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Suffolk-based Animal Health Trust praised as racing to resume after equine flu outbreak

PUBLISHED: 07:10 12 February 2019 | UPDATED: 08:45 12 February 2019

Racing was cancelled at Chelmsford City Racecourse following an outbreak of equine influenza. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Racing was cancelled at Chelmsford City Racecourse following an outbreak of equine influenza. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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Horse racing will resume on Wednesday after an outbreak of equine flu caused a six-day shutdown.

The Animal Health Trust in Kentford has been praised by the BHA Picture DUNCAN LAMONTThe Animal Health Trust in Kentford has been praised by the BHA Picture DUNCAN LAMONT

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) placed over 170 yards into lockdown in an attempt to halt the spread of the highly-contagious virus.

But after a period of extensive testing and after seeking the advice of a series of veterinary experts, the BHA gave the go-ahead for a resumption late last night – but with strict biosecurity controls in place.

MORE: Four more cases of equine flu found at Suffolk yard

Brant Dunshea, the BHA’s chief regulatory officer, said: “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.

Trainer Simon Crisford Picture: MIKE EGERTON/PA WIRETrainer Simon Crisford Picture: MIKE EGERTON/PA WIRE

“It has also been our intention to ensure that we avoid an issue that could result in a long-term disruption to racing with the risk of many of our major events being unduly impacted.”

Three horses - which subsequently rose to six - were found to have the disease at Donald McCain’s stable in Cheshire.

Over the weekend it was announced around 1,500 tests had returned negative - but on Sunday evening it emerged four vaccinated horses from Simon Crisford’s Newmarket yard had also tested positive.

MORE: Horse which ran at potential risk fixture is clear of equine flu - says trainer

Mr Dunshea heaped praise on the Animal Health Trust, which is based in Kentford, near Newmarket.

A total of 23 meetings were cancelled during the shutdown Picture: JOE GIDDENS/PA WIREA total of 23 meetings were cancelled during the shutdown Picture: JOE GIDDENS/PA WIRE

“There have been significant logistical issues associated with testing and processing so many tests in such a short space of time,” he said.

“Fortunately, owing to the tireless efforts of the Animal Health Trust, trainers and their local vets, and BHA staff, the vast majority of yards which had been placed on hold will be in a position to resume racing.

“Clearly, there is some risk associated with returning to racing. This risk has been assessed and, based on the evidence - and ensuring biosecurity measures are in place - the level of risk is viewed as acceptable.”

All racing has been suspended since February 7, with 23 meetings lost during the shutdown.

Major weekend cards are scheduled for Ascot, where the Betfair Ascot Chase is the feature, Haydock, which will host the William Hill Grand National Trial, and Wincanton, where the Betway Kingwell Hurdle is the headline attraction.

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