The British Horseracing Authority will make a decision late on Monday night on whether racing can resume on Wednesday following the recent outbreak of equine influenza.
The sport was rocked last Wednesday after it emerged three horses – which subsequently rose to six – were found to have the highly-infectious disease at Donald McCain’s stable in Cheshire.
The ruling body quickly enforced a six-day shutdown of racing in Britain and confirmed a call would be made on Monday about whether scheduled fixtures at Southwell, Plumpton, Musselburgh and Kempton could take place on Wednesday.
In the latest update on Monday afternoon, the BHA said no decision should be expected “before 10.30pm at the earliest”, which will allow the industry veterinary committee – which includes representation from the BHA, Animal Health Trust (AHT), British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA), National Trainers Federation (NTF), Racehorse Owners Association (ROA), Racecourse Association (RCA) Thoroughbred Breeders Association (TBA) and independent expertise – “to have access to the most recent evidence”.
A statement read: “Analysis is ongoing at the AHT, in line with a prioritisation plan based on the potential exposure of horses to a horse that has tested positive (for example at the fixture at Ayr on February 6), or to a horse from a yard returning a positive test.
“Swabs will continue to be collected and tested from other horses, but some have been fast-tracked to help inform this evening’s decision making process.
“Separately, a specific plan is being formed as to what the clearance process will be for individual yards to return to racing. The details of this plan will be confirmed as part of the decision making process for any return to racing.
“Should the decision be taken to return to racing on Wednesday, declarations for any fixtures staged will be at 10am on Tuesday. The BHA would provide further updates regarding the declaration process for any fixtures staged on Thursday and beyond.”
The news appeared positive after 720 initial tests for the virus came back negative on Saturday.
However, although the BHA has revealed approximately 700 further tests carried out on Sunday also returned no other positive samples, there was a blow late on Sunday evening after the BHA announced that four vaccinated horses at the yard of trainer Simon Crisford had been found to have the virus.
Crisford says there is “no obvious connection” between the horses that have tested positive and their stablemate who ran at a potential risk fixture last week.
Crisford was one of the 174 stables to be placed in lockdown because he had a runner at Newcastle last Tuesday – after which trainer Rebecca Menzies, who had also had runners at the meeting, reported a “suspicious” case.
Menzies’ horses have subsequently returned negative results for equine flu, while Crisford confirmed his Newcastle runner, Sajanjl, is also clear of the virus.
In a statement, Crisford said: “None of the four horses that have returned positive tests for equine influenza displayed any clinical signs of respiratory illness, including nasal discharge and elevated temperatures, prior to the mandatory swabbing that was undertaken last Friday, February 8.
“The swabbing occurred following Sajanjl’s race at Newcastle last Tuesday, February 5, and she has tested negative. There is no obvious connection between Sajanjl and the four identified horses.
“All horses at Kremlin House Stables, totalling 92 boxes, undergo a strict vaccination check and programme on their arrival.
“All four identified horses have been vaccinated within the last six months along with the rest of the yard and in line with vaccination protocol.”
The BHA said the Newmarket community is being asked to be “extra vigilant when it comes to biosecurity measures and to follow NTF guidance for disease control”.
The BHA and AHT are meeting with the Newmarket Infectious Diseases Response Committee – which includes representatives of veterinary practices, senior Newmarket trainers and Jockey Club Estates – to discuss and agree further measures that can be taken in the region for controlling the potential spread of the virus.
The statement added: “Newmarket is an important centre for racing, as well as a hub for the breeding industry.
“The BHA is particularly mindful of the potential consequences of the handling of this outbreak for the breeding industry. We are working with the TBA and wider Newmarket community to attempt to contain the issue.
“The precautionary actions taken following the suspicious horses being identified at the Menzies yard have allowed us to identify early an outbreak of equine influenza in an establishment in this region.”