Brendan Powell Exclusive: Thoughts On The Equine Flu Outbreak

Brendan Powell Exclusive:

Grand National winning jockey Brendan Powell has remained scarcely optimistic, despite a dark cloud forming over the sport when it was confirmed there had been an outbreak of equine flu late on Wednesday night.

As a result, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) instantly cancelled all racing fixtures in the United Kingdom on Thursday, following three cases of equine influenza found in horses at what has now been proved to be from Donald McCain's yard.

The scheduled meetings at Huntingdon, Doncaster, Ffos Las and Chelmsford were all aborted.

Powell - who did not receive the news until early Thursday morning, is now a very successful dual purpose Trainer. He spoke to us from his yard in Lambourn and addressed the extent of this issue.

He said: "Potentially it could be very dangerous, but I'm just hoping that it won’t be.

"The problem is if they are just going to test a certain amount of horses, that is not going to say whether it has been spread or not.

"You're not going to find out in twenty four hours whether horses have got it or not and they should just cancel racing for a few days until they have done a few more tests and see," he said.

A problem that has hit many other top trainers appears to have not impacted Powell's base in West Berkshire, as he has continued with his daily work.

He said: "We did everything the same this morning and we have got the horses out and done exactly the same as before.

"I've fortunately got no entries for ten or twelve days anyway so I won’t be going racing, and we will just carry on as normal.

"The only thing I'm half thinking of doing is possibility of giving all the horses a flu jab. They have to be done once a year and I was listening to an interview with Philip [Hobbs] who said maybe they should be done every six months.

"He’s having them done tomorrow which means they wouldn’t be able to race for a week anyway so could be the right time," he said.

With several trainers trying to get their horses out for preparation runs ahead of the Cheltenham Festival in under five weeks time, the former National winning rider - who's son Junior landed the Lanzarote Hurdle last month, believes it should not affect the pinnacle of jump's racing.

With his fingers crossed, he said: "I don’t think it will affect Cheltenham; most of the trainers with runners there are capable of getting the horses fit at home.

"Should they call off the cards this weekend, maybe the likes of Newbury could turn around and put those three big races on one day next week sometime.

"It is a possibility, it just depends on what the outcome is tonight."

Powell was speaking before a big weekend's worth of racing, scheduled to be on ITV on Saturday afternoon.

The three races he was eluding to were The Kingmaker Novices Chase, The Denman Chase and the Betfair Hurdle, where the likes of Kalashnikov and Native River were both set to stretch their legs.

Speaking on much brighter terms, Powell spoke out about his Cheltenham fancies, and gave us a few to look out for.

"I thought Sir Erec was very very good the other day, loved the way he hurdled and galloped by pulling away from the field. He definitely looks special.

"I still love Lalor - I know he got beat at Sandown, he is not the same horse going right-handed and the ground was bottomless. If you got some decent ground at Cheltenham, I still think he is a big fancy in the Arkle.

"All the handicaps god only knows, but Gordon [Elliott] and Willie [Mullins] have some lovely bumper horses so it looks as though it is going to be exciting as ever," he finished.