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Newmarket yards shut down as equine flu puts racing in lockdown


Seven Newmarket yards, including that of Derby winning trainer Charlie Appleby, have been shut down as a result of the equine flu outbreak which has paralysed British racing.

The sport is reeling after the BHA, its ruling body, announced there would be no racing in Britain until Wednesday at the earliest as part of emergency measures to try and contain the spread of the highly contagious virus.

So far three horses trained by Donald McCain in Cheshire have tested positive and stables that had runners at Ayr and Ludlow on Wednesday that potentially came into contact with McCain runner have been told they can't move their horses. The seven Newmarket yards have been included in the shutdown because they had runners at Wolverhampton on Monday where McCain also had a runner. Godolphin has its own private gallops but other town trainers who use the Heath including Stuart Williams, Marco Botti, John Berry, Charlie McBride and James Tate, will only be allowed access after noon and yards outside the town will not be allowed on the Heath at all.

Nick Patton, director of Jockey Club Estates said: "We've spoken to vets and trainers and the Animal Health Trust and we are advising trainers to be vigilant and report anything out of the ordinary to their vets."

The disease can take up to three days before symptoms are visible, meaning it will take until Sunday at the earliest before the BHA can gather all the information required. This approach will allow samples to be collected and assessed by the Animal Health Trust at Kentford in order that a fully informed decision can be made on Monday. This may then allow declarations to take place on Tuesday in time for racing on Wednesday, with 24 hour declarations for all fixtures on this day, should racing be able to resume. Declarations for Thursday would revert to the usual procedures.

"This precautionary approach is intended to ensure we put the health of the horse population and control of the virus first, and avoid any unnecessary risk that might come from returning to racing too quickly. We appreciate the impact that this may have on the sport commercially, but disease control in order to mitigate the risk of further disruption to the sport – and safeguard the health and welfare of our horses – must be a priority," said a spokesman for the BHA.

All British thoroughbreds are vaccinated against equine influenza however cases have been seen in vaccinated horses. The disease may be serious in unvaccinated horses, although symptoms in vaccinated horses are usually mild and transient. Symptoms may include a raised temperature, a cough and nasal discharge. It is highly contagious. Humans are not at risk from the virus, though can spread the virus on clothes and equipment.

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