Equine flu latest: BHA chief Nick Rust believes urgent action plan means disruption is kept to ‘a few weeks at most ‘

Equine flu latest: BHA chief Nick Rust believes urgent action plan means disruption is kept to ‘a few weeks at most ‘

A ‘war-room’ of vets are currently testing over 1500 horses today as the British Horseracing Authority hope to stop the spread of equin

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A ‘war-room’ of vets are currently testing over 1500 horses today as the British Horseracing Authority hope to stop the spread of equine flu. 

BHA chief executive Nick Rust is confident that their swift action in suspending all racing until next Wednesday has prevented a potential ‘three to six-month problem’ for racing.

Rust believes their quick action could have saved up to six months of disruption
Rust believes their quick action could have saved up to six months of disruption
Rex Features

Speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Rust said: “We’ve got to get a hold of it quickly.

“If we play Russian roulette with the evidence we’ve got, we could have a problem for three to six months – and no one would thank us for that.

“This is a serious form of flu which debilitates horses. The welfare of our horses is really paramount, above all economics.

“First and foremost, we have no sport without healthy horses.”


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While the authorities are hoping they have the spread of the disease under control, with the Cheltenham Festival just five weeks away there is still a worst-case scenario that they have not contained the outbreak.

Rust said: “The worst fears are that we don’t contain it quickly.

“But by taking the action we have over the last couple of days – we’re effectively locking down the movement of racehorses, instructing trainers to take extra special precautions – we’re fairly confident we will manage to restrict it.

“But until we know the complete extent over the next few days of the distribution of the virus, we won’t know exactly where we are.

Reuters

“We have a ‘war-room’ – we have 20 vets employed at the BHA, forensic investigation, a lab in Newmarket that is processing hundreds of tests now.

“Once we know whether there has been a spread (of infection) there or not, we will be in a much better position to know where racing is.

“I don’t know if that will need a few more days or not. But I strongly believe this is a few weeks at most, because we’ve acted quickly.”

The BHA will make a decision on Monday whether racing can resume on Wednesday but a high-profile weekend of racing has already been lost.

Gold Cup winner Native River was among the horses due to have their Festival prep runs at Newbury, but Rust confirmed they are looking to re-schedule certain races.

He added: “We’re making preparations for alternative arrangements – so that when racing returns, if there were prep races for horses going to Cheltenham or Aintree, they’ll have alternative races in place.”

Champion trainer Nicky Henderson revealed on Friday he had a team of SIX vets taking nasal swabs from every horse in his yard as they work around the clock to carry out the BHA’s urgent action plan.

Henderson told BBC Radio 5 Live: “We have a team of six vets here currently – taking nasal swabs off all of our 150 horses – and they are then going to be driven immediately to the Animal Health Trust at Newmarket, where they will be analysed.

“I’m estimating it’s going to be 1500-plus (from all yards) that have been taken today.

The Cheltenham Festival is just five weeks away - and many horses have missed their potential prep runs
The Cheltenham Festival is just five weeks away – and many horses have missed their potential prep runs
Sportsfile – Subscription

“I’m nervous – it will be very interesting to see if any other horses have been challenged by it.

“This is very, very virulent – so it doesn’t matter how much pains you go to to keep these things at bay, it is very dangerous.”

Henderson was also wary of time running out to give his Festival hopes their final prep runs for Prestbury Park in March.

He added: “The worst part of it is that we are starting to miss races that were part of the horses’ preparation.


“Some of ours aren’t going to run again before Cheltenham – some of them, I hoped to run again.

“Then of course, if it gets too close to Cheltenham it’s too close to race them. They need that gap.

“We’re just going to have to pray it will all go ahead as normal, and this will blow over as quick as it’s come in.”

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