The Racing Hub Round-up: the week’s top stories
Your weekly round-up of top racing stories
Racing and Racecourses
Plans for racing’s resumption have been issued by the BHA, with the priority being to ensure that racing is ready to restart at the earliest appropriate opportunity.
Current planning for resumption is based on a phased approach, which will allow the sport to transition back to a normal fixture list in a controlled way that is consistent with what is likely to be a gradual easing of Government restrictions.
The BHA says a full range of possible scenarios is being considered, from the very strictest public health and quarantine measures, through to racing behind closed doors, and finally a return to racing with no specific measures in place.
These models can be adapted as circumstances require and will allow for horses to race under strictly controlled conditions, at locations which meet specific criteria. These criteria are in the process of being finalised by the Resumption Group.
A key consideration in this planning is minimising the risk of injury and incident so that the burden on local NHS and medical services is not increased.
Fixture list and race planning
The BHA’s current planning, informed by the decision of its board, is being done on the basis of ruling no date out, so racing can be ready to return at the earliest point conditions allow. One of the scenarios being considered would allow for the resumption of Flat racing behind closed doors with a revised fixture list of a reduced number of fixtures, once the lockdown ends.
The constraint on fixture numbers is a result of the likelihood that not all racecourses will be able to race behind closed doors or meet specific criteria around risk mitigation. Moreover, with no income from crowds and betting shops potentially still closed, there will be a greater reliance on the Levy Board for prize money.
This will limit the fixtures which they can afford to stage, and also inevitably impact on prize money values.
The BHA anticipates that in the early stage of resumption, field sizes will need to be restricted to support the logistics of social distancing on a raceday and to minimise the risk of incidents. For the same reason, it is possible that for a while they will avoid races for apprentices.
The BHA recognises that a restricted fixture list will limit early opportunities to race. To help overcome this, they plan to extend fixtures beyond the normal number of races, possibly by staging more divisions than usual.
In addition, they are looking at other options, including:
- Framing handicap races with non-standard rating bands (eg instead of staging handicaps with a maximum rating of 70 and 75, also having some with a maximum rating of 71, 72, 73 or 74)
- Changing handicap eligibility rules so that more horses can be eligible for a rating after two starts
- Possibly staging some maiden races for unrated horses who keep finding themselves being eliminated from standard novice and maiden events.
Plans are also being developed for a jumps programme from 1 July, which will be largely based on the original programme book. Trainers are currently being asked for details of the horses they expect to have ready to run at that time so that appropriate revisions to the programme can be made.
2020 Flat Pattern Programme
As with the wider race planning, the BHA are developing a plan to ensure that a suitable Pattern programme will be in place. This will involve prioritising the scheduling of the Classics, as well as the other key races which are aimed at horses most likely to provide a future fundamental role on behalf of the breed.
The BHA be looking to ensure that the best horses have suitable opportunities to develop and demonstrate the best of their abilities within an appropriate and meaningful structure of races, something which will require the cooperation, flexibility and mutual understanding of many parties.
The best-case scenario planning would allow for the Guineas to be run in early June, and the Derby and Oaks in early July, with Royal Ascot still scheduled to take place in its existing slot commencing on 16 June. In this scenario, the BHA would also be looking to stage several key Classic trials, and other trial races feeding into Royal Ascot, during the second half of May. They emphasise that a later restart would require these plans to be adjusted accordingly.
Some of the principal Group 1 races for older horses may be required to move to a slightly different date, especially in order to accommodate the early Classic races, and it may prove sensible to alter one or two of them to 4+ (from 3+) if their proximity to a key three-year-old event is closer than ideal.
It is unlikely that the entire black type programme will be staged this year. However, regardless of the circumstances, the BHA will ensure that the key generation-defining races will be run, as well as safeguarding the Group 1 programme as much as possible.
Again, this outline structure (and its likely condensed nature) will need to be based on what is collectively best for the thoroughbred and the industry as a whole. And as with the wider race programme, it is contingent on external factors and will need to be adapted based on what’s feasible in terms of when racing can commence and in what form.
The BHA says: “By planning effectively now, we can demonstrate to Government that the sport has a coordinated and practicable strategy for resumption; one that is deliverable and mitigates risk.
