Ben Haslam frustrated at slow equine flu test results

Vexed morning preceded mare’s Musselburgh run

  • Wednesday 13 February
  • News
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Ben Haslam had to dispatch his mare Melody Of Scotland to Musselburgh before receiving any British Horseracing Authority clearance to run as the equine flu saga continues.

The Middleham trainer described the situation as “unbelievable” and called on the national governing body to exercise overdue “commonsense” to allow his horse to run in a race which briefly threatened on Wednesday morning to cut up into match.

Donnas Dream had already been pulled out – one of two non-runners on the card for Chris Grant – to leave just three in the Betway Mares’ Handicap Hurdle.

Melody Of Scotland was eventually permitted to run and finished a distant last of three behind odds-on favourite Field Exhibition in the feature race on the card.

The BHA had warned on Tuesday evening about the likelihood of non-runners as racing returns following the six-day shutdown, with a backlog in testing swabs from some yards meaning clearance to take part might not arrive in time.

Haslam provided swabs from his three runners at Newcastle last week as soon as he could when his wife drove them down to the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket five days ago – yet by mid-morning on race day, he was still waiting to hear the results of two of them.

“I am still actually waiting on clearance – it’s unbelievable, you couldn’t make it up,” he said.

Speaking just before 10am, and having sent Melody Of Scotland on her way up the A1 for what he knew at that stage might prove a wasted trip, Haslam added: “I sent three swabs down from our runners at Newcastle on Friday night.

“One of them came back (negative) yesterday, and I’ve been on the phone to them basically every hour since.

“I asked yesterday lunchtime where the other two are. I’ve been told in the last half-hour that one of the other ones has been processed.”

The BHA has spelled out over the past week that it simply is not prepared to take any chances with the risk-management of its return to racing – starting at Musselburgh, Southwell, Plumpton and Kempton on Wednesday.

But Haslam is perplexed and frustrated at what he sees as ever-changing and confusing protocol.

“None of the horses (in any yards) that were tested from Newcastle have come back positive – and none of the three I had there have spiked a temperature since,” he said.

“I think they need to use some commonsense – they have changed the protocol so many times, so frequently over the last 48 hours.

“They are fully aware of the two horses we need results from – we cannot do anything more. The swabs were driven down on Friday night.”

At the prospect of what might have become a two-runner contest at Musselburgh, Haslam said: “It will be a very unsatisfactory race, and some of the others may be as well.”

He still trusts that his swabs were on a fast-track list of sorts, sent from one of the 170-plus stables around the country which raced at certain fixtures last week and were therefore deemed in feasible danger of contamination after the positive tests on six horses from Donald McCain’s yard.

But he is at a loss to explain why he is still waiting for results, while others are not.

“The yards that had runners at those meetings, and were then in lockdown, should have been the priority,” said Haslam.

“I’m sure they will have been – but we seemed to get low down on that priority list.”

Iain Jardine had to pull out his two anticipated runners on Southwell’s all-weather card because he did not receive clearance in time.

The Dumfriesshire trainer as yet has “no idea” when it will be forthcoming.

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