The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) will make a decision later tonight as to whether racing can return in Britain on Wednesday. This decision will be made following a meeting of the industry veterinary committee. The decision will follow further assessment of the data already gathered as well as the results of the latest testing which is taking place at the Animal health Trust (AHT) today. To allow the committee to have access to the most recent evidence, it will not meet until this evening. This means that no decision should be expected before 10:30pm at the earliest.
The veterinary committee includes representation from the BHA, Animal Health Trust (AHT), British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA), National Trainers Federation (NTF), Racehorse Owners Association (ROA), Racecourse Association (RCA) Thoroughbred Breeders Association (TBA) and independent expertise.
Analysis is ongoing at the AHT, in line with a prioritisation plan based on the potential exposure of horses to a horse that has tested positive (for example at the fixture at Ayr on 6 Feb), or to a horse from a yard returning a positive test.
Swabs will continue to be collected and tested from other horses, but some have been fast-tracked to help inform this evening’s decision making process. Separately, a specific plan is being formed as to what the clearance process will be for individual yards to return to racing. The details of this plan will be confirmed as part of the decision making process for any return to racing.
Should the decision be taken to return to racing on Wednesday, declarations for any fixtures staged will be at 10am on Tuesday. The BHA would provide further updates regarding the declaration process for any fixtures staged on Thursday and beyond.
The BHA notified the media and Newmarket community last night regarding four positive samples identified at the yard of licensed trainer Simon Crisford. The community is being asked to be extra vigilant when it comes to biosecurity measures and to follow NTF guidance for disease control (https://www.racehorsetrainers.org/publications/pdfs/cop.pdf) which is also available via the “Equibiosafe” app.
The BHA and Animal Health Trust are meeting with the Newmarket Infectious Diseases Response Committee – which includes representatives of the Animal Health Trust, veterinary practices, senior Newmarket trainers and Jockey Club Estates – to discuss and agree further measures that can be taken in the region for controlling the potential spread of the virus.
Simon Crisford’s yard had already been identified for testing due to having had runners at the Newcastle fixture on 5 February. This fixture had previously been highlighted as carrying an increased risk owing to the presence of runners from the stable of Rebecca Menzies where suspicious cases of potentially symptomatic horses had been identified.
All of the horses from the Rebecca Menzies yard have since been sampled and tested negative. However, this does not guarantee that the horses had not previously had the virus. Nor does it rule out the possibility that the virus is still incubating in some horses. It is for this reason that, despite the negative tests, the 54 yards who competed at Newcastle and Wolverhampton on 5 and 6 February are still considered to be potential contacts. While it is not possible to draw a conclusion that the two are directly related, the Newmarket cases might not have been identified as quickly if the identification and testing policy had not been enacted.
Newmarket is an important centre for racing, as well as a hub for the breeding industry. The BHA is particularly mindful of the potential consequences of the handling of this outbreak for the breeding industry. We are working with the TBA and wider Newmarket community to attempt to contain the issue. The precautionary actions taken following the suspicious horses being identified at the Menzies yard have allowed us to identify early an outbreak of equine influenza in an establishment in this region.
No other positive samples have been returned from the approximately 700 further tests carried out on Sunday, other than at the yard where positive samples have already been confirmed, and the positives at the further yard in Newmarket on which an update was provided last night.
Both yards are observing strict biosecurity protocols and we are grateful to the trainers who continue to operate with the greatest professionalism to help contain the issue at those stables. In terms of further information from these yards, they will now be treated as infected properties and it is not the intention to provide further updates about the spread of the virus to individual horses in the yards.