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Major Horse Flu Outbreak Stops Indian Racing

Friday, 31st October 2008

In Mumbai "a major viral epidemic has affected close to 400 race horses across the state, forcing organisers to delay the start of the racing season at Mahalaxmi," reported The Times Of India. Officials of the Royal Western India Turf Club announced the season (which was to start on November 16) "has now been indefinitely delayed". Over 900 thoroughbreds take part in the races that annually run from November-April, "however insiders reveal nearly 40% of the horses are down with equine influenza in stables at Pune" (the alternate track to Mumbai/Bombay for the RWITC). The newspaper noted "the illness causes respiratory problems along with high fever, wheezing & a running nose". RWITC chairman of stewards Vivek Jain confirmed: "The delay will cause some inconvenience, but we do not wish to speculate on the likely losses." Veterinarian Dr Amit Sharma revealed: "The viral condition of equine influenza was earlier detected among horses used for joy rides in Matheran. Our team of doctors had camped there to provide medical aid." Sharma said it "normally took 2 weeks for the horses to recover from the illness, which is fast spreading across the country & has also been seen in Delhi & parts of Uttar Pradesh". Veteran rider Abbas Jasdanwalla confirmed "most of the thoroughbreds were ill at the stud farms in Pune". Meanwhile indiarace.com reported Delhi Race Club stewards "have decided to cancel the races scheduled for November 1, 4 & 6" due to "the prevailing viral fever which has already trapped most of the horses". The website added "the mystery virus continues to strike race horses in Pune" & warned: "With a sizeable number of horses struck down with fever, there is definitely alarm in the ranks if not panic."

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