Horse Racing News: Cheltenham Festival fears as equine influenza hits home
Fears of a repeat of 2001 style Cheltenham Festival cancellation were heightened on Thursday night, 24 hours after the sport’s regulating body, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), first announced three reported cases of equine influenza which led to a decision to cancel four meetings planned for the following day.
This impromptu closure was followed by a further announcement during Thursday declaring no British horse racing will take place until Wednesday 13th February 2019 at the very earliest. That date is less than four weeks from the planned start of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival.
In 2001 it was a nationwide outbreak of Foot & Mouth disease which stopped all horse racing and saw the Cheltenham Festival cancelled. It also saw six million sheep and cows culled.
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) February 7, 2019
What is equine flu and how many are infected?
Equine influenza is nowhere near as serious as foot and mouth disease, it is unlikely to prove fatal to any horse that contracts it and it cannot be passed on to other animals or humans. It does, like any good flu, produce symptoms associated with a high temperature, cough, loss of appetite and performance. It is highly contagious, airborne and can be passed on by humans.
Thankfully, at the time of writing, only three horses have tested positive for equine influenza and all are based with Donald McCain in Cheshire. The big concern is the trainer having runners at Wolverhampton, Ayr and Ludlow during the previous week and all could have acted as carriers of the illness.
“I don’t want to tempt fate”
Could equine flu outbreak wipe out Cheltenham?
BHA supremo Nick Rust admitting to the BBC’s Joe Wilson today that he cannot “definitively” say that the showpiece event will go ahead, but that he’s “v confident” that the lockdown will work pic.twitter.com/o3VOhH40Pl
— Dan Roan (@danroan) February 7, 2019
Will the 2019 Cheltenham Festival go ahead?
Should further cases come to light, particularly ones from other yards in the UK, there must serious concerns about further meeting cancellations in the coming weeks and months.
As it stands three key Cheltenham Festival trial races have been lost, those being the Betfair Hurdle and the Denman Chase at Newbury and the Kingmaker Chase at Warwick.
BetStars bookmakers have priced up a special market ‘Will the 2019 Cheltenham Festival go ahead?’ and make Yes a 1/9 shot with No available at odds of 13/2. So based on that we can feel certain that Cheltenham 2019 ‘should’ go head as planned.
🐎 Will next month’s Cheltenham Festival go ahead after this week’s equine flu outbreak?
✅ Yes 1/9
❌ No 13/2
— BetStars (@BetStars) February 8, 2019