Queen Expresses Concern Over Racing's Return Despite Disease

The Mail On Sundaynewspaper in Britain reported the Queen, who owns and breeds horses and has her own racecourse, Ascot, thinks that the sport should be suspended while the foot and mouth outbreak continues.

The British Horseracing Board confirmed that the Queen has expressed her concern. Tristram Ricketts, secretary general of the BHB, said: "Last week Her Majesty the Queen expressed her concern that racing should consider its response to the foot and mouth outbreak very carefully, but has not asked for horseracing to stop.

"In view of The Queen's personal involvement in racing, the BHB has kept Her Majesty fully informed of racing's response to the foot and mouth
outbreak and explained the reasons why the BHB is, with government support, maintaining a controlled racing program within Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Foods endorsed guidelines," Ricketts continued. "Racing always takes place in a strongly regulated environment, which lends itself to the introduction of enforceable precautionary measures.

"BHB and the Jockey Club have worked closely with government officials to draw up instructions for the staging of racing to ensure the risk of spreading foot and mouth disease remains negligible," the BHB spokesman said. "Government and racing's scientific and veterinary advice remains that racing can go ahead with these strict precautions in place. If that advice were to change, naturally BHB would review the situation immediately. BHB has a responsibility to all those individuals and businesses who are dependent on the racing industry, which would be very seriously damaged if all racing were to be suspended."

The BHB suspended racing for seven days when the outbreak started in February but racing then resumed, although not at a full level since various courses have decided not to race in sympathy with farmers in their locality or because they are in a foot and mouth exclusion zone.

The Queen Mother went to Sandown Park races on March 10.

In further clarifying the British racing regulators' stance on foot and mouth disease, Peter Savill, the chairman of the British Horseracing Board, both defended the stance of British racing's ruling body to keep racing going and the actions of the race planning department in its dealings with racecourses.

In a television interview Saturday, Savill said: "I think what the race planning department is desperately trying to do is to provide a proper and clear program of racing. It's very difficult for trainers to be thinking about running a horse at a racecourse that six days before it is due to run decides that it's not going to race for whatever reason.

"The race planning department has decided -- rightly in my opinion -- that they have to be clear as to whether racecourses are going to run or they're not going to run so that we can put replacement fixtures on at courses that are willing to run, in place of the ones that aren't," Savill continued. "We're not passing judgement on them. We fully accept that if they have local sensitivities then it is ultimately their decision not to race But what we can't do is have four or five days before every race meeting the boards meeting to decide 'shall we run this meeting or not?' and then starting to consider things like 'it's an Easter Monday meeting so maybe we ought to because our crowds are three times the size'. We need to have clear indications for those courses as to whether they are planning on racing well in advance so that we can run a proper racing program."

Smaller rural courses in particular have been keen to avoid angering their local farming communities during this the foot and mouth outbreak which shows no signs of slowing down. There were at least 25 confirmed new cases of foot and mouth in Britain Sunday, bringing the total to at least 323.

Savill stressed that it was right to resume racing after a seven-day break, despite criticism from various quarters. He argued "The Ministry of Agriculture would not allow anything to take place that is going to jeopardize getting this disease under control. So when they've made the decision that is safe for racing to continue and they've made that decision on the basis of veterinary evidence in front of them.

"If the Ministry of Agriculture says it's all right and if the veterinary evidence says it's all right we have an industry which employs 100,000 people that would lose £60 million a month if we closed down. It would be irresponsible for me as chairman of the BHB to advocate that we should do it," Savill said. "I think the racing industry is going to eventually be seen as being the leaders in the foot and mouth disease area because we have established procedures which it is now quite clear other sports and other racing industries around Europe are going to follow.

"Having got these things in place we resumed racing absolutely rightly and we are in a position where having resumed racing with those guidelines in place and with no evidence from MAFF or scientific evidence to show we shouldn't be racing we absolutely have an obligation to our industry to continue."

He rejected criticism of the BHB's handling of the crisis, particularly in the initial stages, when he was away in America on business, and said that he was now providing strong leadership.

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