It’s a move that could come back to bite the British Horseracing Authority in the worst possible way, but positive news nonetheless.
The ban placed on all racing across the United Kingdom was lifted today after the BHA announced that it had successfully managed to contain the outbreak of an equine influenza strain that caused panic in the industry last week.
After consultation with its veterinary committee, and based on the latest tests conducted by the Animal Health Trust, the BHA’s Chief Regulatory Officer, Brant Dunshea, confirmed that racing could resume, but only with strict biosecurity controls in place.
“Our approach since hearing about the first positive results last Wednesday has been based on accumulating as much information as we could as quickly as possible so we could properly understand the risks of this virulent strain of flu spreading to more horses. That would be harmful to them and damaging to any trainers’ yards that became infected,” Dunshea said.
Dunshea also confirmed that the BHA had reviewed thousands of samples and received no more positive results on Monday.
At this stage, there are only two confirmed sites of equine influenza infection and both are thoroughly quarantined and contained.
The move to re-open racing across the UK would not be made lightly, given the incredible toll an outbreak would take on the industry if it spread.
Racing in the Australian state of NSW was cancelled for more than a year, costing the industry and its participants millions of dollars in 2007.
Dunshea praised his board’s quick action to prevent that kind of devastation.
“From the testing and analysis conducted the disease appears to be contained at present. The BHA veterinary committee believe that the swift controls on movement that were put in place have clearly helped to restrict the spread of this virus.
The BHA’s Director of Equine Health and Welfare, David Sykes, assured owners, trainers and participants that the ‘level of risk is acceptable’ to make a return to racing.
“We have developed a risk model, which the veterinary committee support, in order to assist the return to racing,” Skyes said.
“We will observe closely those horses who are taken to the racecourse and will intervene as a precaution to prevent a horse running or accessing a racecourse if we believe it might put other horses at risk of infection.
“The veterinary committee are of the view that an unprecedented amount of this disease has been identified in Europe. This is not a typical endemic period and it was essential that precautions be taken to protect the horse population.”