A six-day ban on horse racing in the U.K. will end on Wednesday -- "but with strict biosecurity controls in force as the sport keeps up efforts to contain an outbreak of equine influenza," according to Mark Odell of the FINANCIAL TIMES. The British Horseracing Authority said late on Monday that it "believed that swift controls on the movement of horses had clearly helped to restrict the spread of the virulent virus." BHA Chief Regulatory Officer Brant Dunshea said, "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." Two scheduled jump fixtures will go ahead at Musselburgh and Plumpton on Wednesday as well as "all-weather fixtures at Southwell and Kempton" (FT, 2/12). The BBC's Frank Keogh reported trainers will be assessed "before they are given the all-clear to have runners," while five races called off during the shutdown have been rescheduled and Ascot "will stage a bumper nine-race card on Saturday." The Denman Chase and the Betfair Hurdle will be staged at Ascot after Newbury's meeting on Saturday was canceled. Fears there would be an "extended suspension of racing, and a potential impact on next month's Cheltenham Festival," were raised when a second outbreak, involving four vaccinated horses, was confirmed late on Sunday at trainer Simon Crisford's Newmarket yard. But "no further positive results were found" after thousands of samples were analyzed (BBC, 2/12).
'ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS': In London, Wood & Cook reported the new rules "are already attracting fierce criticism," with an unknown number of National Hunt horses due to be barred from racing unless they have received a "booster" vaccination in the past six months. Trainers expressing their anger at the six-month rule included Jonjo O’Neill, whose Grand National candidate, Minella Rocco, is "in need of a run." O'Neill said, "He was going to Ascot on Saturday but now he won’t be able to run because of all this nonsense. I’m desperate to get another run into him, just to see if he’s improving. Otherwise, there’s no point in going for the National. There’s loads of people in the same boat." Nick Williams, "who has several entries for the meetings at Haydock Park and Huntingdon this weekend," added, "Absolutely ridiculous for the BHA to create a new rule overnight about horses needing vaccinations in past six months." Dunshea said on Tuesday that the risk-management regime "was essential to allow racing to resume." He said, "The reasoning behind this [the six-month stipulation] is that it will increase the level of immunity" (GUARDIAN, 2/12).