PAT SMULLEN DIES AGED 43
15 September: Nine times Irish Champion jockey Pat Smullen has died aged 43. He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer two-and-a-half years ago and suffered a relapse in recent months. At one point last year he had been given a clean bill of health but the cancer returned and his condition got worse in the past week.
Smullen retired from the saddle on news of his diagnosis but hoped that one day he’d return to riding. Since the diagnosis Smullen raised over €2.5m for pancreatic cancer trials and awareness of pancreatic cancer research.
A highlight of last year’s Irish Champions Weekend was when a number of jockeys came out of retirement to ride in the Pat Smullen Champions Race for Cancer Trials Ireland at the Curragh, including AP McCoy, Richard Hughes and Kieran Fallon.
After the race Smullen said: “I never dreamed that we would reach a figure like this and it is a tribute to the kind nature of everyone in the racing and breeding industry – I am overwhelmed!”
“Sunday at the Curragh was a special day and a huge thank you to everybody who came along.
“I don’t think we’ll ever see a race like that again and I owe so much to my good friends, the nine champion jockeys, who came out of retirement to ride in it, as well as the race sponsors, owners and trainers who made the race possible.”
During his riding career the County Offaly jockey won the Derby at Epsom on Harzand in 2016 and won the Irish Derby twice, first on Grey Swallow in 2014 and then on Harzand.
His other classic wins were in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on Refuse to Bend in 2003, two victories in the Irish 1,000 Guineas, the Irish Oaks on Covert Love in 2015 and five-times Irish St Leger winner, with four wins coming in consecutive years on Vinnie Roe trained by Dermot Weld.
He passed away on Tuesday evening at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin, and leaves behind his wife Frances and their three children Hannah, Paddy and Sarah.
DONCASTER BOUND IRISH JOCKEY TENDS POSITIVE FPR COVID-19
11 September: The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board and Horse Racing Ireland have confirmed that jockey Shane Crosse has tested positive for Covid-19 and will not take up his rides at Doncaster on Saturday, or Limerick today.
Crosse was lined up to ride Galileo Chrome for Joseph O’Brien in the St Leger.
Crosse was tested under the protocols required for travel to Doncaster to take up a ride in tomorrow’s Group 1 Pertemps St Leger, and this test revealed a positive result.
Dr Jennifer Pugh, IHRB Senior Medical Officer, said: “Shane was completely asymptomatic and was very surprised to learn of the test result. He was not unwell and hadn’t engaged in any high-risk behaviour. He is now in isolation for 14 days and has worked with us on identifying his close contacts.
“We have been in communication with Public Health today, notified them of the test, and they are happy with the steps we have taken. It means that those who have shared a car with him, and those who live with Shane, have been informed they must also self-isolate for 14 days. As directed by Public Health, contact tracing commenced on Friday morning and testing will be carried out today of all close contacts of the index case.
“We have been prepared for this and have responded accordingly, and this case reinforces just why we have had such strict protocols in place since racing resumed on June 8. These measures ensure that social distancing is taking place at racecourses, and face masks and coverings are mandatory both inside and outside.
“Shane is employed by trainer Joseph O’Brien and we have been working with Joseph this morning to provide contact tracing and testing of Shane’s close contacts. Joseph’s horses will run today as planned, but as a precaution these horses will be taken care of by staff from other yards.
“Public Health are satisfied with our protocols and the measures we have taken, and for racing to continue under strict protocols behind closed doors.”
BHA BANS PHOENIX THOROUGHBREDS FROM BRITISH RACING
10 September: Following Phoenix Thoroughbred’s recent decision to leave UK racing, the British Horseracing Authority has confirmed that effective as of Monday 7 September, Phoenix Thoroughbreds are no longer able to have runners in races in Great Britain until further notice. Any horse currently entered will not be permitted to be declared in its current ownership.
The racing administration accounts of all registered ownership entities that involve Phoenix Thoroughbreds have been suspended.
Whilst the BHA has confirmed it has been in regular correspondence with Phoenix Thoroughbreds, having reviewed the information available to date, it has taken the decision to suspend the relevant accounts meaning Phoenix Thoroughbreds are unable to make entries until further notice.
