All horse racing across the United Kingdom cancelled on Thursday

Heather Diaz
February 8, 2019

NEWBURY Racecourse have been forced to cancel Saturday's Betfair Hurdle due to the outbreak of equine flu.

The BHA had put trainers on alert over the contagious disease after several outbreaks in northern Europe and sent out a letter to trainers recently.

Part of what's scaring people so much about this recent diagnosis of equine flu is the fact that the horses who have tested positive for the disease had been previously vaccinated against it.

The horses from the infected yard raced on Wednesday at Ayr and Ludlow, potentially exposing other horses across the country and in Ireland to the disease.

All fixtures were called off on Thursday by the BHA and one of the UK's leading trainers, Donald McCain confirmed the horses came from his Cheshire stables.

Equine influenza is a highly infectious disease of horses, mules and donkeys.

Symptoms include coughing, a high-fever, and nasal discharge.

The Animal Health Trust are working alongside the racing industry on the matter and a further update is expected later on Thursday.

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It was later announced that racing in Britain has been suspended until at least Wednesday, February 13.

"This approach will allow samples to be collected and assessed by the Animal Health Trust in order that a fully informed decision can be made on Monday".

McCain, who saddled Ballabriggs to win the Grand National in 2011 and has more than 100 horses in his stable, said "the BHA were contacted immediately" once the positive result for equine influenza had been confirmed and that he is "liaising closely with them about biosecurity and management of all the horses at Bankhouse".

In a statement, the BHA said: "This precautionary approach is meant to ensure we put the health of the horse population and control of the virus first, and avoid any unnecessary risk that might come from returning to racing too quickly".

"We know we're not going to be in a position, given the incubation period of the disease, to make a decision about returning to racing until first thing next week at the very earliest". "But at this stage, we can not know if the infection came from recent arrivals or from horses returning from racing".

Racing was, however, set to go ahead in Ireland at Thurles on Thursday.

The virus then spread to reported cases in Britain and Ireland, with the BHA sending an official warning to the horse racing industry on January 19.

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