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OISIN MURPHY BANNED FOR 3 MONTHS AFTER POSITIVE DRUG TEST

27 November: Jockey Oisin Murphy has been banned for three months by French racing authority France Galop stewards following a positive urine test for metabolites of cocaine.

He could have been looking at six-month ban but the stewards took into account evidence for a hair test and Murphy’s testament that he was contaminated after having sex with a person, whom Murphy refused to identify, who it was later discovered was a cocaine user.

The dual champion jockey, who can appeal against the decision, will be suspended from 11 December to 21 March 2 inclusive, and France Galop will expect the ban to be reciprocated in other racing jurisdictions including Britain and Ireland.

Murphy commissioned hair samples at a private laboratory on 19 August, one day after he was informed of the positive test taken after he rode The Lir Jet at Chantilly on 19 July. Murphy went public in October about the positive test although he would have been granted anonymity by France Galop.  

The 25-year-old duel champion jockey has strenuously denied taking any banned substance.


DECEMBER RACE MEETINGS OPEN TO RACEGOERS

26 November: Just over 50 days racing will be open to up to 2,000 spectators in English Tier 2 areas announced by the Government today. The venues and dates are:

  • Aintree: 5 December
  • Ascot: 18, 19 December  
  • Carlisle: 13 December 
  • Catterick: 15, 28 December
  • Chelmsford: 3, 7, 10, 17 December 
  • Cheltenham: 11, 12 December 
  • Exeter: 4, 17 December
  • Fakenham: 20 December 
  • Fontwell: 8, 28 December 
  • Haydock: 2, 19, 30 December 
  • Hereford: 12, 17 December 
  • Huntingdon: 6, 22 December
  • Kempton: 2, 9, 14, 16, 26, 27 December 
  • Lingfield:  2, 9, 13, 16, 19, 21, 22, 31 December 
  • Ludlow: 2, 16 December 
  • Newbury: 16, 29 December 
  • Plumpton: 7, 14 December 
  • Sandown: 4, 5 December 
  • Taunton: 10, 30 December
  • Wincanton: 3, 15, 26 December 

subject to racecourse confirmation – restrictions and facilities will vary from course to course


HOLLIE DOYLE NAMED SUNDAY TIMES SPORTSWOMAN OF THE YEAR

25 November: Jockey Hollie Doyle has won The Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year for 2020.

On receiving the award, Doyle, 24, told Sky Sports: “I was pretty shocked. I was delighted to even get nominated.

“When I saw the other competitors, I was up against I thought that was a privilege in itself. When I was called the winner, I was blown away really. It’s just massive.

“I’m really pleased for the racing industry and as jockeys, we’re being seen as sportspeople now because we really are and it needs to be going that way.

“Racing can be in its own little bubble as such, so it’s really good to open the door to a wider audience maybe.”

In August Doyle was the first female jockey to ride five winners in a day, beating cumulative odds of 899-1 to make history at Windsor. She already held the record for the most wins for a woman in a Flat season, and this year became both the fastest woman to reach 50 wins in a season. She became the third women to ride a winner at Royal Ascot.

On 14 October, she rode her 117th winner, breaking the record she made for winners ridden by a female jockey in 2019. On 17 October, Doyle became the first female jockey to ride a winner on Champions Day at Ascot, when she steered Trueshan to victory in the Long Distance Cup, and followed that up in the next race by winning on Glen Shiel in the Sprint.

The shortlisted nominees were:

  • Hollie Doyle (Horse racing)
  • Lizzie Deignan (Cycling)
  • Jessica Learmonth (Triathlon)
  • Fallon Sherrock (Darts)
  • Georgia Taylor-Brown (Triathlon)

The judging panel included Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, Rebecca Adlington OBE, Dame Kelly Holmes, Ama Agbeze MBE, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Natalie Sawyer, Gabby Logan, Ellie Simmonds OBE and Heather Knight OBE.


