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Equine flu crisis: Four new cases identified among vaccinated horses at Simon Crisford’s Newmarket yard

The Independent logo The Independent 11/02/2019 Jack de Menezes
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Four new cases of equine influenza have been identified in vaccinated thoroughbreds at the Newmarket yard of trainer Simon Crisford, threatening to extend the suspension of all horse racing events in Britain.

The British Horseracing Authority confirmed the findings after an enforced six-day shutdown following the original three cases - which subsequently rose to six - of the highly-infectious disease found at Donald McCain's stable in Cheshire.

Initially the BHA hoped to resume racing on Wednesday after announcing that more than 700 tests had been returned negative, with the same number expected on top of that to be given the all-clear out of more than 2,000 total samples received by the Animal Health Trust.

But the BHA said on Sunday night that Crisford – the former long-standing racing manager to Godolphin – had been named "in order to ensure the Newmarket community is aware of the yard at which an infection has been identified".

It added: "No non-urgent journeys should be made to this yard - including by the media - and anyone who wishes to travel to the yard is advised to first contact the trainer's office.

"This yard is one of the 174 which has been required to undergo testing due to the fact that runners from the stable competed at the fixture at Newcastle on February 5, which had been identified as a potential risk fixture.

"At the moment the affected horses are all contained within this yard.

"The Newmarket community - including licensed trainers, veterinary surgeries, farriers, racing school and all other relevant bodies - are being advised to continue to show increased vigilance in biosecurity."

A statement from the BHA added: "A further update will be issued as early as possible tomorrow.

"This will include further details of action that is being taken off the back of this incident, and how the process will operate for the decision which will be made tomorrow evening regarding whether it is possible to resume racing on Wednesday, February 13."

The news comes after what had appeared to be a positive weekend in the fight against the disease, with no fresh cases being reported either on Saturday or up to a previous BHA statement issued shortly after 4.30pm on Sunday.

Racing in Britain was cancelled on Thursday, following an announcement by the BHA on Wednesday night of the McCain outbreaks, with the yard having had runners earlier in the week.

However, meetings are continuing to take place as scheduled in Ireland, albeit with British runners prevented from travelling.

Speaking in the afternoon update, David Sykes, director of equine health and welfare for the BHA, had said: "The data is encouraging and provides a further indication that the precautionary safety measures have helped to contain the spread of disease.

"However, the picture is still developing and it remains the case that we will make an evidence-based decision about the situation on Monday.

"It remains paramount that, for the sake of our horse population, we do not take any unnecessary risks. This is not a common cold, it is a highly contagious and potentially serious disease."

Sykes went on: "The prioritisation exercise with regards to testing will help deliver a detailed picture of the spread of infection.

"Targeted testing, alongside the wide survey of data we have already gathered, will help provide a clear picture as to the scale of the spread of the disease.

"Any decision will include guidance and input from veterinary experts, including the industry's veterinary committee.

"We are also working through the process that will be followed in order to give specific yards the all clear to resume racing.

"This will balance the clear need for yards to resume business as soon as possible with ensuring that we do not put horses at the risk of unnecessary harm. We are liaising with the National Trainers Federation and trainers on this process."

Crisford enjoyed a successful season in 2018, and has high hopes of Classic success in the new campaign with the once-beaten colt Jash, owned by Sheikh Hamdan and prominent in the betting for the Qipco 2000 Guineas.

He also enjoyed victory at Royal Ascot in June, winning the Britannia Handicap with Ostilio.

The BHA had said in the afternoon statement that "a pragmatic and evidence-led approach" was being adopted in order to make a decision if racing can swing back into action as hoped on Wednesday, with a prioritisation plan for testing in place.

It said that plan places emphasis on the "the proximity of horses to a positive test, or to a yard returning a positive test" with swabs continuing to be collected and tested, with some being "fast tracked".

The BHA also said "a specific plan is being formed as to what the clearance process will be for individual yards to return to racing".

The BHA also confirmed all horses from the stable of Rebecca Menzies have now tested negative, although the yard remains under close surveillance.

Additional reporting by PA

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