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Andy Newton’s Saturday Column

Well, it’s certainly been all go this week!

It was actually a bit odd, as I woke up on Thursday morning feeling like I’d gone 10 rounds with Tyson Fury, with full-blown ‘man-flu’ attacking my body, only to turn on my phone and see that racing had been cancelled due to equine flu – what the heck!!

It was a double dose of flu.

However, once the news sunk-in the repercussions of this started to hit home, the equine flu, not mine.

Then, weirdly, I thought, maybe the makers of Lemsip have missed a trick by not bringing out a carrot or polo-flavoured flu drink for horses!

Joking aside, it was pretty clear we weren’t going to get just one blank day of racing. The BHA had to act quickly and ensure this didn’t get out of hand. And we’ve only around a month before the Cheltenham Festival.

Stories of Australia having a similar outbreak in 2007 that shut down their sport for around 4 months, started to filter out.

However, it became apparent that their horses weren’t vaccinated against in the first place. For that reason, it was clear theirs was significantly worse than the threat we are facing. If that is any consolation.

The other positive is, that this equine flu isn’t, in most cases, life threatening to the horse. By all accounts they feel just like we do when we get the dreaded lurgy.

Not sure how they found that out – maybe Mr Ed, the talking horse, told his vet.

But, it’s times like this we can see just how expansive the sport of horse racing is. It impacts so many lives and businesses. Just one ‘no racing’ day, on an average Thursday, is expected to have cost the bookmaking industry upwards of £10 million.

Let me repeat that – more than 10 million pounds loss in one day…

Then, from a personal point of view, I realised this has now affected me too. You’ve got to stay ahead of the game in this business, so, like most weeks, I’d already done the bulk of the work for the top Saturday cards at Newbury and Warwick.

As soon as the news came out from the BHA that we’d not be seeing any British racing until at least next Wednesday it was back to the drawing board.

However, me writing a few new articles is hardly important when you look at the likes of the stable staff, trainers, owners and jockeys that will be losing out over the next few days.

I’m not too fussed about the bookies betting revenue being down, we all know they do alright.

The share price for most of the leading firms took a nose-dive as a result of the news. It would have been a lot worse if this outbreak hadn’t been caught as early as it was, and we’d lost the Cheltenham Festival.

Donald McCain and the BHA Give Yourselves a Pat on the Back

The BHA have had a tough time of it in recent weeks, most notably with the Henry Oliver fining incident, but so far you have to give them credit for the way they’ve dealt with this flu outbreak.

Even the BHA are never going to please everyone. After speaking to Oliver Sherwood midweek, he pointed out they can’t get it right all the time, but there is also an awful lot they do behind the scenes to improve the sport we all love, and they are always trying out new things regarding the safety of the horses.

Only this week, they trialled new hurdles in Lambourn, that were painted in bright colours to test how the horses jump and react to them, in a bid to reduce fallers. These are the kind of things that go unnoticed.

Yes, there is still a lot to do, and a HUGE number of horses to be swab-tested. Trainer Jamie Osborne pointed out, in a recent interview, do they even have enough swab tests in circulation?

While some punters might have been initially angry towards the Donald McCain yard, where this outbreak originated, they also deserve a massive amount of credit for telling the BHA straight away so that it could be quickly contained.

They didn’t ask for three of their horses to get infected, and let’s not forget these horses were actually vaccinated. It could have happened to any yard.

Just like the human version of flu, there are different strains. It looks like this powerful strain has overcome the vaccine. That’s a bit of a worry, as all horses in training have had this protection, and it seems they are still at risk.

However, this just highlights what a good job the McCain yard and BHA have done to act fast, and lockdown stables that came into contact with any of the affected horses over the last week.

Will It Get Any Worse?

At this stage it’s hard to know. Until the majority of horses have been tested no one can be sure. The good news is that it looks like it’s been caught early – but we’ll see.

The bookmaking industry will report lost turnover of around £10m a day during this downtime, and we’ve also waved goodbye to two decent jumping cards at Newbury and Warwick on Saturday.

However, as a punter you have to ask yourself two simple questions:

1. We all love horse racing, so the welfare of all the horses should always come first

2. Would you prefer to lose 4-5 racing days now, or let the action continue with the threat of the outbreak getting worse and impacting on the Cheltenham Festival. The bookmakers won’t be losing £10m a day if the Festival is called-off, more like £100m+ per day.

Surely, it’s a no-brainer!

During times like this it highlights how big the sport of horse racing is, and how many people it affects when it runs into a spot of bother. We can only support the BHA and the stables affected, keep our fingers crossed that things don’t get any worse. T

There are a lot of people whose job it is to get this sorted, and from what I’ve seen and heard with the trainers and stables, everything has been put into place swiftly and efficiently.

Let’s hope!

There is some good news for the weekend racing, Ireland is not affected.

That means we’ve racing at NAAS this Saturday, and even though it’s not the quality of the lost Newbury and Warwick cards, still horses racing!

Even better the boys at ITV have decided to head across the Irish Sea to take-in FIVE races live, one of which is a Mares’ Listed Chase (2:10).

Therefore, in a bid to give you something to go to war with if you are having a bet, I’ve listed some quick-fire trends and stats for the FIVE LIVE races.

I hope they help!

Naas Trends and Stats

1:40 – Cavan Developments Maiden Hurdle (5yo+) 2m ITV4

– Trainer Gordon Elliott took this race 12 months ago

– Trainer E D Delany is 2-from-2 with his hurdlers at the track

– Trainer Paul Nolan is 0-from-17 with his hurdlers at the track

– Trainer A J Martin is 0-from-18 with his hurdlers at the track

2:10 – BBA Ireland Limited Opera Hat Mares Chase (Listed) (5yo+) 2m ITV4

– Trainer Willie Mullins has won two of the last three runnings

– Trainer Willie Mullins has a 27% record with his chasers at the track

– Trainer Gordon Elliott is just 5 from 46 with his chasers at the track

– The last five winners returned 6/1 or shorter in the betting

– Two of the last three favourites won the race

2:40 – EMS Copiers Rated Novice Hurdle (4yo) 2m ITV4

– Trainer Willie Mullins has a 27% record with his hurdlers at the track

– Jockey Mark Walsh has a 28% strike-rate when riding over hurdles at the track

3:10 – O’Driscoll O’Neil Handicap Chase (5yo+ 0-130) 2m4f ITV4

– Trainer Paul Nolan has an 18% record with his chasers at the track

– Trainer Jessie Harrington is 0 from 12 with her chasers at the track

– Jockey Barry Geraghty has a 33% record riding over fences at the track

3:40 – Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Hurdle (4yo+ 80-109) 2m ITV4

– 6 of the last 7 winners were aged 9 or younger

– 5 of the last 7 winners carried 11st or more

– 4 of the last 7 winners returned a double-figure SP

– Trainer P J Rothwell is 0 from 25 with his hurdlers at the track

– Jockey Trevor Ryan is 2 from 7 (29%) riding over hurdles at the track


Have a good weekend.
 
All the best,
Andy Newton
for The Race Advisor

Andy Newton

Andy is a member of the Horse Writers’ Association and an established horse racing expert and tipster. He's been featured in Gambling Online magazine, and as an expert in the Official Wetherbys Cheltenham Festival betting guide since 2011 as well as other leading publications . Andy also has regular columns on easyodds.com, livesport.co.uk and geegeez.co.uk and specializes in big race trends and stats.

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