RACEGOERS COULD RETURN AFTER LOCKDOWN ENDS

23 November: The end of the current Covid-19 enforced lockdown on 2 December could see the return of racegoers, with prospects for Cheltenham meeting in December looking promising.

Prime minister Boris Johnson has announced that outdoor sports venues including racecourses can admit limited crowds from next Thursday.

Up to 4,000 people will be admitted to outdoor sporting venues in Tier 1 areas, whilst the maximum for venues in Tier 2 would be 2,000. In Tier 3 areas sport would continue behind closed doors.

Areas of England will be assigned to one of three tiers on Thursday, which will be revamped from those in pre-lockdown days with stricter rules coming into force.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said: “I’m delighted we are able to get the turnstiles turning sooner than expected, taking a cautious approach and starting with the lowest risk areas first.

“I’m confident that sports will take every step to ensure their fans are safe, and fans will play their part and look out for each other until we can safely get everyone back in.”

Racing fixtures on 3 December are scheduled for Wincanton, Leicester and Market Rasen on December 3 but high infection rates mean the latter two could be in a Tier 3 region.

Saturday, 5 December sees Sandown’s Betfair Tingle Creek meeting at Sandown but, whilst the immediate local authority in Surrey has low infection rates, London and the South East is witnessing rising infection rates.

A week later, Cheltenham’s meeting on 11 and 12 December has brighter prospects, with the possibility of a Tier 1 or 2 category being applied.

The leaders of British horseracing have welcomed the government’s decision to allow spectators to return to sporting events in Tiers 1and 2in England. Horseracing has been taking place behind closed doors since 1 June with participants attending under tight restrictions including medical screening and social distancing.

Since then, racing stakeholders have been working hard with government, including public health officials, to secure the return of spectators. Pilot events with limited numbers were successfully held in September at Doncaster and Warwick, based on detailed plans developed by the Racecourse Association (RCA) in consultation with public health officials.

A series of measures were put in place to keep racegoers and local communities safe. The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) worked with the individual racecourses and local public health officials to monitor those attending and no evidence of transmission of the virus was seen.

The change to restrictions announced by the Prime Minister will now be considered by racecourses and the BHA’s medical team. Further engagement will also be required with local public health officials. We thank ministers and officials at DCMS for their support which was crucial to today’s announcement, and all those involved across government and in Parliament.

The details of the government’s new approach to tiering are not due to be announced until later in the week. Until this has been published and individual racecourses are made aware of the restrictions in their area, it will not be possible to confirm which venues will be admitting spectators. We continue to encourage the UK government to allow betting shops to reopen in all areas as part of the change to restrictions.

The BHA and RCA will now be engaging with government to clarify the basis on which spectators will be allowed to attend. With the Racehorse Owners Association, they will also be considering how this will affect the current rules governing owners’ attendance. Further announcements are expected later this week. Discussion with the Scottish and Welsh governments on their plans for spectators continue.

The government last week announced that £40 million of loans would be available to horseracing. Details of the conditions for applying for loans are not expected now until later this week and it is likely to take some weeks before racing agrees an approach to using the available funding.

BHA Chief Executive Nick Rust said

“This is more good news for racing and for our many millions of fans who have been unable to watch in person the sport they love since March. We know the numbers are limited to begin with and not all venues will be allowed to admit spectators, but this is progress. I am confident that all our racegoers will follow the government’s public health guidelines when they return to racing and this will allow us to increase the numbers attending. We have always said that racing will act responsibly and we all look forward to getting back on the track.”

David Armstrong, the Chief Executive of the Racecourse Association, said

“Following on from last week’s announcement of financial support, this is a very welcome development for racecourses across England. Even with limited numbers, racecourses can start to re‐open facilities for racegoers, hospitality guests and owners. Work continues to prepare for larger-scale pilots across the sports sector and Racing will continue to play a key role in this vital recovery phase.”

