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Relief as racing returns in wake of flu lockdown

 

Back in action: Little Boy Boru wins at Plumpton yesterday
Back in action: Little Boy Boru wins at Plumpton yesterday

By Graham Clark

A midweek meeting at Plumpton would rarely register with the wider world - but to a racing nation rocked by the six-day shutdown for equine flu, yesterday's return to normality really mattered.

Not since Ulster legend AP McCoy claimed his 3,000th winner aboard Restless D'Artaix in 2009 has Plumpton been in the spotlight quite as it was yesterday.

The past week had seemed like an eternity away from the sport for so many, with meetings cancelled and more than 170 yards put on lockdown since last Thursday.

The British Horseracing Authority took decisive action after three cases of equine influenza, rising to six, were found at the yard of Donald McCain.

But just under a week later, finally racing was able to swing back into action at four courses around the country - including Plumpton, in rural Sussex.

There may have been no Grade One action for punters to feast their eyes on, with the best prize on offer a Class Three novices' handicap chase - but to the track's leading trainer Gary Moore, the return of any racing was a huge relief.

"It had to be given the go-ahead - and I can't believe we got into this situation," he said.

"I'm glad we are back, because it seemed a bit drastic. The Irish letting British runners over helped - plus they carried on there and in France, where a yard that had to be tested had a runner over the weekend."

If Plumpton had been due to race at the start of the week, as it habitually is, local trainer Moore would not have been able to welcome his sport back on his doorstep.

"Thank God that Plumpton was on a Wednesday, and not a Monday like it normally is," he added.

"Meetings like this and those at Fontwell and Lingfield are our bread-and-butter meetings, and ones where we often have winners, so they mean more when they are called off.

"We are not all lucky enough to have good horses that can always run at big meetings - and these types of meetings are good for us, without going a million miles away."

There is no denying how much the decision made by the BHA late on Monday, to get racing back on the road again, meant to jockeys.

Grade One-winning rider Wayne Hutchinson said: "I did spend some time with the family - which I normally wouldn't get to do at this time of year - but I am delighted racing is back up and running."

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