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Newmarket hit by new flu outbreak, dashing hopes for swift resumption

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 10/02/2019 Kevin Perry
a group of people riding on the back of a horse: Confined to barracks: Horses from Nicky Henderson’s Lambourn yard make their way to the gallops at the weekend © Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images Confined to barracks: Horses from Nicky Henderson’s Lambourn yard make their way to the gallops at the weekend

Hopes of an early resumption of racing were dealt a blow on Sunday night when the British Horseracing Authority announced a new case of equine flu had been discovered – this time at the sport’s traditional home of Newmarket.

The BHA had been expected to decide on Monay whether racing can resume on Wednesday, having been encouraged by the initial absence of initial positive results from tests analysed over the weekend.

But last night it revealed that four positive tests had been returned last night in vaccinated thoroughbreds at the yard of Simon Crisford, a licensed flat trainer in Newmarket.

Video: Trainer reacts to horse racing suspension due to equine flu (ITN News)

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Crisford, a former long-standing racing manager to Godolphin, enjoyed a successful season in 2018, and has high hopes of Classic success in the new campaign with the once-beaten colt Jash, who is 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 suspension of all racing in Britain came after the discovery on Thursday of six cases of equine flu at Donald McCain’s Cheshire stable. The BHA said in a statement that Crisford’s yard had been named “in order to ensure that the Newmarket community is aware of the yard at which an infection has been identified.”

a close up of a sign: Racing has been in hiatus since Thursday © Joe Giddens/PA Wire Racing has been in hiatus since Thursday

The news will again raise fears over whether next month’s Cheltenham Festival will go ahead and over the huge financial implications for the sport. It also follows an ealier, more positive assessment about the crisis from the BHA.

On Sunday it announced that on Saturday 720 tests had been completed and found to be clear. A similar amount were processed yesterday.

In a BHA statement on Sunday afternoon , David Sykes, director of equine health and welfare, 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.”

But just before 11pm last night, the message was altogether gloomier.

“No non-urgent journeys should be made to this [the Crisford] yard – including by the media – and anyone who wishes to travel to the yard is advised to first contact the trainer’s office,” said the BHA’s statement.

“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 Feb 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.

“This information is being relayed to the Newmarket community immediately in order to ensure that appropriate action can be taken ahead of any morning activities. The BHA will be in further contact with Newmarket trainers tomorrow morning.

“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 13 February.

The prospect of racing returning quickly has divided the sport and while there was some optimism after the positive results from the weekend, realistically many are expecting the ban to be extended.

On Radio 5 Live, former top trainer Martin Pipe voiced doubts about a quick resumption. “I think it might be difficult, it might be doubtful, it depends how they progress on the tests,” he said. “I’m hopeful it might be on by the end of the week, but that’s hope more than anything.”

The official line yesterday was that “a pragmatic and evidence-led approach” was being adopted to enable the BHA to make decisions on Monday.

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