Cheltenham ‘hopeful’ despite fears horse flu could KO festival with 100 yards put in lockdown by BHA

Cheltenham ‘hopeful’ despite fears horse flu could KO festival with 100 yards put in lockdown by BHA

CHELTENHAM Festival officials are “hopeful” equine flu will not see one of the biggest weeks in the racing calendar cancelled. Just fiv

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CHELTENHAM Festival officials are “hopeful” equine flu will not see one of the biggest weeks in the racing calendar cancelled.

Just five weeks before the best of the best come together in Gloucestershire, an outbreak of illness has thrown horseracing into a panic.

Cheltenham racecourse officials say they are 'hopeful' the Festival will not be affected by the flu outbreak
Cheltenham racecourse officials say they are ‘hopeful’ the Festival will not be affected by the flu outbreak
Reuters

The BHA cancelled all four meetings on Thursday, while Saturday’s meet at Wolverhampton was called off this morning, following three confirmed cases in horses who had been vaccinated.

Action at Chelmsford, Doncaster, Ffos Las and Huntingdon was all called off, with a decision likely to be made about tomorrow’s schedule this evening.

This week’s ‘Super Saturday’ at Newbury – which was set to include last year’s Gold Cup winner Native River – could be cancelled.

And according to the Racing Post, around 100 yards have been put in lockdown, including those of leading trainers Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson.

The Cheltenham Festival brings the best racehorses to one incredible week of racing
The Cheltenham Festival brings the best racehorses to one incredible week of racing
Getty Images – Getty

Cheltenham is due to start on Tuesday, March 12, with the final day’s action on Friday, March 15.

And despite the recent cancellations, officials at the course are confident the outbreak can be contained.

The spokesman said: “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.

“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.”


Latest BHA update on equine flu outbreak

“We will endeavour to issue regular information but we are still in the early stages of assessing the scale and severity of the outbreak.

“We are working quickly to identify the extent of the infection and will have more information when further test results are returned today. The results from those tests will not be known until this evening.

“Following these results being known a call will be convened to discuss the implications and a decision will then be made as to the impact on racing in the coming days.

“We are aware that people want to know the situation as regards racing tomorrow and this weekend and we will seek to provide more clarity as soon as we are able.

“It is likely that any definitive decisions on whether racing can take place tomorrow will be taken later this evening.”

Bettingexpert.com estimates the cancellations so far could end up costing £20m. Racing continues in Ireland but British horses are banned from competing.

It is the first time the disease has forced the abandonment of a race meeting in Britain since 1981, although the Foot and Mouth crisis hit Cheltenham in 2001 – costing the industry £150million.

In 2007, an equine flu outbreak in Australia took six months to lock down and devastated the racing industry with over 200 meetings affected.

AP McCoy has opened up on the potential impact of the outbreak – recalling the Foot and Mouth nightmare 18 years ago.

Punters will be praying the horse flu virus is cleared up as soon as possible - but there is certainly some worry around
Punters will be praying the horse flu virus is cleared up as soon as possible – but there is certainly some worry around
PA:Press Association

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The 20-time Champion Jockey told Thursday’s Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast: “I can remember it well in 2001 when we lost it to foot and mouth.

“Losing something as huge as the Cheltenham Festival has a huge impact on the sport.

“But hopefully it won’t go on that long, hopefully they would have got hold of this pretty quick and get it sorted out as soon as possible.”

Because equine flu is so infectious, all precautions must be taken to stop the disease spreading.

Huntington Racecourse has been shuttered for the day
PA:Press Association

2001 Cheltenham called off over Foot and Mouth

February 21
First case of foot-and-mouth in more than 20 years confirmed at abattoir at Brentwood in Essex

February 27
Racing is suspended in Britain for seven days as number of confirmed cases rises to 18.

February 28
Bookmakers call a halt to betting on races at the Cheltenham Festival.

March 1
Suspected case of foot-and-mouth at Woolstone, five miles from Cheltenham, heightens fears for Festival.

March 7
Cheltenham National Hunt Festival postponed. Rearranged for April 17-19

March 31
Confirmed case of foot-and-mouth five miles from Cheltenham Racecourse puts rescheduled Festival under threat.

April 1
Cheltenham Festival is called off for 2001.

April 5
Three-day Grand National Meeting starts at Aintree with foot-and-mouth precautions in place.

The three horses that tested positive for the flu on Wednesday came from a yard that had runners at Ludlow and Ayr, putting more horses at risk. It is the yard of Donald McCain Jr, son of Red Rum’s trainer Ginger.

McCain issued a statement confirming the news this afternoon.

It read: “I have been aware of the recent news about equine influenza outbreaks in France and Ireland, and over the last couple of days, I have been concerned about the health status of a small number of horses in the yard.

“Their welfare is at the front of our minds so at my request our veterinary surgeon examined them regularly and we have followed his advice on testing & treatment.

“It was by following this protocol the positive results for equine flu came to light Wednesday evening”

Cheltenham Festival is one of the jewels in the racing calendar
Cheltenham Festival is one of the jewels in the racing calendar
Reuters

Cheltenham fact file

  • £100,000,000 – how much the festival is worth to Gloucestershire every year.
  • £4,590,000 – record amount of headline prize money on offer at The Festival 2018 – the most of any Jump festival in the world, over £1,000,000 per day.
  • £2,300,000 – the amount of money taken from the cash machines at The Festival 2016
  • £625,000 – record prize money available for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.
  • 105,000 – people using Cheltenham Spa train station over the four days of racing.
  • 80,000 – number of movements between the racecourse and the town on the shuttle bus service.
  • 70,000 – maximum capacity at Cheltenham on Cheltenham Gold Cup Day (when all the temporary facilities are open).
  • 65,000 – average attendance over the four-day period of The Festival.
  • 45,000 – bread rolls eaten at The Festival 2015.

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