How Equine Influenza Could Have Potentially Ruined The Racing Industry

The racing world has been swamped over the last six days with the on going equine influenza saga that has seen British horse racing ground to a halt.

Today it was revealed that on Wednesday, racing will be resumed under bio security measures but overall the relief for racing fans, racing staff and bookmakers is resounding.

The BHA took to social media on Monday night to alert everyone involved in the sport of the good news but there was serious suspicion and a lot of key figures in the sport that feared for the worst.

The effects, of not just horse racing but also a lot of the other key variables that make the sport what it is today, if this ban on racing would not have been lifted could have been catastrophic for the industry.

Jockeys and trainers a like came together when the news first broke last Thursday to stress how crucial this could have been for the future of the sport, with pundits and key figures in racing also stressing the need a for the rapid return of British racing.

174 yards in total were put on lockdown with news each day coming out of the BHA that was sometimes vague and lead for a lot of speculation as to when racing would be back.

Donald McCain

Two yards out of all the testing came back to have cases of equine flu, with a total of 10 horses from Donald McCain and Simon Crisford's yard the only animals to be involved.

McCain's yard was seen to be the main culprit of the virus with his horses being the first reported in the UK to be carrying the disease.

The way the trainer reported it to the BHA efficiently could have saved many more days without racing and the sport has to be thankful for also how well the governing body has dealt with this serious issue over the last few days.

With this virus being at the centre of British horse racing for the past week it is important to understand what it is and as explained by the Animal Health Trust - Equine influenza, sometimes referred to as equine flu or horse flu, is a highly contagious respiratory infection.

An infected horse will show clinical signs similar to those of human flu and will be infectious for about a week. Tens of thousands of horses can be affected by one outbreak. Although rarely fatal, it can have a huge impact on competition and breeding due to restriction of horse movements.

The big issue that this virus could have caused for the industry is how it could have effected the longevity of the sport and the people in it, in more ways than one.

There are a small cluster of jockeys that rely on getting just a few rides a week that with the stoppage of racing could not pick up and it really does effect people financially more than the average race goer will understand.

Another and arguably one of the biggest problems that could have come out of the equine flu saga was the cancellation of the Cheltenham Festival.

The four days that are part of the biggest event in British national hunt racing and at one point was in jeopardy meaning big speculation in the racing world.

If this disease would have prevented the Cheltenham festival going ahead, which doesn't look an issue now, it would have been catastrophic and almost career ending for some parties involved in the sport.

2001 was the last time that racing was stopped due to an animal like virus, with the foot and mouth endemic affecting more than just horses and causing a wide spread problem for animals.

cheltenham frozen ice track covers cold freezing

It also saw the Cheltenham festival abandoned, which saw racing fans heart broken but also the industry took a huge hit .

This would have been the same but on a larger scale with the development and growth of punters heading to the cheltenham festival now bigger than it has ever been before, with it being cancelled it would have been a ground breaking problem for the sport.

There are so many factors that go into the running, on and off the course, of the four day meeting at Prestbury Park and to lose all that would have seen huge amounts of money being refunded or in some cases lost.

This would have been a killer problem for horse racing with bookmakers suffering huge losses, with Cheltenham week for most companies being there most profitable part of the year and to miss that when calculating a yearly plan of profit can be substantial.

Over the last week the share price in bookmakers took a major hit from what it normally stands up but with the update from the BHA yesterday with racing being resumed, the share price has began to rise again and will be back at a level where it should be before March.

Cheltenham as a town would of missed out on crucial business that the Gloucestershire town relies on heavily. Pubs, Clubs and other establishments make a fortune from this historic week in March and you can't account in any situation for that loss.

The racecourse itself also relies on this week going without a hitch with the amount of tickets sold and work and preparation that goes in to getting the place in top condition for the four days of racing is expensive and very time consuming.

Boxing Day

Other people that would have been effected by the cancellation of the festival would have been punters, food and drink caterers, race and event sponsors, Hotels, travel companies, Tv Broadcasters to name a few

These individuals are all just at the top of the surface at the issues that would have been caused if equine flu would have seen the festival called off.

It shows that not just horse racing would have gone into disrepute, it would have effected the livelihood of thousands of people.

The safety of the horses is of paramount concern in this industry but anything that could have been done to make sure that the ban was relieved before the festival would have been done.

Racing can rest for now and all being well there will be no other tests that come back positive with the virus or any other issues in the sport that could prevent the happening of the Cheltenham Racing Festival.

The BHA have been extraordinary over the past week with how they have dealt with this issue, but it did beg the question that the longer this disaster went for British racing, what affects would it of had on the sport as a whole and fortunately for now everything can start to go back to normal.