Horse RacingJump Racing

Nicky Henderson: “I have a team of six vets coming to take nasal swabs”

February 7, 2019

WITH REGARD to the outbreak of Equine Influenza, I can only say I woke up this morning to what you can only call a thunder bolt which has completely shaken the racing world.

Amazingly, I actually went to the doctors surgery in Lambourn at 9:30am this morning for a flu vaccination, for the first time ever, which has to be the most ironic timing. I literally watched a whole load of horses school at 7:30am this morning before heading to my GP for the vaccination so you really couldn’t write a more appropriate script!

However, this is a very serious matter and the repercussions could be bad for everyone in the game and therefore these are extremely worrying times.

We are involved because we had runners at Ludlow yesterday so we’re not allowed to run anything tomorrow or make any entries, but the two horses that ran (at Ludlow) yesterday were taken out of the yard straight away at 7am this morning well away from Seven Barrows and are isolated on their own away from everyone else.

We’ve had to take serious measures to ensure all of our horses are healthy so I have a team of six vets coming to Seven Barrows at 6am tomorrow to take nasal swabs from every single horse in the yard and once completed we will transport the swabs to Newmarket ourselves so they will be in the lab as soon as is humanely possible which means we should get the results extremely promptly. I have had long discussions with our excellent team of vets and been advised to wait 48 hours from the time the first horse was diagnosed to get a true reading, which is why we can’t do it today.

This winter has been very mild and the weather has been particularly up and down and I remember saying in my Unibet blog a few weeks ago how we needed a good few frosts to kill off all the germs. The horses we have run have performed well but we’ve always said that some of them had a few little sniffles and weren’t quite 100% so we didn’t run them; that’s not to say they had Equine Flu, there’s quite a big difference between EI and a runny nose, but it’s been a lingering concern and something we’ve had to keep on top of.

All of my horses seem absolutely fine, and none of them are down in the dumps. We schooled a whole host of them this morning including Santini who was brilliant and Angel’s Breath jumped five hurdles yesterday and you’ve never seen a horse faster in your life – he was like an arrow, so it’s particularly disappointing that he doesn’t get to run at Huntingdon, but the thing to remember is that this is no-one’s fault and we just have to wait and see what findings the BHA come up with before we even think about racing resuming.

The likes of Altior, Buveur D’Air, Might Bite, Top Notch, Birchdale et al all live pretty much next door to each other and are perfectly alright but they will all get swabbed like the rest of the squad.

They are going to test over 1000 horses so we’ve got to accept it will take some time before we know the results but things like this mustn’t be rushed so we just have to sit and wait until advised what the next step will be.

Looking to the weekend, I can’t see that we will be able to run any horses, and I’d guess it will be the same for Paul Nicholls, Dan Skelton, Colin Tizzard, Philip Hobbs etc who all had runners at Ludlow so the racing would very much be depleted IF racing was able to go ahead, although I fear Newbury is in a horrible position.

Normal service will continue at Seven Barrows, we’re in full flow, but obviously I can’t welcome any visitors to the yard so have had to cancel the Hot To Trot Racing Club who were due to come tomorrow but we’ll keep going as normal and await instructions from the BHA and it goes without saying our single most priority is the health and welfare of each and every single horse.

Nicky