Matt Chapman: Keep calm & carry on – racing will survive this equine flu scare

There's still plenty of racing in Ireland and around the globe as the UK faces 'lockdown' until next Wednesday and Matt's looking on the bright side ...

So there’s no racing in the UK until at least Wednesday of next week – and I suspect it will be a bit longer than that.

Just in case you live on planet Mars, a quick reminder that equine influenza was discovered in three horses at the Donald McCain yard on Wednesday evening. As a result, shortly after I left Wolverhampton at about 8.30pm, the British Horse Racing Authority (BHA) put racing in shutdown.

Some might say why close an industry that employs getting on for 100,000 people and dishes out in the region of £3.5b to the economy when three horses have a bit of flu?


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But of course it’s not as simple as that. Equine flu spreads fast, and if it flies from horse to horse quickly in a very short space of time it goes from being a small problem to a monster issue.

I believe BHA has made the right decision, but now speed is of the essence.

Cheltenham is just five weeks away, and last year’s Gold Cup hero Native River was set to have a prep at Newbury on Saturday before trying to retain his crown. He would have met the King George winner Clan des Obeaux.

If BHA can resume racing quickly, then us racing fans can get back to the job of thinking about Cheltenham asap. What would be unbearable is for Cheltenham to be cancelled. And for all fans a short-term loss can be coped with, for a long-term gain.

Of course for punters the show goes on, and there are currently no issues in Ireland. ITV will show five races from Naas on Saturday. And there will be the normal Opening Show at 9.30am.

Added to that, racing is beamed into betting shops from around the globe. So if having a flutter is your thing then you will still have plenty of opportunity.

The welfare of horses is obviously crucial. So just be patient.

If nothing else, racing is at least being talked about. I was on Good Morning Britain on Friday morning, and there won’t be many occasions Naas races has been discussed on that show before.

I was also on Sky Sports News Thursday. Nick Rust, the BHA chief executive, was on the ITV morning show with me.

So don’t get too downhearted. The game will be back up and running very soon – and as strong as ever.

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