Charlie Liverton, Chief Executive of the Racehorse Owners Association, said on behalf of The Horsemen’s Group

“This is welcome news and a further step forward for racing after a challenging period for the sport. I am grateful to all those across the industry and government who have worked hard to get us to this position and look forward to constructive conversations on owner attendance at racecourses. Owners and other participants have played a vital role in ensuring racing could continue behind closed doors and under tight restrictions. Their support continues to be valued enormously and I very much hope all owners will be able to be back on course soon.”


RACING TO GET £40M GOVERNMENT AID

19 November: Racing is to receive £40m in direct aid from the British government due to lost revenue caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The aid will be provided mainly as loans, and is part of wider financial support for major spectator sports in England, with the focus on those most severely affected by the loss of crowds.

The aid has been called a ‘winter survival package’ worth an overall £300m, with other beneficiaries including Rugby Union, women’s football and the lower tiers of the Football League

“Sport is a key part of our national life, an important contributor to our economy and a key hub within many communities,” said Steve Barclay, chief secretary to the Treasury.

“Protecting that sporting heritage and supporting as many jobs within the sports sector as possible is an important step in ensuring that our economy can bounce back from the impacts of the Covid pandemic. Alongside this financial support, we now need to ensure that fans can return to sports events as soon as it is safe to do so.”

A BHA statement said: “We welcome the announcement by @DCMS that up to £40m of loans will be made available for British racing. This recognises racing’s position as the UK’s second biggest spectator sport, the many livelihoods it supports and the financial peril faced across our industry.

“Working with racecourses and horsemen, the BHA put in a detailed submission to government in October. This included an assessment of the economic impact of the absence of spectators for a further six months until the end of March.”

Rugby Union as a whole will receive £135m while the payout to football is below the level of that granted to racing at £28m.

Greyhound racing has also been offered £1m.

Premier League Football and cricket have not been included in the scheme.


14 NEW FIXTURES FOR NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER

10 November: Fourteen additional fixtures are to take place in November and December. The new fixtures follow a proposal submitted to the BHA from the Racecourse Association), which had the full support of the Horsemen’s Group, representing owners, trainers and jockeys. The proposal was based on the premise that the fixtures would be created to support racecourse finances, which continue to suffer as a result of the absence of spectators.

 In addition, these fixtures will generate extra opportunities to race, primarily for lower rated horses, as well as providing opportunities to race for an additional £½m in prize money.

 Having considered the proposal, and having undertaken detailed modelling of the horse population and the current race programme, the BHA concluded that up to 14 additional BHA fixtures could be added to the Fixture List without significantly reducing field sizes at existing fixtures.

 Furthermore, it is possible to stage these additional fixtures at times when they are able to meet demand from the betting industry and its customers, and, in doing so, generate a positive return for the Horserace Betting Levy Board

The fixtures will be funded by the Levy Board with races staged at agreed minimum values and Appearance Money being offered as per the existing scheme.

The new fixtures are:

Flat

  •  15/11/20          Southwell – Afternoon
  • 22/11/20          Wolverhampton – Afternoon
  • 23/11/20          Chelmsford City – Floodlit
  • 24/11/20          Lingfield Park – Afternoon
  • 30/11/20          Kempton Park – Afternoon
  • 01/12/20          Newcastle – Afternoon
  • 06/12/20          Southwell – Afternoon
  • 07/12/20          Chelmsford City – Afternoon
  • 08/12/20          Wolverhampton – Afternoon
  • 13/12/20          Lingfield Park – Afternoon
  • 14/12/20          Kempton Park – Floodlit
  • 15/12/20          Newcastle – Afternoon

 Jump

  •  29/11/20          Ffos Las
  • 20/12/20          Bangor-on-Dee

WRONG NUMBER CLOTHS AND WRONG RIDERS FOR BALLYDOYLE PAIR IN FILLIES’ MILE

9 October: Two Aiden O’Brien trained runners in the bet365 Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket, Mother Earth and Snowfall, wore the wrong number cloths and were ridden by the wrong jockeys.

The two fillies carried each other’s number cloths and were ridden by each other’s jockeys. It was thought after the race that the 50/1 shot Snowfall had finished third (mistakenly ridden by William Buick) whilst Mother Earth (under James Doyle) was eighth.

