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Racing is Back After Equine Flu Outbreak But Has the BHA Dropped a Major Clanger?

Horse Green Crossing LightIt’s been the biggest will they, won’t they story in racing for years, and even then the British Horseracing Authority milked the suspense by making their announcement later than planned.

But the good news is that UK racing is fit and well, and all scheduled meetings are allowed to go ahead after no new major cases of equine flu have been discovered.

The near week-long blackout has been lifted by the BHA, and so racing will commence again with action from Musselburgh, Plumpton, Southwell and Kempton on Wednesday.

And on an even brighter note, some of the cancelled ‘Super Saturday’ card from Newbury – including the Denman Chase and the Betfair Hurdle – has been rescheduled for Ascot this coming Saturday instead.

Other races to have been moved include the Kingmaker Novices’ Chase, which will be run at Sandown on Friday, the Mares’ Hurdle will go ahead at Haydock Park on Saturday and the Mares’ Chase has been shifted from Exeter to Wincanton, also on Saturday.

Brant Dunshea, the BHA’s chief regulatory officer, said: “Clearly there is some risk associated with returning to racing.

“It has also been our intention to ensure that we avoid an issue that could result in a long-term disruption to racing with the risk of many of our major events being unduly impacted.

“This risk has been assessed and, based on the evidence – and ensuring biosecurity measures are in place – the level of risk is viewed as acceptable.”

But as ever in life, not everything has gone smoothly….

The Rule Change Causing Significant Headaches

Pile of Syringes

As part of their lengthy statement released last night, the BHA has changed the rules regarding the length of time within which a horse has to have had a flu vaccination.

The change, down to six months from a year, means that some horses will need to be vaccinated again immediately, and with a seven day rest period required that may put some out of action this weekend.

The frustration for trainers and their connections is that the weekend’s action was expected to act as a key warm-up for the Cheltenham Festival, and now the BHA have taken that opportunity away from a number of key contenders.

National Hunt trainer Olly Murphy took to Twitter to voice his frustration. Replying to a Tweet about the new ruling, he wrote:

“Absolute Madness. No pre warning of this, the rules have changed overnight and given us no indication another vac was needed until 11.30pm last night.”

And the jockey Charlie Poste also Tweeted:

“I think BHAPressOffice have handled everything admirably in spite of plenty of criticism, however it might of made sense during last weeks enforced lay off to advise then that it was highly likely horses would need to have been vaccinated within the last 6 months to resume racing.”

It remains to be seen how badly the weekend’s racecard will be affected, but it is likely a number of horses with Cheltenham in mind may have to miss out on an all-important prep race.

However, it is believed that Paul Nicholls had already given his horses a booster jab in January, and so he is likely to enjoy some dominance this week.