HOME SECRETARY PATEL IN PRIVATE MEETING WITH NEWMARKET TRAINERS OVER FUNDING CONCERNS
8 September: Home Secretary Priti Patel has made an unofficial visit to a number of leading Newmarket stables and met with various trainers who are said to have pressed for improved funding of the sport before the impact Covid-19 does what some consider to be irreparable damage.
Patel is said to have met with a number of trainers including John Gosden and William Haggas a fortnight ago.
The visit, reported by The Guardian, was organised by family friend Steve Harman, a former chairman of the sport’s ruling body the British Horseracing Authority. During the course of the meeting The Guardian says strong views were expressed about the sport’s financial situation, and the concern that Covid-19 will have.
Following the meeting some of those who had met with Patel took part in a group phone call, with the intention of setting out a strategy for achieving change to the way racing is funded.
Subsequently, the group was expanded to include senior racecourse executives, including Martin Cruddace of Arena Racing Company, and elements of the leadership of the BHA.
The Guardian quoted Cruddace as saying: “I was super impressed with how quickly they moved. I think within a few days, they’d formed an inclusive group, had a conversation, started to frame how racing could get levy development back on track. I’ve been more positive about this than anything I’ve been reading about racing for a long time.”
The levy, a tax paid by bookmakers on the profit they make from horse racing bets, generated almost £100m in the 12 months to April 2020. The BHA has lobbied the government to extend the levy to include bets placed in Britain on overseas racing, with an increase to racing’s funds up to £30m annually.
However, some see this as not going far enough, and want the levy based on turnover rather than profit which has the potential to add another £60m in annual income.
The Guardian reports that some senior racing figures expressed concern at the involvement of Patel, with racing and betting finances the responsibility of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
A spokesperson for the home secretary said: “In August Priti and her family, including her young son, visited family friends who train horses in Newmarket. The home secretary denies any wrongdoing.”
Harman insisted this does not mark a return to racing politics for him, two years after he stepped down from the BHA chairmanship after allegations of a conflict of interest, which he denied.
A spokesman for the BHA insisted it was also being active in this area, stating that its chair, Annamarie Phelps, and chief executive, Nick Rust, had met last week with the sports minister, Nigel Huddleston, to discuss racing’s recovery, and that the topic of income from betting had been raised.
“The case for levy reform has been strengthened by Covid and the implications of Brexit,” he added. “The recovery plan for racing, published last month, commits to make the case to government for immediate reform. It’s vital that the British racing industry has a level playing-field with other racing nations in Europe.”
JUMP RACING AT SOUTHWELL SUSPENDED
3 September: The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and Arena Racing Company (ARC) have jointly made the decision to suspend Jump racing at Southwell until further notice.
This is to allow a comprehensive investigation to take place following two further fatalities at this evening’s fixture. Cillian’s Well, trained by John Flint fell four from home in the first race, and Day Of Roses trained by Joanna Foster fell three out in the second. The rest of the seven-race fixture went ahead, and there was one further faller.
A process is already underway to investigate the circumstances around the six fatalities that occurred at the track since between 1 July and 24 August.
This involves the racecourse and the BHA’s veterinary team, racecourse department and course inspectors looking into the specific circumstances to understand if there are any common factors.
Factors which are considered include:
- Any history of injury, veterinary treatment, or medication
- Race history, number and detail of previous starts, interval between previous starts
- Race conditions such as handicap rating, age, class of race
- Course factors such as ground and obstacles
Following this evening’s fixture, Jump racing will not take place at Southwell until further notice whilst a comprehensive review is carried out. These fixtures will be re-scheduled at alternative Jump racecourses with details to be announced in the coming days.
Brant Dunshea, Chief Regulatory Officer at the BHA, said:
“The BHA and ARC met earlier this week and agreed a series of immediate measures which were put in place for this evening’s meeting. The course was inspected prior to racing by a BHA Course Inspector and was deemed fit to race. Pre-race checks were also carried out on all horses competing by BHA Veterinary Officers.
