THE unwelcome outbreak of equine influenza that placed horse racing into lockdown a fortnight ago is estimated to have cost the industry £5 million, claim reports.

Horse racing in the UK ground to a halt on Thursday, February 7, after the British Horse Racing Authority (BHA) confirmed that three horses in Donald McCain’s yard tested positive for the disease.

Racing didn’t resume on British turf until Wednesday, February 13 – and the total cost of the outbreak is now becoming clear.

It is estimated the sport lost close to £1.2m from its usual levy yield – when taking average quantities, funding for additional race meetings and prize money into account.

In addition, jockeys missed out on an estimated £228,000 in riding fees, agents £29,000 and valets £22,000 – with owners losing £189,000 because of swab testing costs.

Racecourses were hit harder, the loss of 13 meetings at courses owned by Arena Racing Company (ARC) is estimated to have cost between £1.5m and £2m.

Finance direction of ARC, Martin Stevenson, said the stoppage of the sport it its entirety is of no comparison to losing meetings through poor weather.

He said: "At this time of year all-weather racing is important for the industry, but even that closed down. In a period of bad weather that would not have been the case. Stopping completely for an unknown period of time is very difficult and very different compared to losing a few fixtures over the course of a few days.

"However, the decision to stop racing was presumably taken mindful of stopping something worse happening. We are not a million miles off Cheltenham, which is massively important to the industry."

Meanwhile, Jockey Club Racecourses chief executive Paul Fisher revealed the sport would have suffered serious financial implications had the outbreak lasted any longer.

He added: “We (the Jockey Club) would have been looking at a significant loss every week that would have been in the hundreds of thousands of pounds. Like any business, if you don't have money coming in you have an overhead burn.

"While I've been involved with the business, we had foot and mouth in 2001 and then we lost the Wednesday of the Cheltenham Festival because of high winds in 2008.

“Given the risk involved and how financially important they are to us, we have insurance policies on both the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals. Unfortunately, as we all know, once you make a claim the premium goes through the roof.

"We have obviously been keen to get back racing as quickly as possible because as racecourses our role is to get prize-money flushing through the system. Otherwise everybody starts to hurt."

Reports have also estimated that the outbreak cost the booking industry approximately £10 million.