THE foot-and-mouth epidemic has claimed a national sporting event due to go ahead in the North-East next month.

The All England Whippet Derby was due to take place in Newton Aycliffe over the Easter weekend, April 14 and 15.

Organisers who brought the event to the town were delighted at the coup, but have had to admit defeat.

But they are insisting that the event has not been cancelled, just postponed, and that they are still hoping it can go ahead at a later date.

Alan Courtney, deputy leader of Great Aycliffe Town Council, said: "The Derby is off - I'm gutted about it, but there's nothing we can do."

The decision was made before the news of the first case of foot-and-mouth in the Spennymoor area, confirmed at Low House Farm in Middlestone Moor, owned by Michael Jewitt.

Cattle from the farm have been destroyed and will be buried as recommended by the Environment Agency.

Mr Jewitt said the disease had not spread to his other business, Jewitt's Abattoir in Spennymoor.

Mr Jewitt said: "The animals have had no contact with the abattoir and all the staff are totally separate.''

The abbatoir can still keep trading but is unable to kill animals for the next 21 days because it is within three kilometres of an infected area.