Equine flu outbreak: Musselburgh’s ‘richest ever’ jumps meet cancelled amid UK horse racing ban

Horses out in the fields near the site of Bank House, Cholmondeley, Malpas. Pic: Aaron Chown/PA Wire
Horses out in the fields near the site of Bank House, Cholmondeley, Malpas. Pic: Aaron Chown/PA Wire
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The loss of Musselburgh’s richest ever jumps meeting on Sunday because of a UK-wide alert about an equine flu outbreak is “a real, real shame”, the clerk of the course has said.

Horse racing in Britain will not resume until next Wednesday at the earliest after three vaccinated horses tested positive for the disease.

The East Lothian fixture featured eight races with £160,000 in prize money and a huge crowd was expected to attend until the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) imposed the ban.

“It was our big national hunt pre-Cheltenham race day so we’re very disappointed,” Harriet Graham said.

Speaking to BBC Scotland, she added: “I’m disappointed for the people who were coming to see these wonderful horses and who might not get a chance to see them at Cheltenham or just on TV.”

All fixtures were called off on Thursday by the BHA and one of the UK’s leading trainers, Donald McCain confirmed the horses came from his Cheshire stables.

Horses from the infected yard raced on Wednesday – including at Ayr – potentially exposing a significant number of other runners to the virus. Other stables around the UK are in lockdown for testing by vets.

Ms Graham added: “I had a quick look through and we’d have lost at least 60 per cent of our horses.

“It was probably the right thing to do by the BHA and a clean thing to do instead of saying to a whole lot of trainers ‘you can’t run or move your horses’.”

The BHA, with full backing from the multi-billion pound industry’s veterinary committee, said it took the dramatic decision after being informed by the Animal Health Trust of three confirmed influenza positives from vaccinated horses in an active racing yard.

Horses from the infected yard raced at Ayr and Ludlow, potentially exposing a significant number of horses from yards across the country and in Ireland.

The BHA said that the fact that the cases have been identified in vaccinated horses was “a cause for significant concern over welfare and the potential spread of the disease and the action to cancel racing has been viewed as necessary in order to restrict, as far as possible, the risk of further spread of the disease”.

The body said the full extent of the problem was not yet known but it has worked quickly to identify which yards could have potentially been exposed. It is communicating with yards potentially exposed to ensure appropriate quarantine and biosecurity measures are put in place and horse movements restricted.