“In the sad event of two further fatalities, we have jointly decided with ARC to suspend Jump racing at Southwell until further notice whilst we work together to complete a detailed investigation.”
JOCKEY CLUB CEO QUITS AFTER ALLEGATIONS OF GROSS MISCONDUCT UPHELD
30 August: Delia Bushell, the Jockey Club group chief executive, left her position at the racecourse owning organisation today following a report by an independent barrister which upheld allegations of gross misconduct including bullying and making racist comments.
In a statement, the Jockey club said:
“The board of the Jockey Club announces today that Delia Bushell is to stand down as group chief executive with immediate effect. This follows the completion of an independent review into a wide range of allegations about her conduct, which the board concluded made it untenable for her to continue in the role.
“As part of this review, an independent barrister interviewed 19 witnesses, including Delia. He submitted a detailed report to a sub-committee of the board comprising Dido Harding, Julia Budd and Justin Dowley on Sunday 23 August, in which he concluded that there was evidence to support a number of the allegations of misconduct, including bullying behaviour towards colleagues, inappropriate racist comments and sharing offensive materials.
“The sub-committee of the board agreed with his conclusion and decided that there was a basis for disciplinary action against Delia including on the grounds of gross misconduct. This recommendation was accepted by the full board of the Jockey Club.
“The board of the Jockey Club also announces that Nevin Truesdale (pictured) has been appointed as acting group chief executive.”
In her resignation letter Bushell wrote: “I have been subjected to unmerited, dishonourable, bullying behaviour by people I previously held in high regard and trusted. I clearly cannot rely on the trust and confidence of the board, which has once again allowed the long-standing discriminatory undertones of the Jockey Club to prevail.
“Given the toxicity of the working environment I find myself in, the predetermination of the disciplinary and the clear and ongoing threats to my reputation, I have no choice but to accept the repudiatory conduct described in this letter and to resign with immediate effect.”
Bushell joined the Jockey Club less than a year ago and, on her appointment, was described as one of the leading executives in media and sport, with more than 20 years’ experience in the sector in both executive and non-executive roles.
She spent three years at BT Group plc as Managing Director of its c£1bn TV and Sport division, overseeing BT’s Sport channels, Pay TV platform and digital services, including the acquisition of premium sports and entertainment rights, such as the English Premier League, UEFA Champions League, Premiership Rugby, FA Cup, MotoGP and The Ashes.
Prior to this, Bushell spent 14 years at Sky in a variety of roles. She was Chief Commercial Officer of Sky Italia, leading marketing, customer management and digital development for its €2.7bn consumer business; Director of Broadband & Telephony for Sky UK, taking Sky’s Broadband service from launch to three million customers; and Managing Director for Sky Ireland. Most recently Bushell was UK CEO and European COO at Afiniti, a US tech company that is a leader in artificial intelligence.
During her time at the Jockey Club Bushell was involved in negotiations with ITV through the Racing Media Group and the relationship with the head of ITV sport Niall Sloane was said to be fraught. Prior the the agreement being signed, Bushell left the board of RMG.
Nevin Truesdale has been with the Jockey Club since August 2013 and was previously responsible for all aspects of financial and commercial planning, reporting and control as group chief financial officer.
DATES ANNOUNCED FOR RACEGOER PILOT EVENTS
26 August: The first scheduled horseracing pilot event with crowds will take place on Wednesday 9 September at Doncaster Racecourse as part of the St Leger Festival.
The RCA, alongside industry partners and its member racecourses, has worked diligently throughout July and August as the lead of a working group to return crowds to racecourses.
Building on the successful return to racing behind closed doors and welcoming owners back to racecourses, the group recognises the importance of bringing back spectators for the sport and subsidiary businesses that rely on a day’s racing, not to mention the electric atmosphere only generated by spectators.
This group provided a joint submission to DCMS to host pilot events. This has been approved and the schedule for pilot events is as follows:
- Doncaster Racecourse, St Leger Festival, 9-12 September
- Warwick Racecourse, 21 September
- Newmarket Racecourse, Cambridgeshire Meeting, 24-26 September
The pilot events in England will test stage 5 of the Government’s return to elite sport plan as well as stringent operating protocols prescribed by the Sports Ground Safety Authority (SGSA).
