Cheltenham 2019: Will Cheltenham be CANCELLED this year as equine flu wipes out horses? | Racing | Sport - (2021)
Cheltenham Festival is one of the biggest horse racing events of the year but hundreds of horses remain under quarantine as it fast approaches on March 12. A lockdown on race meetings was ordered after three horses were diagnosed with highly-contagious equine influenza on Wednesday night.
A total of 21 face meetings have been cancelled so far by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) in a bid to stop contamination between horses.
Officials are now facing millions of pounds in lost revenue in what could become the biggest shutdown in British horse racing since the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic.
Will Cheltenham be cancelled this year?
BHA chief executive Nick Rust says he will not know if Cheltenham Festival will go ahead or not in 32 days until next week.
He told the BBC: ”Obviously I can't say definitively that there won't be an impact that stretches as far as Cheltenham,”
“In all previous form where infectious diseases have broken out in horse racing, either here or in other countries around the world, we learn from it each time and the key thing to do is to inform people to stop the movement of horses.
“Then you're stopping cross-contamination and you can isolate the issues much more quickly.
“The danger would be to take a chance and allow horses to move so we've effectively locked it down and we'll be in a very clear position next week.
“If you're to ask me again about Cheltenham I hope to be completely definitive then.
“I don't want to tempt fate by saying there couldn't be some risk but I'm very confident that the action we're taking in co-operation with the whole of the industry will ensure that Cheltenham can be on.”
Equine flu can be passed between horses either by nose-to-nose contact, airborne particles or contaminated clothing.
The recent discoveries were made in three vaccinated horses who had raced on Wednesday in Ayr and Ludlow.
Bettingexpert.com has estimated the current cancellations will end up costing the horse racing industry up to £100 million.
Philip Trampe of bettingexpert.com said: “Confirmation that racing won't resume until Wednesday at the earliest means the sport is now facing one of its biggest crises since foot and mouth in 2001.
“The entire industry including betting, hospitality and ticketing could be facing turnover losses of up to £100 million.”
“Among the casualties are Newbury's ‘Super Saturday' – a key trial day for Cheltenham and usually one of the busiest betting days of the calendar year to date, featuring Cheltenham Gold Cup favourites Native River and Clan Des Obeaux.
“The cancellation of that meeting alone could deprive the betting industry of up to £20 million in lost turnover and it looks unlikely punters switch their interest to racing from Ireland or further afield.”
BHA will make a decision on Monday about whether racing can resume next Wednesday.
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