“The BHA, acting on behalf of the industry-wide Public Affairs Group and alongside other sports, is liaising with Government on a daily basis to show how racing can resume in a safe and responsible way, when it’s appropriate to do so.
A combined £22m cashflow and hardship funding package to support British racing during the coronavirus outbreak has been announced by The Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB) and the Racing Foundation.
HBLB’s contribution focuses on racecourses with the Racing Foundation’s main concern is the hardship issues faced by racing’s participants, both human and equine. Both bodies will contribute to a loan fund for racecourses.
♦ Full details at Racing Hub News Update http://wp.me/P8e3Dl-Mx
Middleham trainer Mark Johnston has tested positive for coronavirus and is in isolation, with wife Deirdre reporting on Friday that she hoped he had turned a corner having been “really poorly”.
Johnston, who holds the record for having more winners than any other British trainer and who last year broke the record for the most Flat winners in a calendar year, has been ill since last week.
He told the website Horse Racing Planet that he “didn’t want to make a meal of it.
“Other people are a lot worse off than I am; other people have bigger problems so you don’t want to blow it up.”
His son Angus said on Racing TV at the weekend: “He had a couple of days in bed, but was back up yesterday and is starting to move around.
“He’s eager to get back to work, mum is having to put the brakes on him and telling him to keep calm, Charlie (Johnston) is doing an amazing job of running things as normal. All the horses are getting out and everything is running really smoothly.”
His wife Deirdre said: “I think he turned a corner… He’s been really, really poorly, it’s been very scary.
“We went into lockdown last Tuesday night, that’s when his temperature was up above 39. We organised a test in the hope that it wasn’t that and that we could all go back to work.
“This was when he wasn’t too bad, he had a temperature and a little bit of a cough, but he was still doing emails and everything else and he didn’t seem too bad. But by Sunday he was just terrible and he has been in bed ever since.”
Jamie Spencer has broken a hip after an accident on the Newmarket Gallops.
The 39-year old jockey, who was riding out for trainer David Simcock, was taken to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge
Simcock said: “It was one of those unfortunate things. A horse was walking along and slipped.
“It looked a very innocuous fall – my wife saw it happen and she said it was like slow motion – but he landed all wrong. We’re so conscious of horses getting fresh and this happened after exercise and he couldn’t have been quieter.
“Jamie was in a lot of pain but he was always in good spirits.”
Jockey Tom Marquand, who had completed an Australian Group 1 double for trainer William Haggas when winning the Queen Elizabeth Stakes on Addeybb at Randwick, was fined A$2,000 for breaking social-distance rules.
The 21-year-old received the fine for celebrating with Addeybb’s groom Safid Alam, who was fined A$500.
Shamardal, dual Champion racehorse and a leading light on the Darley stallion roster for well over 10 years, has sadly been euthanised at Kildangan Stud as a result of health issues. He was 18.
♦ Full tribute to Shamardal in News Update http://wp.me/P8e3Dl-Mx
Betting and Bookmakers
HMRC has lost an appeal against Betfred in a case concerning the treatment of VAT payments on FOBTs. The bookmaker said they had incorrectly paid VAT on their winnings from FOBTs between 2005 and 2013 because the same or similar games played online or in casinos were exempt from the tax.
A First-tier Tax Tribunal considered that almost all the FOBT games were sufficiently similar and should not be treated differently for VAT purposes, and found in Betfred’s favour.
An appeal by HMRC to the Upper Tribunal has now been dismissed and may result in millions of pounds being refunded to betting shops. However, HMRC could again appeal, with a spokesperson saying: “HMRC is considering carefully the Upper Tribunal decisions before deciding on next steps.”.
A Betfred spokesperson said: “This is an historical tax case where the Upper Tribunal has agreed with the original court decision in July 2018 that licensed betting offices were wrongly charged VAT on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals between 2005 and 2013 before the introduction of machine games duty.
“We will not be making any further comment as HMRC is still able to seek permission to have an appeal on the matter heard by the Court of Appeal.”
Should there be a further appeal, it is possible that a final outcome could still be years away.
The Betting Shop Manager of the Year for 2020 has been cancelled its organisers the Racing Post and SIS have announced.