As part of the application, each racecourse was required to submit a detailed risk assessment and operating plan to DCMS satisfying health, safety and operational factors.
Each fixture has been selected to provide a detailed case study for other racecourses to follow, with factors such as size and ownership of venue, profile of fixture, logistics of essential raceday services such as catering and betting and geography within Britain considered.
Scottish Racing continues to lead discussions with Scottish Government regarding pilot events with details to be confirmed in due course. A delegation led by the BHA and ARC have led similar discussions with the Welsh Government for racecourses in Wales.
David Armstrong, Chief Executive of the RCA, commented: “we are pleased to receive confirmation of our pilot events to welcome back crowds to racecourses and once again thank DCMS for entrusting the sport with this responsibility.
“Racecourses have been working for some time to this end and we are confident the events selected will provide strong case studies which will be of use to all.
“The disappointment of postponing our last confirmed pilot at Goodwood was felt across the sport, but the learnings and behind-the-scenes work have been of great value to others. Racing is ready to proceed in a safe manner and we are looking forward to once again welcoming crowds back to the racecourse.”
NEXT PHASE OF RACING RECOVERY PLAN ANNOUNCED
25 August: Racing industry leaders from the BHA, horsemen and racecourses have agreed on the next phase of the response to the COVID crisis. A wide range of work has been continuing since racing was the first major sport to resume on 1 June. The new plan puts an added focus on retaining owners and key investors and attracting customers when the public starts to return to racecourses.
The key industry goals are:
- Secure a full resumption of race-day activity, with the best possible ownership and spectator experience, and the maximum attendance possible
- Maintain the health and safety of participants, staff and all those attending raceday meetings by continuing the safe return of racing and adherence to strict controls on social distancing
- Put in place a fixture list and race programme for 2021 that balances increasing revenues with the wellbeing of participants and staff and takes account of the horse population.
- Reduce the industry’s cost-base and be agile where new opportunities to increase revenue can be seized and mitigate the impact of recession, including the pursuit of immediate Levy reform.
- Seek to maximise prize money for 2021 balanced against the financial constraints of stakeholders and the sport’s projected revenues, through new commercial agreements between Racecourses and Horsemen.
- Agree a spending plan for central funds that best supports racing’s recovery.
- Retain key investors, including existing owners, and reform rules for syndicates and clubs to protect members and increase their appeal to potential owners.
- Present a safe, high-quality and consistent offer to race-day and betting customers based on a thorough understanding of their changing needs and behaviours due to COVID.
- Put in place foundations for a longer-term sustainable recovery for British racing
The main aim is to restore revenues wherever possible and work for the full resumption of racing, with the best possible ownership and spectator experience, and the maximum attendance possible. The professionalism shown by participants – trainers, jockeys, racing and racecourse staff – in adapting quickly to the new social distancing restrictions has put racing at the forefront of plans to readmit the public to sporting events.
Leaders have committed to put in place a fixture programme for 2021 that seeks to maximise prize money within the severe financial constraints faced by participants, supported by new commercial agreements between Racecourses and Horsemen to be agreed. Funding from the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB) is currently supporting prize money after racecourse finances were severely impacted by the halt to racing and the continued absence of crowds.
The plans make clear that weathering the recession will require the industry’s cost-base to be kept as low as possible, whilst targeted action and support should be directed at retaining owners and key investors, many of whom both breed and own horses in the UK. Leaders recognise the loyalty shown by owners since the crisis began. An industry ownership strategy will be published in weeks, including urgent retention measures. The plan also references ongoing work to manage the impact of Brexit.
Industry leaders also recognize the significant economic challenges faced by racecourses who rely on racegoers for 50% or more of their income. The return of spectators to the racecourse in significant numbers is a key priority within the recovery plan and is vital to restore the economic prosperity of the sport for 2021 and beyond.
There is agreement that racing should be making a case for immediate Levy reform, seeking a level playing-field with other European racing nations after Brexit, through a fair return from bets placed on international racing. Sustainable prosperity is a longer-term goal but most resources will be focused on the shorter-term financial health of the industry.
