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.
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.