The Racing Hub Round-up: the week’s top stories
Your weekly round-up of top racing stories in a nutshell
Racing and Racecourses
Racing’s steering group coordinating work to respond to the coronavirus outbreak has published its operational plan setting out work currently underway.
The purpose of the plan, which has been approved by representatives of the BHA, the Horsemen’s Group and Racecourse Association, is to protect the health of British racing’s people, horses and businesses during the pandemic and plan for the earliest possible resumption of racing and a strong recovery.
The plan sets out objectives for five key streams of work: finance, people, equine health and welfare, resumption and recovery.
In relation the resumption of racing, the industry is already developing options to get back to racing when it is safe to do so. It is critical, says the operational plan, that those within the sport can look forward and plan for a positive future.
“Racing proposes to work with the government to develop creative solutions to resume when that is possible. To do this, racing will need to maintain racecourses in the right condition and fill critical roles at a race-day, including doctors and paramedics. It will need horses fit to race and jockeys ready to ride. We are planning a revised fixture programme that will be flexible enough to respond to local variations in the provision of health services and continuing government restrictions.”
The plan goes on to say “We cannot yet set out a timetable for resumption. No one can. Our ability to keep resources in place, horses exercised and ready to return to action, will be tested. The industry’s leaders would like to give more certainty over dates, but it is too early to do so at present.
Concerning recovery, the plan says:
“Responding to the crisis, addressing hardship and keeping the industry afloat, will use resources. These include funds which can be made available from the Racing Foundation. This manages the endowment from the sale of the Tote and is looking to combine its contribution with support from other charitable trusts and funds.
“This will provide multi-million-pound support for any charitable activity required. The Horserace Betting Levy Board also holds reserves and discussions are underway about how these should best be used.
“With no timetable, it is very difficult to calculate what will be required to alleviate hardship. Industry leaders also need to ensure there are sufficient funds ready to restart racing when revenues will not immediately return to the levels seen before the pandemic.
“Businesses and bodies involved in racing are putting staff on furlough, using the Coronavirus Job Retention Programme. This may create challenges for the sport’s infrastructure, depending on how long the crisis continues. We need to ensure we have sufficient resource in place to maintain our assets through what seems likely to be a gradual return to normality.”
The plan will structure and drive the work going forward and be used as a template for reporting back to senior leaders, the industry and external stakeholders as and when required.
The British Horseracing Authority has agreed an emergency financial plan to cut its costs to the industry by up to a million pounds a month whilst the coronavirus outbreak continues. Under the plan, agreed by the BHA Board, the majority of its staff – nearly 80% – will be stood down from work for now using the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
Under the plan, the BHA will keep critical functions ticking over so that it can respond in an agile and flexible way as the crisis allows. At the same time, it will take maximum advantage of the Job Retention Scheme to minimise costs for the industry.
Key elements of the financial plan include:
- More than 200 of the BHA’s 260 staff to stop work – most of these are race-day officials, but staff from 75 High Holborn, including GBR and GBRI, are also affected
- Salary reductions for all BHA staff, applied equally to those working or not working and will also be kept under review – board salaries are also reduced
- A programme of cost savings linked to a reduction in the normal activity supporting and administering racing – the BHA is in discussion with suppliers
- The pausing of most projects, including the consultation on use of the whip
In addition, the BHA announced that entry fees have been refunded and other fees to participants dropped where possible
In total, the financial plan should save nearly £1m a month, representing a third of the BHA’s normal monthly budget.
Peter Beaumont, who trained Gold Cup winner Jodami, has died at the age of 85.
As well as winning the 1993 Cheltenham Festival highlight, Jodami also won three consecutive Irish Gold Cups.
Other notable winners were J-J Henry, who was ridden to victory by his daughter Anthea Morshead in the 1991 Topham Chase over the National fences, Young Kenny in the Scottish Grand National and Hussard Collonges.in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham.
Prior to becoming a trainer in Yorkshire, Beaumont was a farmer, and he had been retired for 10 tears.
The head of security at the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, Chris Gordon, has won his defamation case against the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association in the Irish High Court.
In a unanimous verdict, Gordon was awarded damages of €300,000 and his costs in a case where costs have exceeded €1m.
Further details can be found on the Racing Hub’s News Update at http://www.theracinghub.com/update/
The Micky Hammond trained Cornerstone, who won the Fighting Fifth but flopped in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, is likely to go novice chasing.
“Obviously he didn’t run his race, and we don’t know why – he was perfectly OK afterwards,” said the Middleham trainer on the horse being pulled up.
“It’s the first poor race he’s run over hurdles. If we’d finished midfield you could have said, ‘that’s as good as we are’ – but we stopped too quickly.
“It wasn’t his day, but he’s had a good season. That’s racing, you’re going to get that every now and again – he just chose to do it on the biggest one of all.”
“I haven’t discussed next season with (owner) Mrs Lofthouse, but I would think we’ll be going novice chasing.
“He will at some stage run on the Flat, but that is all up in the air now.”
Betting and Bookmakers
The merger between Flutter Entertainment, the Betfair and Paddy Power owner, and the Stars Group, owner of Sky Bet, has been approved by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority.
Flutter’s £10 billion acquisition of Stars was announced last October and the competition watchdog began an investigation into the deal early in February.
They found that there would not be less favourable odds or fewer promotions resulting from the merger due to strong competition for punters from such competitors as William Hill and Bet365.
Other regulators where the two companies operate have offered conditional approval for the merger, but delays have occurred due to coronavirus outbreak.
The Horseracing Bettors Forum (HBF) has established a register which shows the degree of protection of funds being claimed by various betting companies, and also shows the Gambling Commission’s categorisation:
- Not protected: Money in these accounts will be seen as port of the business if it went bust
- Medium protected: there are arrangements, eg insurance, to make sure that money in separate accounts is given to customers if the business goes bust
- High: Customers’ money is held in an account which is legally and in practice separate from the rest of the company. The account is controlled by a sperate person or independent auditor.
Details of the register can be found on the Racing Hub’s News Update at http://www.theracinghub.com/update/
Media and Marketing
ITV Racing will fill the gap left by the cancelled Grand National with a computer-simulated Virtual Grand National to be broadcast live at 5pm on Saturday, the day the race was scheduled to be run.
It will use the latest CGI technology, and feature the 40 horses and riders who were most likely to run at Aintree.