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Dublin: 5 °C Monday 11 November, 2019
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Equine flu outbreak cancels all horse racing in Britain but Irish racecourses stay open

Three horses from the same yard are confirmed to have the virus.

Race horses from a yard in Worcestershire.
Race horses from a yard in Worcestershire.
Image: David Davies/PA Images

ALL HORSE RACING has been called off across Britain today because of three confirmed cases of equine flu.

The decision was taken last night by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) after the virus was confirmed in three racing horses from the same yard.

Trainer Donald McCain is reportedly the owner of the yard

Horses from the infected yard raced yesterday at Ayr and Ludlow, potentially exposing a significant number of horses from yards across Britain and in Ireland.

Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) has said that it has contacted the trainers who had horses at the venues yesterday and as a result has taken the decision not to cancel racing on this island today.

“The BHA’s rapid communication last night enabled the IHRB to contact and advise those trainers who had runners at Ayr and Ludlow yesterday to take appropriate steps to isolate the horses before they returned into their yards and so minimise the potential risk of further spread of the disease in Ireland,” HRI said.

HRI added that, after consultation with several regulators and authorities, it was decided that: “within Ireland the disease risk status in racing thoroughbreds has not yet changed.”

The situation here is also being monitored by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine. 

Equine flu is a highly infectious disease of horses, mules and donkeys that is potentially the most damaging of respiratory viruses that occur in equines. 

Symptoms include an increased temperature, coughing and nasal discharge and the horse being off its feed.

The three horses that have the virus were vaccinated, according to the BHA, something which it said was particularly concerning. 

The fact that the cases have been identified in vaccinated horses presents a cause for significant concern over welfare and the potential spread of the disease and the action to cancel racing has been viewed as necessary in order to restrict, as far as possible, the risk of further spread of the disease. 

Equine Flu Outbreak A view of a sign at Huntingdon Racecourse after today's racing was abandoned. Source: Joe Giddens/PA Images

The Cheltenham racing festival, which takes place in five weeks, released a statement to express confidence that it will not be affected. The festival was cancelled in 2001 due to the foot and mouth disease outbreak.

“We are working with the BHA on this matter and hope that the early actions of the BHA will ensure that this outbreak of equine influenza can be contained,” Cheltenham Racecourse said in a statement to Sky Sports.

“We look forward to racing resuming as soon as possible, and hope that this will be well in advance of the festival in five weeks’ time.” 

The HRI is advising all Irish trainers that that testing for equine flu is provided free of charge by the Irish Equine Centre and that they should avail of this if they have concerns.

“As with any contagious infectious disease outbreak, rapid diagnosis and effective management is key to recovery and minimising spread of disease,” the HRI said this morning. 

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Rónán Duffy

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