The sport of horse racing breathed a large sigh of relief last night with news from Britain that the sport will resume on Wednesday after a break of six days.
No racing had taken place since last Thursday in England, Scotland or Wales after an outbreak of equine flu.
Thoughts turned to 2001 when foot and mouth caused the cancellation of much racing including the Cheltenham Festival.
A range of biosecurity measures will be in place but the British Horseracing Authority are satisfied that after analysis of thousands of samples taken over the last few days that the outbreak is contained.
Racing continued in Ireland throughout the British shut down, though with a temporary prohibition on horse from Britain.
This time four weeks Cheltenham, the pinnacle of the sport and worth millions to the Irish industry, will be in full swing, so long as everything remains as it appears to be at present.
“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,” said Brant Dunshea, the BHA’s Chief Regulatory Officer.
”That would be harmful to them and damaging to any trainers’ yards that became infected.”
“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.”
“After analysis of thousands of samples, and no further positive tests on Monday, we still only have two confirmed sites of infection. We have put robust containment measures in place around both.”
“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.”
“There have been significant logistical issues associated with testing and processing so many tests in such a short space of time. 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.”