April 22, 2019

Cheltenham Festival likely to go ahead despite equine flu outbreak

08 February 2019, 02:43 | Silvia Roy

All races have been cancelled on Thursday Image Getty

All races have been cancelled on Thursday  Image Getty

The swiftness with which the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) reacted to three cases of equine flu being confirmed in horses trained by Donald McCain on Wednesday night will surely aid their cause greatly.

No further positive tests have been recorded, but another three days are needed before it will be possible to make a decision on whether it is safe to resume racing as the disease can take that long to show its symptoms.

The BHA is expected to make a further annoucnement on Monday announcing whether racing can continue after Wednesday, or whether the suspension will continue.

It's 5/1 that racing will not return until March 1st or after, and 6/1 that it will begin again between February 18 and February 28.

They will also reveal whether the outbreak will have any impact on next month's showpiece Cheltenham Festival.

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.

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All racing in the United Kingdom has been suspended until next Wednesday at the earliest.

Horses from the infected yard raced at Ayr and Ludlow on Wednesday, potentially exposing a significant number of horses from stables across the country and in Ireland.

This includes several from stables in Ireland, including five from the yard of Gordon Elliott, one of Ireland's most successful trainers.

Where Did Equine Flu Outbreak Come From?

The disease is rarely fatal but can lead to complications like pneumonia and Cheltenham officials are confident that their showpiece event will remain unharmed.

As well as being air born the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) says the virus can be transmitted indirectly, including via people, although stressed there are no known consequences for humans associated with exposure to the disease.

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"Just think what might happen how rapidly that could go through the horse population".

It called for vigilance when looking for signs of flu, minimal movement of animals, and regular temperature checks, as well as updating any vaccination that is more than six months old.

Equine influenza, sometimes referred to as equine flu or horse flu, is a highly contagious respiratory infection. It is a virus that tends to spread in the air and between horses that are sharing air space.

Vaccinations against equine influezna are required for all British and Irish racehorses, and trainers are penalised heavily for not keeping vaccinations up to date.

If the shutting down of racecourses amid an outbreak of horse flu seems like an extreme reaction, Jim Tipp thinks otherwise.

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