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In a statement the British Horseracing Association (BHA) said yesterday that it had made a decision to suspend racing today after three positive equine flu tests for vaccinated horses in an active racing yard were discovered.

Irish trainers Gordon Elliott, John Carr, Shane Nolan, Stuart Crawford, Ronan McNally, Caroline McCaldin and David Christie have had the runners they had in Britain on Wednesday quarantined, away from their stable.

"We haven't yet received the results from the samples that have been collected from the affected yard or any of the samples we've collected today from the potentially exposed horses from yesterday's fixtures".

The BHA's chief executive Nick Rust to ITV's GMTV on Friday morning, "By Monday we'll be in a strong position to make a definitive decision about when racing will return".

Bosses at Dunstall Park announced the move to abandon the Saturday evening meeting as the probe into the outbreak was being investigated today. The welfare of our horses is really paramount above all economics. "We're as disappointed for the industry as we are for ourselves".

I then asked Lee how serious this could be for this year's festival. That's something we will be talking about with our sponsors, with some of the key trainers and with the BHA over the coming days.

I asked Lee how different this outbreak was compared to the Foot and mouth outbreak of 2001 which brought a halt to the Cheltenham festival that year.

The six-day shutdown began late on Wednesday night when the British Horseracing Authority confirmed that the virus had been detected. If it can be contained quickly it could be over in a matter of days.

All race meetings have been cancelled until at least next Wednesday (13 February).

Horse racing at Doncaster Racecourse has been cancelled today due to an outbreak of equine flu.

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"When I first heard the news, like everyone else, my thoughts turned to the Cheltenham Festival, our sport's FA Cup Final, and how terrible it would be for so many people if it was put in jeopardy", ITV racing presenter Ed Chamberlin told Reuters.

Meanwhile, Donald McCain has confirmed that the three cases previously detailed came from his yard in Cheshire.

Stuart Williamson of Newmarket Equine Hospital is one of a large number of vets, all decked out in protective clothing, involved in taking nasal swabs from horses in the yards under temporary closure.

The outbreak was discussed in parliament on Thursday.

"He has acted professionally with the interests of the racing industry and the health of his horses as his priority".

Cases of equine influenza had been reported in recent weeks, originally in France but spreading to Ireland and Britain.

The measure taken by the BHA are not just to protect racehorses, but Britain's wider equine community, as it is not compulsory for all horses to be vaccinated. All horses that compete in United Kingdom racing events are required to be vaccinated. It is highly contagious.

'But hopefully it won't go on that long, hopefully they would have got hold of this pretty quick and get it sorted out as quickly as possible. It is also hard to believe that sufficient tests can be carried out for the BHA to make the next call by Monday.

A spokesperson for Defra said: "The disease is not notifiable in the United Kingdom and there's no public health risk".


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