The Chief Executive of the BHA, Nick Rust, has publicly thanked the team at the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket for their round-the-clock efforts to help British racing get back to normal.
Over the past week, the AHT has been responsible for analysing thousands of samples taken from racehorses to get a full picture of the spread of the highly-infectious strain of equine flu.
The AHT is run by world-leading expert in equine disease, Dr Richard Newton. Its team of researchers and staff worked closely with BHA vets to deal with more than a year’s worth of tests in just a few days.
Nick Rust went on to thank the Horserace Betting Levy Board for their significant financial contributions, and all the members of the veterinary committee advising the BHA which has been meeting daily since last Wednesday. The committee includes Dr Newton and vets from the National Trainers’ Federation, the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association, the Association of Racecourse Veterinary Surgeons, the British Equine Veterinary Association, the Racecourse Association and Racehorse Owners Association.
The committee was unanimous in recommending a halt to racing last week and unanimous about a return, subject to tighter biosecurity which included the requirement for a six-month vaccination.
Nick Rust said: “Racing owes a tremendous vote of thanks to Richard, his team and all the vets who made some tough decisions which they knew would have difficult consequences for many in the sport.
“It is very reassuring to have the solid support of world leading scientists and veterinarians, and by their actions they have helped us reduce the risk of a prolonged outbreak which would have caused greater damage to the sport and further compromised the health of our horses.
“We are fortunate that our preparation for events such as this is aided by the sport’s long-term commitment to veterinary science and education, in which the Horserace Betting Levy Board plays a pivotal role.
“I’m also grateful to Laurence Robertson MP and Conor McGinn MP who co-chair the All-Party Racing Group for inviting me to speak to MPs on Monday night just ahead of our critical decision. It was heartening to listen to so many voices of support.
“In addition we are thankful for the public messages of support for our policies from the Minister for Sport Mims Davies MP and the Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom MP.”
The Animal Health Trust team and the BHA are continuing to work flat out to clear horses to run over the weekend and to lift the lockdown on training yards as quickly as possible. An operational team based at 75 High Holborn is in constant contact with trainers who are still affected.
Nick Rust added: “We are working as fast as we can to give the all-clear to horses and yards. Tests are still being analysed by Richard’s team at the AHT and I’m very grateful for the patience our participants have shown.
“As Clive Hamblin, the NTF veterinary advisor, said last night – we’re not out of the woods yet. With the influenza virus still affecting unvaccinated horses outside the British thoroughbred herd, continuing vigilance is vital.
“We are likely to see more positive tests in Britain before the outbreak dies down but we now have the understanding we need to manage the risk to racing.”
Nick Rust went on to thank a range of others across the racing industry for their role in making a quick return to racing possible: “Many people have played their part across our sport and I’m very conscious of the work done at racecourses and by racing staff in yards to maintain biosecurity, look after our horses and adapt quickly to the rules we had to put in place to return quickly to racing.
“I’d like to thank Trainers, their teams and their local vets for all the co-operation and work they undertook to effect the testing process, and for the necessary work they are now doing to comply with the revised biosecurity requirements.
“Also, our colleagues at Weatherbys for pushing out urgent messages to owners, trainers and jockeys at very short notice. All those courses that ran yesterday – Musselburgh, Southwell, Kempton Park and Plumpton – had very little notice and all had to cope with a lot of media attention.
“It’s not often I wake up to the voice of Dan Thompson, the Chief Executive at Plumpton, but he was doing interviews from 5.35am on Five Live’s Wake Up to Money through to the BBC’s Ten o’clock news. Dan and his team did racing proud, as did the team from Great British Racing who helped facilitate much of the media activity from the racecourse yesterday.
“The sport has received significant media attention over the last seven days and the message to the world has been clear from start to finish – this is an industry that puts the health and welfare of its horses first.”
Additional BHA staff were present at Plumpton and other courses to manage the return to racing under stricter biosecurity rules.
Nick Rust reserved his final words of thanks for the BHA team and racehorse owners: “Since last Wednesday night, our colleagues from the BHA have worked incredibly hard to get this disease contained so we could go back racing as quickly as possible.
“Our team are passionate and knowledgeable about horses and racing. That’s why we’ve had people working through the night, collecting swabs and driving cross-country to Newmarket to have them analysed.
“I’m proud of what they’ve done and they can all walk a bit taller now they’re back on racecourses ensuring our sport goes on.
“Finally, and probably most importantly of all, thank you to all of our owners, ownership groups, syndicates and racing club members. Without their substantial investment in our sport and industry, we have nothing. This will have been an uncertain and frustrating time for many, but I am grateful for the patience, good grace and understanding that most have shown. All in racing are enormously thankful for your continued commitment and investment in our sport.”