Work is coordinated through the industry COVID group which has been continuing to meet weekly since June. All the workstreams in the recovery plan are already underway. The Members Committee of the BHA, which includes representatives of the RCA and The Horsemen’s Group, met last week and agree the plan published today.
As with the initial plan for responding to COVID which was published in March, there is a continuing emphasis on the wellbeing and welfare of people who work in racing. In addition, a Racing Relief Fund has been set up to provide financial support to prevent equine welfare issues emerging and details will be published in the next few weeks.
Speaking on publication of the plan, the Chief Executive of the BHA, Nick Rust said
‘It’s very important that this plan has been agreed by leaders from all parts of the racing industry. We know from the way we prepared to resume racing in June that working together works. The commitment shown by leaders in signing up to this recovery plan demonstrates a continued willingness to maintain a unified approach through the tough battles ahead’.
The Chief Executive of the Racecourse Association David Armstrong said
“The whole industry worked very well to enable Racing to return as the first major sport behind closed doors. Now we have to renew that collaboration as we enter this Recovery Phase and move beyond that into 2021. This plan brings together all the necessary components in one clear action plan with some ambitious goals. From a racecourse perspective the return of racegoers and the experience for owners are clear priorities that are already underway and we look forward to the wider recovery of the sport”
The Chief Executive of the Racehorse Owners Association, Charlie Liverton, representing the Horsemen’s Group, said
“This new recovery plan goes further towards protecting the long-term future of our sport and formalizing collaboration between the stakeholders during this difficult period. It is imperative that we focus on the vital drivers that keep our sport going and growing: retaining owners and maximizing the sport’s revenues. There is a lot to be done but I am confident that, working together, we can deliver this vital work for participants across the industry.”
BHA APPOINTS JULIE HARRINGTON AS ITS NEW HEAD
11 August: The BHA Board has confirmed that the Chief Executive of British Cycling, Julie Harrington, to be the new head of British horseracing’s governing body and regulator. She will take over the post at the beginning of 2021 after nearly four years leading British Cycling, which has more than 160,000 grassroots members and is responsible for the elite team preparing for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
Julie Harrington (pictured) is a former member of the BHA Board and was a senior executive with Northern Racing for 8 years, including a spell as Managing Director of Uttoxeter. She is one of the most experienced leaders in sport, with a strong background in consumer, operational and regulatory roles, and a clear understanding of the financial challenges facing participants.
As the Operations Director for the FA, she was responsible for Wembley Stadium and St George’s Park, the FA training facility. Her early career was with Whitbread Inns as Regional Marketing Director and then with British Airways as Retail Sector Director. She has been responsible for managing British Cycling’s relationship with HSBC UK, its leading sponsor and partner.
As Chief Executive of British Cycling, she has dealt with some significant regulatory challenges. The role has also involved engagement with UK Sport and Sport England over elite funding and growing participation, achieving its target for more than two million cyclists by 2020. It works closely with the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport and the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales through their national cycling bodies.
Harrington’s appointment was predicted on The Racing Hub three months ago: http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-3Pc
BHA Chair, Annamarie Phelps, commented:
“I am delighted that Julie is coming back to the BHA and to racing and the Board and I are looking forward to working closely with her. This is a vital leadership role for the organisation and British racing. Julie’s hands-on knowledge of horseracing, coupled with her governance and business experience, make her the ideal person to carry on with the task of restoring sustainable prosperity after the COVID crisis. We’ve got the right person, for the right job, at the right time.”
Julie Harrington said:
“I’m so excited to be coming home to racing and playing my part helping this great sport to achieve a prosperity from which everyone benefits. I know how important collaboration across racing has been over the past few months and I look forward to working with colleagues from all parts of the sport.
“The BHA and its team of dedicated officials do a great job in keeping racing safe, clean and fair. I am proud to take on this leadership role in such a well-regulated sport, which enriches the lives of horses and people, and has a special place at the centre of national life and our rural communities.”
Julie Harrington will join the BHA on 4 January after completing her notice period at British Cycling. Nick Rust continues to lead the BHA as it works with industry bodies on resumption and recovery. A revised industry plan is due to be published shortly.
