Nicky Henderson has been forced to rule several stable stars out of intended engagements this weekend as they do not meet the vaccination criteria set out by the British Horseracing Authority in its decision to resume racing following the equine influenza outbreak.
The sport was rocked last week when it emerged three horses – which subsequently rose to six – had tested positive for the highly-contagious virus at Donald McCain’s stable in Cheshire.
The BHA quickly enforced a six-day shutdown of racing in Britain and placed over 170 yards on lockdown in an attempt to halt the spread.
The news over the weekend was largely positive – with around 1,500 swabs from horses across the country returning negative – before four horses at Simon Crisford’s yard were also found to have contracted equine flu on Sunday evening.
The BHA announced late on Monday that racing would start up again, but with strict biosecurity controls in place – with one of the key stipulations that no entries or declarations will be accepted from horses that have not been vaccinated in the previous six months.
Henderson is delighted the sport will recommence – but revealed likely favourite Santini will not be able to run in the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot on Saturday, while Christmas Hurdle heroine Verdana Blue cannot take up her entry in a fast-track qualifier for All-Weather Championships Finals Day at Kempton.
Henderson said on Tuesday: “It’s been a frustrating two weeks, as we were snowed in before this. Obviously we are all delighted with the news, as this is what we wanted to hear after everyone had looked at the situation.
“We are only just getting our results back, but I gather they are all OK. We have still got some more to come, but I imagine they will be all right.
“We have got one or two frustrations because of the vaccinations – it has caught out one or two horses as they have just fallen outside of the window. We have just got to juggle a few things around, which is frustrating.
“Everyone uses different vaccination programmes. A certain percentage will be fine, but others won’t.”
Under the rules set out, no horses will be able to run until seven days after being given a vaccination.
Henderson added: “There are a few that were due to run this weekend that can’t run like Santini, and Verdana Blue can’t run in her fast-track qualifier, so that takes her out of her Good Friday race.
“Yellow Dockets can’t run in the Grade Two at Sandown and Beware The Bear is another who can’t run in the Grand National Trial at Haydock, but we could reroute him to the Eider Chase.
“We have just got to get our heads round a few things. We can sort them out today and they would be able to run next week, but that it is no good for many of them as for some these were the only races they could run in.
“You only have 10 positives tests (for equine flue) compared to all the negatives and with the percentages you had to go (resume racing) now.
“I do believe it was vital to start racing now otherwise you were never going to.”