BHA Confirm No Racing Before Wednesday As Bookmakers Scramble For Plan B

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BHA Confirm No Racing Before Wednesday

The BHA’s Chief Executive Nick Rust believes the equine influenza outbreak will affect racing in Britain for a few weeks at most, due to the quick action taken by the sport’s governing body.

Racing was cancelled on Thursday after the outbreak of the disease hit more than 100 yards in Britain, before the suspension of the sport was extended until Wednesday of next week at the earliest.

It has now been confirmed the three horses to have tested positive for equine influenza came from the stable of Donald McCain's in Cheshire, who saddled runners at Ayr and Ludlow midweek.

Rust, speaking on ITV's Good Morning Britain on Friday, said: “By Monday we’ll be in a strong position to make a definitive decision about when racing will return.

"I don’t know whether we’ll need a few more days or not but I strongly believe this will be for a few weeks at most because we’ve acted quickly.

“We’ve got to get a hold of the situation swiftly – if we play russian roulette with the evidence we’ve got we could have a problem for three to six months and no-one would thank us for that.

Rust highlighted the importance of the disease, that although cannot affect humans, it can be transferred and spread.

“This is a serious form of flu that debilitates horses, who are at the centre of our sport. The welfare of our horses is really paramount above all economics.

“Our worst fears are that we don’t contain it quickly, but by taking the action we have in the last couple of days we’re effectively locking down movement of racehorses and instructing trainers to take extra special precautions.

“We’re fairly confident that with swift action we will manage to restrict it, but until we know the full extent of the distribution of the virus, we won’t know where we are," he said.

(Credit @GMB)

Gordon Elliott had sent a few runners to the Scottish track, but with those horses isolated on the way home, racing can continue in Ireland as per normal.

For the second week running, ITV will showcase a meeting from Ireland, with five live races coming from Naas.

With over twenty British meetings called off over six days - including Newbury’s Betfair Hurdle card on Saturday, the BHA are expected to make a decision on Monday about when racing can resume.

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Bookmakers Have A 'Plan B'

Further developments on Thursday came from the response of bookmakers - who said they hoped the equine flu outbreak would not cause an outright collapse for British racing.

Unsurprisingly, the bookmaker's regular income dramatically plummeted off the back of the news released late on Wednesday night, but they unanimously supported the BHA's decision, with alternative products in place to salvage revenue losses.

William Hill's director of retail Nicola Frampton said the bookmaker supported the BHA's quick response and eventual actions, hoping that this would prevent a wider outbreak and the long-term loss of racing.

(Credit: Racing Post) Frampton added: "Of course we do not want a more extended period without racing but the BHA must act in the interests of equine welfare.

"William Hill is fully prepared for any cancellations as we have successfully diversified our products over a number of years to provide customers with products that sit alongside British racing as well as providing an alternative during periods of cancellations.

"Those alternatives include racing from Ireland along with international horseracing, greyhound racing and virtual racing. All in all we are very well placed to handle this unfortunate situation."

Meanwhile, Ladbrokes Coral PR Director Simon Clare said there would always be consequences in terms of business when British racing was found to be forfeited.

He said: "There's always an impact when you lose UK racing for whatever reason. This is a time when every year racing accepts it is going to lose race meetings because of the weather.

"In terms of losing the day for reasons other than weather it will have an impact, but this is much more about the welfare of the racehorses and the BHA taking its action.

"There is plenty on in our shops today supporting UK racing. Most of this is what we'd have normally so for customers who are coming into our shops – and to some extent online as well – they have got other things they can have a flutter on."

At the close of trading on Thursday, William Hill reported shares to be down 2.6%, shares in Ladbrokes and Coral down 3.74%, with Paddy Power and Betfair's share price dropping to 2.52%.

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