Aiden O’Brien said: “I didn’t see the race live and when I looked at the replay after it was brought to my attention, I could see straight away.

“I contacted the BHA straight away and let them know what is after happening. We have a team based in England these days because of the coronavirus restrictions, so the problem is the lads that are with the horses at home can’t always go racing with them.”

“I don’t know what to say other than I am so sorry that it happened,” O’Brien said.

Mother Earth, the actual third finishing filly, faces disqualification and O’Brien is expected to be hit with a heavy fine.


NEW MARES’ CHASE TO REPLACE NOVICES’ HANDICAP HURDLE AT THE FESTIVAL

7 October: Cheltenham Racecourse, together with the British Horseracing Authority, have confirmed that the new Grade 2 Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Steeple Chase to be run at The Festival 2021 will replace the Listed Novices’ Handicap Chase, which was traditionally run on the opening day.

A decision as to which race would be replaced by the inaugural running of the 2m4f Grade 2 mares’ chase was made after consultation with key stakeholders, including trainers from Britain and Ireland over several months.

Recognising the importance of the Listed Novices’ Handicap Chase to the Jump racing season, the BHA Jump Pattern Committee has given permission for the race to be staged at Sandown Park as part of the Paddy Power Imperial Cup meeting just days before The Festival.

The new Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase will be run on Gold Cup day, with the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Steeple Chase moving to the Wednesday and the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle moving to the opening day. 


RACING PULLS TOGETHER TO SEEK LEVY REFORM

6 October: Racing will adopt a united front in urging the government to reform the levy, having developed a single set of proposals for its remodeling. At a BHA’s Members Committee last week, the leaders of racecourses, horsemen and the BHA also agreed to set up a new Steering Group to assess all the options for Levy reform in light to the impact of COVID and the expected economic downturn.

The Steering Group, to be chaired on behalf of the BHA by its Independent Director, Joe Saumarez-Smith (pictured), will carry out a rapid assessment of Levy options as the government considers how best to help sports threatened by a further six months without spectators.

The group will work closely with the BHA’s Public Affairs team which led and coordinated the successful effort to extend the Levy to offshore betting.

The group will include representatives from both racecourses and horsemen, including Nevin Truesdale and Martin Cruddace, from the Jockey Club and ARC, and Charlie Parker and Philip Freedman, present and past Chairs of The Horsemen’s Group. Will Lambe and Richard Wayman will be the BHA Executive’s representatives.

The Levy is currently based on bookmakers’ profits derived from bets placed on British racing  in betting shop and online from both UK and overseas based operators.

Proposals for change have included applying the levy to all race bets, regardless of where the racing takes place, whilst there is pressure to base the levy not on profits but bookmaker turnover.

The Chair of the BHA, Annamarie Phelps said:

“I am pleased that industry leaders have agreed on a united approach to government and the support this has had from trainers, breeders and racecourse groups. Now more than ever, racing needs to talk with one voice to government.

“Both I and other BHA Board colleagues have been having constructive conversations with industry colleagues over the past few weeks. As a governing body, it is vital we listen to the views of those whose livelihoods are dependent on a prosperous and sustainable industry.

“The Prime Minister promised that the Chancellor would prepare a package of support for sport.

“We have sent government at their request a new assessment of the impact of COVID on the finances of racing, including the potential mitigating impact of reform to the Levy, and making clear that the return of the public to racecourses is essential. Further proposals on the Levy are now being developed, supported by Nick Rust and his team.

“It is vital that we work through the appropriate channels, recognising racing’s close relationship with the betting industry. Pursuing alternative routes risks dividing racing into competing factions.”

Joe Saumarez Smith said:

“There have already been extensive discussions recently about the various options for reforming the Levy. The Levy Steering Group has the full support of the representative bodies in racing and will now draw on the expertise of stakeholders across the industry, who will work with me and the BHA executive team to try and reach a united view of the industry on this crucial area of funding of the sport.”


