With the recent discovery of what has been labelled as an “equine flu” the British horse racing board has called off racing until further notice.
With more than 100 stables across the UK now closed due to the attempts to control this fast spreading disease all worries now turn towards whether the running of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival will take place.
The festival is scheduled to take place over 4 days starting on the 12 March.
A quarantine has been strictly set in place in many yards including the yards of Paul Nicholls and also Nicky Henderson. Both stables alongside many other stables will conduct a swab test which will see as many as 1500 to 1800 tests take place over the next few days or so.
It has been declared by leading vets that this equine flu is not life threatening, however, is does serve the same effects to a horse as it would do to a human being.
Horses can have hoarse coughs, runny noses and generally feel totally run down and as well as a diet not being consumed as normal, also the water intake can also lead to the losing of weight which is not good for a horse in training leading up to such an annual festivity as the Cheltenham Festival itself.
The crisis was sparked on Wednesday night when three vaccinated horses were found to have been tested positive at the stables of Grand National-winning trainer Donald McCain – whose late father Ginger saddled the legendary Red Rum to a record three National wins in the 1970s.
Because other horses from McCain’s yard had raced at Ayr, Ludlow and Wolverhampton this week, he swiftly raised the alarm and the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) ordered all four meetings on Thursday to be cancelled.
Jockeys, trainers, owners and punters are all hoping history does not repeat itself – 18 years ago, foot-and-mouth disease led to the Festival being called off.
Trainer Lawney Hill told BBC World: “It is damaging but it’s showing how quickly the British Horseracing Authority and the Animal Horse Trust have moved to contain the virus, by stopping the movement of horses and stopping racing – it’s the only thing to do to control the virus.
It is certainly hoped that this flu can be declared as no possible interruption to the highlight of the national hunt season, namely the Cheltenham Festival, as soon as possible, however, for now lets not give up the chase in the finding of a positive outcome to this situation that has arisen within the horse racing industry and lets hope that this is the case.
The festival is the mecca for all national hunt racing lovers and the equivalent is in footballing terms that the FIFA World Cup would end up being postponed due to players contracting a flu that bad that it would become to dangerous to contest the finals, now that does not even bare thinking about.