Equine flu: Trainers welcome racing return after six-day shutdown

Horses at Simon Crisford's stables
Horses at Simon Crisford's Newmarket stables - one of two yards with infected animals

Trainers have welcomed the return of racing on Wednesday after a six-day shutdown because of equine flu.

Four meetings will take place after the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) gave the go-ahead late on Monday night.

There are afternoon jumps fixtures at Plumpton in Sussex and Scottish track Musselburgh, plus all-weather fixtures at Southwell and at Kempton Park (Surrey) in the evening.

The first race on British soil since 6 February will be at Southwell.

The apprentice handicap is due off at 14:00 GMT at the Nottinghamshire course.

A 'risk-managed' return has been introduced by the BHA after two racing stables had cases, involving a total of 10 horses with the highly contagious virus.

New rules mean horses must have been vaccinated within the last six months, rather than within the year, which has ruled several runners out of racing over the next few days.

Trainer Paul Nicholls said there had been no issues at his Somerset stables and Clan Des Obeaux would run in the rescheduled Denman Chase at Ascot on Saturday.

He said the King George VI Chase winner, who is about 10-1 third favourite for next month's Cheltenham Gold Cup, is "very well".

"We've not missed any work. The horses were all vaccinated as normal just before Christmas so it hasn't affected us at all," said the 10-times champion trainer.

"I don't know if it [the shutdown] was right or wrong. We will learn lessons from it and it's just good we are racing again."

Jonjo O'Neill says he is trying to find a suitable prep race for his Grand National contender Minella Rocco after 23 fixtures were called off during the shutdown.

"It was a shock to everybody really. Thank God ours all came back clean from tests," he said.

"If you go to any school in the country at this time of year, you are going to find kids with a bit of flu.

"Did we react or not overreact? I'm not qualified to answer that."

Free entry is being offered to racegoers at Scottish track Musselburgh to mark the return of racing, while complimentary buses to the course near Edinburgh are also being laid on from Newcraighall and Wallyford train stations.

Wednesday race times

14:00-16:30 GMT Southwell - six races

14:10-16:45 GMT Plumpton - six races

14:20-16:55 GMT Musselburgh - six races

17:15-20:15 GMT Kempton - seven races

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