Ireland lifts ban on British-trained runners but no decision on vaccinations

The ban on British-trained runners competing in Ireland following the equine influenza outbreak was lifted on Monday, with Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board chief executive Denis Egan insisting "there was no reason to continue it".

The racing industry in Britain was on Monday night hoping the BHA would come to the same conclusion after six blank days and 23 lost meetings.

A decision on whether racing would resume on Wednesday was due to be made on Monday night – at 10.30pm at the earliest – following a meeting of the BHA’s industry veterinary committee, with the IHRB conclusion to lift the ban on British horses sure to figure in the talks.

British-trained horses are able to race in Ireland with immediate effect, so long as they meet IHRB requirements, which include the Clade 1 vaccine having been given within eight weeks of an intended race.

The feature races in Ireland this weekend include the Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park on Saturday, in which Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Presenting Percy could line up, and the Ladbrokes Boyne Hurdle at Navan on Sunday. Entries for all Irish weekend races are made on Tuesday.

Explaining the decision to lift the British ban, Egan said: "I suppose, the way we looked at it, there was no reason to continue it provided that British-trained horses meet the same requirements as the Irish horses.

"We brought the ban in last week because we didn't know the extent of the problem in Britain. Now we know how things are over there we're quite happy to lift the restriction, provided the horses comply with the same requirements as our own."

While that development is a hugely positive one amid the equine flu turbulence, there continues to be much negativity surrounding the revamping of vaccination protocols.

Trainers were holding talks with the IHRB into the evening on Monday over what they claim to be an unreasonable overhaul of protocols introduced by chief veterinary officer Dr Lynn Hillyer.

No horse who has not been vaccinated within the previous eight weeks will be permitted to race in Ireland, according to updated guidelines issued last week. 

Leading trainer Ger Lyons is not alone in arguing that vaccinating horses every two months, instead of once a year, is the wrong approach, labelling the requirement "overkill".

He said: "I have no problem with a six-month booster. I vaccinated all of mine Christmas week so I don’t see the need to vaccinate now, and I wouldn’t like to because it makes them sick.

"If, for example, I'd vaccinated mine in August, I'd have no problem giving mine a booster now, if that was what’s recommended, but vaccinating every eight weeks seems to be overkill, and I'd be worried about that."

Lyons continued: "It's not ideal. I'm sure a lot of the worry at the moment is with Cheltenham in mind, and I’m hoping that, sooner rather than later, everything will be back to normal.

"I wouldn't be in favour of vaccinating every two months. That would be borderline ridiculous.

"Hopefully, after today’s meeting, they will see sense. At the minute it’s just one vet’s opinion."

The IHRB wasn't in a position to confirm whether or not it would be altering its vaccination protocols, but suggested an announcement would be made on Tuesday. 

Hillyer said: "We're working through our press release now. There are a few further decisions that need to be made so we’re not in a position to comment on that yet."

Hillyer went on to reveal that a second yard in Ireland had tested positive for equine flu, but she rejected any suggestion a lockdown should have been imposed.

She said: “There are a number of thoroughbred yards involved but they are not in lockdown. We didn’t impose a regulatory lockdown position at all. The Irish Equine Centre is dealing with those racing yards directly.

"I deliberately don't know the yards and deal anonymously with the veterinary surgeons involved. There are two yards that have had recent cases. One is coming out the other end of it, while the other is in the middle of it."

She added: "Describing the yards to be in lockdown isn’t quite appropriate as that implies a regulatory lockdown in the same way the BHA has been operating, but we do not operate like that over here."