We woke on the morning of 7 February to the dramatic news that racing was shutting down with immediate effect.
It appears that the British Horseracing Authority’s (BHA) latest import, Australian Brant Dunshea, was fully on the case and, with the backing of his board, they decided that racing must cease for at least one week.
Time will tell if it was a wise move but, personally, I think a week was long enough — after nearly 5,000 swabs, only a handful of cases were found to contain flu symptoms.
But we must take this flu epidemic very seriously, because there are so many unvaccinated horses in this country and cases are continuing to be found — for some it could be deadly.
Common sense must prevail and all horses, across every sport, should have a certificate to confirm that they have been vaccinated. The BHA has been advising racehorse trainers to boost our horses after six months from their last flu vaccination, and we were warned about this back in January.
The BHA were right to allow racing to resume and they were right to demand a booster — all horses due to run at any racecourse must have had a booster within six months, and those who needed one were not able to race for six days.
That caught many trainers out. Along with the majority, I vaccinate my horses for flu over the summer, so they have time to get over any side effects.
Racing’s shutdown hit the headlines in a very big way. There was more media coverage than if the Grand National winner had head-butted his trainer in the winner’s enclosure. It’s said that all publicity is good, even when it’s bad, and with the amount racing has had recently, hopefully more people — who don’t usually watch it — might have read about the sport we all treasure. Let’s hope some good has come out of all of this.
A quality weekend
Last Saturday (16 February) threw up some of the best racing seen on TV for a long time.
Paul Nicholls sent out 24 runners on Saturday, 16 February, and returned home with eight winners — some tally when you see the quality of races he won.
At Ascot, he sent out Clan Des Obeaux to win the rearranged Denman Chase, while Cyrname demolished a top field of chasers in the Betfair Ascot Chase and not just by a length or two, but a whopping 17.
Paul then added three more at Ascot — all bar one were ridden by his new stable jockey Harry Cobden, who is riding with unshakable confidence.
Paul has shifted through a fair few jockeys in his time. Sam Twiston-Davies might have moved on from the top job, but it has not stopped him riding at his best. Now based with his father, he too showed class when riding Al Dancer to perfection to win the hugely competitive Betfair Hurdle — he was so confident he took a pull jumping the second last.
Coneygree bowed out at Ascot — the old boy has been retired after pulling up on Saturday. He will be fondly remembered for winning the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup and will remain forever in the hearts of his owner/trainers Mark and Sara Bradstock and jockey Nico de Boinville — Coneygree helped put all of them on the map. And we must not forget that the horse was bred by one of racing’s legends, Lord Oaksey.
Ref Horse & Hound; 21 February 2019