Equine flu forces the cancellation of all British horse racing

Equine flu forces the cancellation of all British horse racing

Equine flu forces the cancellation of all British horse racing

Bookmakers Paddy Power priced up the odds on when British horse racing will resume, making before February 18 the 1-5 favourite.

With Cheltenham less than five weeks away, there are understandable worries about whether the four-day Festival will be affected and while not almost on the same scale, there are uncomfortable echoes of the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak.

If tests are found to be clear, Cheltenham can breathe a huge sigh of relief and racing will be back on by the end of next week.

It was later announced that racing in Britain has been suspended until at least Wednesday, February 13.

British Horseracing Authority, the sports governing body, has postponed racing nationwide while test results of more than 100 stables await confirmation.

All fixtures on Thursday were called off the BHA after three vaccinated horses tested positive for the disease.

That's three additional positives and, most significantly, one of them is Raise A Spark which ran at Ayr on Wednesday.

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Potential risks are magnified given the amount of Irish runners overseas in recent days which could have come in contact with equine influenza.

Equine flu is easily passed to other horses, and considering McCain had runners earlier this week, they could have potentially been carrying the flu.

"Over the last two months all potential runners have been scoped and their blood checked within 36 hours of their races to ensure that only healthy horses compete for the yard".

However, these three reported cases are the first to have come from an active yard and in vaccinated horses, raising concerns that the strain could be immune, putting thousands of horses at risk.

"The cancellation of that meeting alone could deprive the betting industry of up to £20 million in lost turnover and it looks unlikely punters switch their interest to racing from Ireland or further afield".

It is a highly contagious respiratory infection, causing symptoms similar to a flu in humans and lasting for about a week.

But with racing facing its biggest crisis since the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak in cattle led to widespread restrictions in the movement of horses, the priority is establishing the original source of the virus, its containment - and whether existing vaccines and protocols are effective.

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