HORSE racing has been making national headlines in the last few days after the discovery of several cases of equine flu at the training yard of Donald McCain in Cheshire.

All fixtures since last Thursday have been cancelled, including one at Ffos Las on the day the news was announced.

It was one of the most bizarre 24-hour periods in my 20-year career as a racecourse manager.

I had been working at Ffos Las on Wednesday and everything was being prepared as usual for the following day’s race meeting. I stayed close to the course that night but woke up around 4am unable to sleep.

At that point I grabbed my phone (like you do!) and started flicking through my Twitter feed.

I saw a news bulletin issued by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) late on Wednesday evening saying that all fixtures on Thursday had been abandoned because of an outbreak of equine flu. I now thought I was dreaming. A race meeting, which I was supposed to be overseeing, had been cancelled and for the first time ever, I didn’t know anything about it.

The news had broken very late on Wednesday when many people, including me, had gone to bed.

So knowing there was no chance I would get back to sleep, I got dressed and went into the office (joined by our marketing manager and clerk of the course). First of all, we updated the racecourse website, Facebook and Twitter pages. This meant the news would be picked up as people surfaced for the day.

We then started contacting everyone due to work at the race meeting – doctors, ambulance staff, vets, the photographer, catering staff, car parkers, turnstile staff, the race day announcer, etc, etc.

Then, as soon as we got past 8am, we telephoned or e-mailed everyone who had bought tickets for general admission, hospitality or the restaurant. By 9.30am everyone had been contacted.

I then started to liaise with our head office about the implications of the outbreak. I was working in racing in 2001 when Foot and Mouth disease broke out and caused the postponement of lots of meetings, including the Cheltenham Festival. I wondered if it was going to be a similar situation.

The answer was that no-one really knew because there was a lack of a precedent in this country.

It had only been a matter of hours since the news had broken so it was really a waiting game for most of Thursday. I did an interview with Sky Sports Racing on the impact of the news on Ffos Las but there wasn’t much else I could discuss. It was a new situation to me.

That evening, the BHA announced that racing for the next five days was going to be cancelled so tests could be carried out at all the racing yards that could potentially be affected. Racing was due to be resumed on Wednesday, 13th February, should everything be OK.

Over the weekend, the statements from the BHA were positive. No new cases of equine flu had been discovered.

On Monday morning it was announced that some apparently unrelated cases of equine flu had been found in the Newmarket flat racing yard of Simon Crisford. Newmarket is heavily populated with horses and racing yards, so the authorities will be very anxious to contain this outbreak.

No other jump racing stables are apparently affected. As I write, we are waiting for an update from the BHA.

Chepstow’s next meeting is our Six Nations Race Day on Saturday, 23rd February – clearly, we are hoping this situation will be resolved by then. Our website will provide further updates.