumpton, and on the Flat at Kempton and Southwell, while there will also be Irish racing at Fairyhouse.
Major weekend cards are scheduled for Ascot, where the Betfair Ascot Chase is the feature, Haydock, which will host the William Hill Grand National Trial, and Wincanton, where the Betway Hurdle is the headline attraction.
The BHA said in a statement: "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, confirmed that racing could resume, but only with strict biosecurity controls in place."
Dunshea added: “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 with the risk of many of our major events being unduly impacted.”
Over the weekend it was announced around 1,500 tests had returned negative – but on Sunday evening it emerged four vaccinated horses from Simon Crisford’s Newmarket yard had tested positive.
Dunshea said: “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.”
While Dunshea admitted there was a risk associated with a return to racing but believes it is at an acceptable level.
“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,” he added.
During the blank period some key races in the build up to the Cheltenham Festival should have been run and a handful have now been rescheduled.
Ascot is the main beneficiary and will stage a nine-race card on Saturday, with the addition of the Betfair Hurdle and Denman Chase which should have been at Newbury last weekend.
The Kingmaker Novices’ Chase scheduled for Warwick will be at Sandown on Friday, while a Listed Mares’ Hurdle from Warwick will be held at Haydock on Saturday and Wincanton’s meeting picks up a Listed Mares’ Chase from Exeter.