ASCOT ABANDONED RACES RESCHEDULED

5 October: Following the abandonment of racing at Ascot on Saturday 3 October the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), in conjunction with York, Goodwood and Nottingham racecourses, are pleased to confirm the rescheduling of four races, as follows:

  • Cumberland Lodge Stakes (Group 3) 1m4f, York 9 October
  • Bengough Stakes (Group 3) 6f, York 10 October
  • October Stakes Listed (Fillies) 7f, Goodwood 11 October
  • Rous Stakes (Listed) 5f, Nottingham 14 October

Although it is not usual procedure to reschedule Group 3 and Listed races, it was felt that with the abandonment coming late in an already disrupted season it was in the best interests of all concerned to reschedule these opportunities.


AIDEN O’BRIEN HORSES WITHDRAWN FROM SUNDAY’S LONGCHAMP RACES

3 October: Horses trained by Aiden O’Brien will not run at Longchamp on Sunday due to failing tests for contaminated substances. This comes after Friday’s announcement that horse feed they’d used from Gain was found to be contaminated (see below).

Ballydoyle Racing issued the following statement:

“Unfortunately, the results of the urine samples taken from the horses yesterday have come back positive from the French laboratory.

“There is a possibility that the contaminant may have left their system by the time of racing tomorrow however we have no guarantee of this and in order to protect the integrity of racing we have decided to withdraw all our horses from racing tomorrow.

“Joseph and Donnacha O’Brien will do likewise.”

Aiden O’Brien had four runners due to take part in the Arc – Mogul at 11/1, Serpentine, who was supplemented for the race, at 14/1, Japan at 18/1 and Sovereign at 66/1.

CONTAMINATED HORSE FEED PUTS O’BRIEN ARC RUNNERS AT RISK

2 October: A number of batches of Gain horse feed, whose users include Aiden O’Brian, have been revealed to be contaminated with a prohibited substance. Consequently, a number of British and Irish runners at Longchamp may not be able to run and include O’Brien’s four Arc contenders.

The makers of the horse feed have issued the following statement:

“Gain Equine Nutrition wishes to advise its customers that it is investigating the potential presence of a contaminant in some batches of our equine feed range.

“Until further investigations are completed, GAIN customers with competing horses are advised to refrain from feeding our products to their animals across all disciplines.

“The contaminant, Zilpaterol, is a synthetic beta-agonist approved for use as a performance-enhancer in some beef production systems outside of the EU.

“It is important to stress that this synthetic substance has never formed part of any formulation in any of our animal nutrition ranges.

“A potential issue was first alerted to us based on positive test results from France Galop from some horses fed on our products in France.

“Following receipt of this information, our quality and control team immediately commenced testing our feed products, both retained samples and also product in the market.

“Immediately on receipt of a positive test result on some individual feed samples this morning, Friday 2 October, we commenced the process of notifying all the relevant authorities. We are working closely with all appropriate agencies, including the Irish Department of Agriculture, to fully investigate the source of this contamination.

“We will provide a more detailed update once more information is available.”

Martin Ryan, Head of GAIN Equine said:

“We apologise sincerely to our valued customers for the inconvenience caused by this incident and we are committed to promptly keeping you fully informed. A thorough investigation and trace back of all feed ingredient sources is underway as a matter of urgency to determine how this external contaminant could have found its way into some batches of our equine product.”


OISIN MURPHY TESTS POSITIVE FOR COCAINE

Oisin Murphy

1 October: Champion jockey Oisin Murphy has tested positive for cocaine. The test was undertaken in France on 19 July and Murphy has now released a statement saying that he has never taken the Class A drug in his life.

Following the test Murphy undertook a hair sampling tetst at an independent laboratory which says Murphy came back negative.

The results of an official B test are yet to be revealed.

Murphy said in an official statement: ‘I have never taken cocaine in my life and will fight to clear my name. I want to thank those who are supporting me and in the meantime, I want to keep riding winners and focus on my career.

“I will have no further comment to make and wish to respect the processes of France Galop.”