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Volume 7 No. 149
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Horse Flu Scare In Britain May Have Irish Roots

The equine flu virus that has "brought horse racing to a standstill in Britain" since Wednesday "could have its roots in Ireland" after it was revealed that two stables there have contracted the disease, according to Rob Wright of the LONDON TIMES. Both were "placed under lockdown," but racing has been allowed to continue in Ireland. The trainers concerned have not been named but it is understood that one of those yards has "now been given the all-clear to resume," suggesting that the virus was found in racehorses in Ireland before being discovered in the Cheshire stables of Donald McCain last Wednesday. A statement on the website of the Irish Horseracing Board’s website said, "We are aware that a small number of isolated cases of equine influenza continue to be confirmed in Ireland and that the situation in Britain continues to evolve. Horses will continue to be able to race across the north/south of the island of Ireland. This situation is being closely monitored." A resumption of horse racing in Britain on Wednesday "looks less likely" after four further cases of equine flu were revealed at the Newmarket stables of Simon Crisford on Sunday night (LONDON TIMES, 2/11).

IRISH LOCKDOWN: In London, Chris Cook reported the news from Ireland appears to "illustrate a more pragmatic approach" being taken in Ireland than in Britain. However, Irish officials point to what they say is a "key difference," that there has "not been a case in Ireland of a horse testing positive shortly after mixing with other runners at a racecourse," as has happened in Britain. Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board Chief Veterinary Officer Lynn Hillyer said, "These were isolated, discrete events. The cases that we've had have not been racing. The trainers have shut down their yards and they haven't had runners. That's a key difference." Hillyer, a former British Horseracing Authority employee, "praised British officials for acting so promptly" on Wednesday to notify their Irish counterparts that horses at McCain's Cheshire stable tested positive (GUARDIAN, 2/11). In London, Townend & Lambert reported the news of more positive tests "does not definitely mean that racing will not resume on Wednesday." If the BHA is "satisfied" that none of the stables that had runners at Ayr last Wednesday have been affected by the highly-contagious illness, and the cases at Crisford's yard can be contained, it "could yet be enough for the BHA to give the re-start a green light when they conduct their risk analysis." A resumption could even happen while some stables, headed by McCain's Cheshire stable, "remain in lockdown." All horses in the Cleveland stable of trainer Rebecca Menzies, which had thrown up a "suspicious" case, have now been cleared (DAILY MAIL, 2/10). 

BHA RELEASE: The BHA announced late Monday a risk-managed return to racing will take place from Wednesday. After consultation with its veterinary committee, the BHA confirmed that racing could resume, but only with strict biosecurity controls in place. The decision was unanimously supported by the committee (BHA).