Annamarie Phelps said:
“Nick and his team are working closely with the RCA and The Horsemen’s Group to get racing through the next phase of COVID19, to bring back the public, and support our owners and investors in the sport. There’ll be no let-up over the coming months and the sport will see a seamless transition to our new CEO. I want to thank all those at the BHA and the industry bodies who are working so hard and I’m confident that racing will continue to lead the way towards a full resumption of sport.”
ITV CONFIRMS RACING DEAL
4 August: ITV has confirmed it will continue as the exclusive free-to-air broadcaster of British horse racing until 2023.
ITV, which has shown racing exclusively since 2017, has secured the rights to show nearly 100 days of racing each year for a further three years from 2021.
The deal includes all the marquee events on ITV main channel, such as The Festival at Cheltenham presented by Magners, the Randox Health Grand National Meeting from Aintree, The Derby Festival from Epsom Downs, Royal Ascot and QIPCO British Champions Day from Ascot, Qatar Goodwood Festival, Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival from York and the St Leger Festival from Doncaster.
The ITV Racing team, led by Ed Chamberlin, along with co-presenter Francesca Cumani, will bring to viewers comprehensive coverage across ITV’s main channel, ITV4 and the ITV Hub, which can be accessed on all mobile devices.
As part of the deal, the Opening Show, ITV Racing’s magazine preview programme, will continue each Saturday morning and on each day at the Cheltenham Festival, the Grand National meeting and Royal Ascot.
The announcement follows a successful return to racing in June following many weeks during which the sport was paused for the lockdown period.
During this time, Royal Ascot, despite the absence of the traditional pageantry, drew eight-year high figures each day, the peak viewing figure for the Investec Derby 2020 was over 2.2 million, the highest viewing figure for the race since 2012, and most recently Stradivarius and Frankie Dettori’s record-breaking fourth success in the Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup last week was watched by over a million people on the first day of ‘Glorious Goodwood’ 2020.
ITV Racing’s coverage has seen significant increases in television audiences during its tenure. So far in 2020, ratings for ITV’s coverage [main channel and ITV4 combined] are 22% higher than in 2019 and 45% higher than in 2016 [when Channel Four last held the rights]. So far this year, viewing for ITV4’s coverage is 2% higher than for the equivalent events shown on C4 in 2016. The biggest events in the calendar have seen large increases with the 2019 Grand National’s average audience up by more than 2m compared with 2016 and this year’s Cheltenham Festival hitting audience highs not seen since records began in 2003.
ITV’s racing coverage has also won acclaim. The ITV Racing team won a BAFTA for its coverage of the 2017 Grand National and Director Paul McNamara earned a BAFTA nomination for last year’s Cheltenham coverage. Ed and Francesca won the Broadcaster Sports Presenter of the Year award at the 2018 British Sports Journalism Awards.
Niall Sloane, ITV Director of Sport, said:
“ITV is delighted to announce the continuation of free to air coverage of a sport that is loved and followed by so many. To do so following a successful resumption of the sport with wide audiences returning to our coverage after such a long lay-off is particularly welcome and we look forward to bringing the very best this wonderful sport has to offer to viewers over the next few years.”
Richard FitzGerald, Chief Executive of Racecourse Media Group (RMG), said:
“ITV has been a terrific partner for British horseracing over the last three years and ITV has earned the right to renew the contract for a further three years. Its award-winning productions are reflected with increased audiences, in contrast to wider TV audience trends, and they have succeeded in attracting a new, younger audience, without alienating in any way the existing fanbase. We look forward to working closely with the broadcaster in ensuring racing remains in this fantastic shop window provided by ITV and all its platforms. I’d also like to thank all the sport’s participants, particularly the jockeys, for the positive roles they have played in engaging with the ITV coverage.”
