No new equine flu positives as BHA prepares to make call on resumption

On the eve of decision day, British racing took another nervous step towards a resumption as more good news emerged from the Animal Health Trust.

The BHA will announce on Monday whether action can begin again on Wednesday, six days after the entire programme was suspended when three horses trained by Donald McCain tested positive for equine flu.

The AHT is checking for further cases and is in the midst of testing nasal swabs taken from the numerous yards which are currently in lockdown to prevent the spread of the highly contagious illness.

And the good news on Sunday was it had found no more positive samples to add to the total of six originating from McCain's yard.

A 'prioritisation plan' for testing is being adopted, based on the proximity of horses to a positive test or to a yard returning a positive test, with some swabs being fast-tracked.

And the BHA is also working on what the clearance process will be for individual yards to return to racing, hinting that not all trainers will immediately be able to run horses when the programme does resume.

A statement read: "We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding that as much evidence as possible must be gathered prior to making a decision as to when racing can safely return."

BHA director of equine health and welfare David Sykes 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."

He continued: "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 individual trainers on this process."

The BHA and Levy Board have agreed to make a contribution towards the costs incurred by owners or trainers where the BHA has required samples to be taken, including the cost of the swabs and the veterinary fees involved.

Details are being worked on in consultation with the NTF but the reimbursement policy will be based on a fixed fee per horse sampled.

The potential seriousness of equine flu was underlined when the AHT confirmed that a non-thoroughbred, unvaccinated horse had been put down after contracting the virus.

The BHA's statement said: "This shows the threat posed by the disease in unvaccinated horses and the importance of biosecurity procedures and movement restrictions to contain the possible spread of the disease."

Newmarket-based trainer Charlie Appleby, meanwhile, has reported a clean bill of health and said on Sunday: "We tested 101 horses on Thursday, including the two that ran at Wolverhampton last Monday, and the results have come back clear.

"We are looking forward to getting back to normal tomorrow and we are lucky at Moulton Paddocks that we have our own facilities. The two horses involved will be tested again tomorrow and hopefully the results will be known later in the day."