There will be no racing in Britain until at least Wednesday of next week because of the outbreak of equine flu, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) announced on Thursday afternoon.
The BHA’s veterinary team has been in contact with more than 50 trainers and veterinarians to allow it to make an informed assessment of the risk of the highly contagious disease spreading after three positive tests were returned by horses in the yard of Grand National-winning trainer Donald McCain.
One comfort for the sport is that no further positive tests have been received, lending encouragement to the idea the show will soon be back on the road six days from now.
Brant Dunshea, of the BHA, spoke to Rachel Casey after the decision to suspend racing until next week was taken
However, the BHA say at least three more days are required before it will be possible to make a decision about whether it is safe to resume racing.
The disease can take up to three days before symptoms are visible, meaning it will take until Sunday at the earliest before the BHA can gather all the information required. Many yards up and down the country are being tested.
A statement issued by the BHA explained: “This approach will allow samples to be collected and assessed by the Animal Health Trust in order that a fully informed decision can be made on Monday.
“This may then allow declarations to take place on Tuesday in time for racing on Wednesday, with 24-hour declarations for all fixtures on this day, should racing be able to resume. Declarations for Thursday would revert to the usual procedures.”
It added: “We are grateful to trainers and veterinarians for the rapid flow of information and feedback we have received today. Because of this, we have been able to make an informed decision earlier than we expected and before we have any test results back from horses from the affected yards that travelled to the three meetings.
“Trainers support a precautionary approach and we thank them for the collaborative manner in which they have worked with us to address this unfolding situation.
Jamie Osborne's horses are among the many who have bee tested, he revealed on Racing TV on Thursday
“This precautionary approach is intended to ensure we put the health of the horse population and control of the virus first, and avoid any unnecessary risk that might come from returning to racing too quickly.”
Newbury was scheduled to stage one of the biggest meetings of the season on Saturday and would have been the destination for many Cheltenham Festival aspirants. The intention is to restage some of the key races.
“We appreciate the impact that this may have on the sport commercially, but disease control in order to mitigate the risk of further disruption to the sport – and safeguard the health and welfare of our horses – must be a priority,” the BHA said.
“A plan will be constructed for the rescheduling of key races – and those which may provide important opportunities for horses to run – which are lost during this period.”
As a precaution, all of the trainers who had runners at the fixtures at Wolverhampton, Ludlow and Ayr this week have been informed that their yards have been placed under a temporary hold.
It means that they will not be able to make any declarations until their horses have been tested and cleared.
They include Jamie Osborne, who said on Racing TV on Thursday that it was a "sensible approach" and that he had no complaints.