Delia Bushell, Group Chief Executive of The Jockey Club, which stages events including the Randox Health Grand National Festival at Aintree, The Festival at Cheltenham presented by Magners, The Derby Festival at Epsom Downs and the QIPCO Guineas Festival at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile, said:
“I’m delighted this new agreement has been reached between British Racing’s rightsholders and ITV. We look forward to continuing to work with the ITV Racing team to develop the opportunities this excellent free-to-air broadcasting provides us, as we seek to grow in popularity and diversity as a sport in the years ahead.”
Juliet Slot, Chief Commercial Officer, Ascot Racecourse, said:
“The extension of our highly successful terrestrial partnership with ITV is great news for Ascot. It is a pleasure to be a part of this award-winning partnership with ITV which has seen continued growth of audiences across all our race meetings. We look forward to the next three years’ working together to bring Ascot’s racing to existing and new audiences across the ITV portfolio of platforms.”
David Leyden Dunbar, ARC Director of Partnerships, said:
“The whole team at ITV Racing have done a tremendous job of showcasing our sport on terrestrial television since 2017.
“Bringing our biggest meetings and stars to the widest possible audience is of huge importance to the whole industry and we believe that the ITV team are perfectly placed to deliver for the benefit of everyone across racing.”
The deal further enhances ITV’s portfolio of world-class sports rights, which includes exclusive live coverage of the England football team, the Six Nations, the Rugby World Cup, the Tour de France and the French Open.
PRIZE MONEY BOOST
30 July: Prize money levels for British racing are to be increased from 1 September and fixtures for the rest of the year have been published. The appearance money scheme, that had been in place until the suspension of racing in March, will also be re-introduced.
Minimum prize-money values will increase at all levels, with the middle and grassroots tiers of British racing returning to their pre-Covid levels. For Class 1 races and Heritage Handicaps, minimum values will increase to become 75% of their levels from before the suspension.
In addition to extra Horserace Betting Levy Board funding, all racecourses will be making executive contributions towards the prize money of every race programmed.
The appearance money scheme, which had been created in 2018, will be re-introduced from the beginning of September. The scheme is designed to improve the return to owners at the middle and lower tiers, and will involve qualifying races making payments of £300 on the Flat and £350 over Jumps for horses finishing between fifth and eighth place.
In eligible races over steeple chases, a trial will be conducted through the period involving making payments to the remainder of the field, subject to horses meeting minimum rating requirements. This is in response to potential issues raised in the five year-welfare strategy published by the Horse Welfare Board earlier in the year. Full details will be issued as soon as possible.
The fixture list for September to December has also been published, with the programme of fixtures remaining largely consistent with the list published in July 2019, subject to a number of minor adjustments:
- A maximum of five fixtures will take place on any day to ensure the sport can continue to successfully implement the numerous Covid-related protocols in place, including the health screening of all participants
- Start times of fixtures will be scheduled to avoid the creation of race clashes wherever possible
- Fixtures will generally comprise seven programmed races, with one race permitted to divide. To assist the needs of the horse population, up to two races will be permitted to divide at floodlit fixtures through the period.
- To reduce the risk of spreading infection, all participants will only be permitted to attend one race meeting on any day, which will be facilitated by scheduling a maximum of four Flat fixtures on any single day
- To provide additional opportunities following the ten-week suspension, a programme of five floodlit fixtures will be added to the six days in November where a break in the Flat fixture list had originally been planned.
The fixture list between Christmas and New Year, including the eight fixtures provisionally scheduled to take place on Boxing Day, will be reviewed nearer the time.
The revised fixture list from September to December includes 460 fixtures, compared with 455 in the original fixture list.
Richard Wayman, Chief Operating Officer of the BHA, said:
“As we enter the autumn and racehorse owners begin to make their plans for 2021, this increase in minimum prize money levels across all levels from September is a critical part of the sport’s recovery plans.
“Owners have displayed great patience in recent months and it is crucial that prize money grows at all levels as quickly as possible. Whilst there is a long way to go, the increase in minimum values together with the re-introduction of the appearance money scheme are clearly steps in the right direction.
“We have learnt a lot from a number of the fixture innovations that were put in place as part of the emergency fixture list, some of which will continue for the remainder of the year. Others may return in the future but it is evident that the return to a more familiar fixture list, at least for now, will provide a boost to industry revenues, particularly as we look forward to crowds returning to racecourses later in the year.
