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Equine flu: Three more horses diagnosed as positive at Donald McCain stables

Equine flu: Three more horses diagnosed as positive at Donald McCain stables

The British Horseracing Authority said it was informed Wednesday night by the Animal Health Trust of three confirmed flu cases from vaccinated horses in an active racing yard.

A total of 174 racing stables have been placed in lockdown while tests are carried out - though the six positive cases identified to date all came from the Cheshire stables of Donald McCain.

While the infected horses have not been racing this week, the McCain stable has had runners at Wolverhampton, Ayr and Ludlow.

"This precautionary approach is meant 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", said a BHA statement.

In an update today the BHA said it was still "in the early stages of assessing the scale and severity of the outbreak" and said it would receive the results from further tests this evening.

"I don't want to tempt fate by saying there couldn't be some risk but I'm very confident that the action we're taking in co-operation with the whole of the industry will ensure that Cheltenham can be on".

The BHA said it would make a decision on Monday as to when racing can resume, adding that it was "already planning for a variety of scenarios under which racing may recommence", including rescheduling meetings and races that have been cancelled.

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All race meetings have been cancelled until at least next Wednesday (13 February).

If tests are found to be clear, Cheltenham can breathe a huge sigh of relief and racing will be back on by the end of next week.

I asked Lee how different this outbreak was compared to the Foot and mouth outbreak of 2001 which brought a halt to the Cheltenham festival that year.

Symptoms of the equine influenza flu are coughing, nasal discharge and a fever, but it's not normally fatal, with horses usually remaining infectious for up to ten days. BHA procedures state that a racecourse can not race for at least four days following a deep clean having taken place.

"He has acted professionally with the interests of the racing industry and the health of his horses as his priority".

Despite this, racing at Chantilly in France did go ahead under "protection measures" on Thursday, the governing body France Galop issuing a six-point caution to all horse racing personnel.