Danedream denied Arc defence by infection scare


Disaster struck Danedream last night when her defence of Europe's richest prize was derailed by an outbreak of an infection at her local racecourse. Officials said that the filly, who had been due to return to Paris on Sunday as one of the favourites for the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, will not be allowed to travel. In the bigger picture, the outbreak of Equine Infectious Anaemia (EIA) is a calamity for the German racing industry.

Betfair suspended betting on the race at the first suggestions that the filly would be quarantined after a horse at Cologne racecourse tested positive for EIA, a highly contagious disease known as "swamp fever". The German racing authority posted a notice expressing "deep regret" that Danedream would not be permitted to defend the trophy, but a spokesman for the filly's owners told a trade newspaper they had not yet given up hope. "It is concerning and serious," Patrick Barbe said. "But we hope it is sorted quickly and Danedream can travel."

The Cologne racecourse general manager, Benedikt Fassbender, seemed to dash those hopes: "It's a nightmare," he said. "We are the biggest training centre in Germany and one horse has tested positive for EIA. For three months we are now in quarantine. It is a disaster, especially as Danedream cannot take part in the Arc at the orders of the special vets. She has not been infected, but every horse will be tested in the next few days."

Zero tolerance seemed guaranteed. Swamp fever is an equine equivalent of HIV, attacking the immune system, often fatally. There is no vaccine or cure. Horses with EIA do not always exhibit symptoms, remain infectious for life, and must duly be destroyed.

Blood-sucking insects, such as horse flies, are the most common agents of the virus, but it can also be transmitted through contaminated blood, instruments or needles. Outbreaks can be successfully kept under control, as when four non-thoroughbreds tested positive in Britain in 2010.

Trained by Peter Schiergen, Danedream was a shock winner last year, at 27-1, but has continued to thrive since, winning the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in July. Betfair's market remained suspended but Ladbrokes removed Danedream from their betting and made the Japanese raider Orfevre 3-1 favourite from 4-1.

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