Wednesday 13 February
In The Dark
Having written here on Monday, that the BHA needed to tread with great care regarding their next steps in the Equine Flu outbreak, I was delighted with the decision they made to resume racing today. The decision was scheduled to be announced at 10.30pm on Monday, so we went to the main source of information theses days - Twitter, and hit the refresh button - a lot. There was then a delay - which I have to say, resulted in one of the most entertaining 50 minutes that I have ever spent reading tweets! Racing came out in force, and the humour was top class, particularly the response to the BHA announcement, that there was no announcement, and that an announcement was on its way! Having dealt with the situation well up until this point, it is here that the good work seems to be unravelling. The BHA decided that horses were only permitted to be declared if they had received a flu vaccination within the last 6 months - a sudden imposition of a new rule which has caught out a large number of trainers who will not be able to have runners, as their strings need to have a booster vaccination - a jab that has a seven day withdrawal when horses are not permitted to run. Thankfully - as Lilly's Arc was in Ayr where there was an infected horse present, Stuart had all the horses done last week, and they are clear to run on that basis from Friday. Having said that, Fences Farm, still, in effect, remains on lockdown, and they still don't yet know if any will be able to run. Stuart has been chasing his test results all week, as they were taken to the AHT at 1.00pm on Friday, but as yet, has only had the result for two of the yards inmates - Lilly's Arc is clear, as is a 2 yr old that is out in the field. This, although welcome news, doesn't release the yard from lockdown status, and after speaking to the BHA this morning, it seems as though Stuart will not know if he is clear to run, until he has made the declaration - and then they will do the relevant tests. So with QOH - we head into the declaration stage on Thursday, not knowing if she can or can't run - not ideal, when it has been part of a season long plan for her, and will greatly effect her future, as she is a very good mare, and to win or be placed in a Grade 2 would hugely effect her, commercially, as a broodmare. A slight plus - Yesterday the BHA announced that there were 4 races with Listed or Graded status that had been lost during the shutdown, that they would reschedule - thankfully the Listed Chase that Molly Childers was due to run in in Exeter was one of them, and it has been switched to Wincanton on Saturday. She is a winner there last time out, and the ground is looking better, so there is a lot to like about that - sadly, we are due to enter the race today - but it seems the admin website can't cope with the changes at the moment, and this is proving difficult, as the on-line facility isn't functioning. Stuart is on the case, and she will be entered. We also have Queenohearts entered to run on Friday - in a race that is critical to her career - the Grade 2 Jane Seymour Novices Hurdle in Sandown. It would seem that the laboratory capacity is the bottleneck in this case - and surely this can have been foreseen - with a large racehorse population, it is reasonable to think that at some stage there would be an instance where a notifiable outbreak would necessitate the testing of the whole population, (equine flu not being notifiable), so my question is why were there not plans in place to use a number of labs spread over the country - it makes sense in terms of logistics - for trainers getting swabs, and returning them to the lab, and also in term of man hours available to test the swabs taken - this is surely a lesson that has to be learned from this! A cynic would suggest that the rule regarding the requirement of a booster vaccine was implemented overnight to alleviate the pressure on the Animal Health Trust Lab - as it seems that the swabs from horses in yards are only being done when that yard declares a runner - and if yards can't declare runners due to them not having vaccinations up to date, it gives the lab a bit of breathing space!