“This has only been possible due to the Levy Board significantly increasing its support of prize money compared with its original plans and we would like to express our gratitude for their approach as we seek to plot a long term course for our sport to recover from its current challenges.”
DERBY LOSES INVESTEC SPONSORSHIP
23 July: Investec, the banking and wealth management company, is ending its sponsorship of the Derby and the Oaks, as well as Epsom’s Derby trial fixture.
The backing of the two classics has lasted since 2011, when Investec took over from Vodaphone, but there have been recent reports of a rift with Epsom owners Jockey Club Racecourses over this year’s running of the meeting behind closed doors, centering on Investec wanting a rebate on their sponsorship worth £3m a year.
The current contract was due to run until 2028, but last year Investec’s founder, Bernard Kantor, a racing enthusiast, left the company.
A consequence of the meeting being held behind closed doors was that Investec were unable to entertain guests and the view was held that, without a crowd, the value of the sponsorship was devalued.
GOODWOOD TO PILOT RETUIRN OF SPECTATORS TO SPORT
17 July: A small number of sporting events, including horse racing, will be used to pilot the safe return of spectators through late July and early August. The announcement came form Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
Horse racing’s pilot event will take place on 1 August at Goodwood Racecourse, as part of the Qatar Goodwood Festival.
The Racecourse Association said “This is potentially an important step forward in the sporting economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and the industry is grateful for the support of DCMS in selecting horseracing to be one of the sports to host a pilot event, two months after we returned safely behind closed doors.
“The RCA-led Stage 5 industry working group have also worked tirelessly in recent weeks to enable this pilot event to take place, reflecting the unique characteristics of racecourses as outdoor sporting venues.”
This event will be a pilot to implement new safety protocols developed by DCMS, the Sports Ground Safety Authority (SGSA) and Racing to implement new safety protocols to allow elite sporting venues to welcome back spectators. An event for 5,000 people, plus participants, has been designed for the safety of all onsite.
Attendance will initially be offered to Goodwood Racecourse Annual Members and their guests. The day will be carefully planned in conjunction with the local government and other relevant bodies to ensure that the event carries minimal risk to attendees and the local community.
For all racegoers attending the event, a code of conduct must be acknowledged and agreed in advance. This sets out expectations on the behaviour and actions of everyone involved to maintain hygiene levels and social distancing, as well as outlining the facilities and initiatives put in place by the racecourse to enable this. Further information will be published in due course.
Following the pilot event, the Stage 5 industry group will conduct a thorough debrief to understand which measures worked well and which require further refinement.
It will not be possible for all racecourses to immediately follow suit and welcome crowds. This will be subject to a successful debrief, finalising the extensive protocols involved and further permission granted from Government.
LADBROKES BOSS IN SURPRISE DEPARTURE
16 July: Kenny Alexander, under whose leadership GVC Holdings became one of the world’s biggest sports betting and gaming operators, has made the surprise announcement that he is leaving the Ladbrokes Coral owner.
His departure takes effect tomorrow, ending 13 years as the company’s chief executive. Under his watch GVC grew from a small AIM-listed company into a FTSE 100 business with 25,000 staff and some of betting and gaming’s biggest brands.
The standout event of his tenure was in 2018 when GVC took over Ladbrokes Coral. Other brands in the GVC portfolio include Sportingbet, Eurobet, PartyPoker and Foxy Bingo.
Alexander said: “I have spent the last four months working from home and reflecting on my future plans, and this feels like the right moment.”
Taking on the position as head of GVC is the company’s chief operating officer Shay Segev, who has been with the business since 2016.
Alexander described Segev as an outstanding leader with unrivalled technological expertise: “As a shareholder, I know that our company will be in good hands.”
GVC chairman Barry Gibson said of Alexander: “We will miss him, but we also understand his wishes to hand over the reins after such as long and successful stint at the top of the company.”
IRISH RACE FIXTURES ANNOUNCED FOR REST OF 2020
4 June 2020: A week’s extension to the Flat turf season and an increase of five in the number of fixtures scheduled at Dundalk in November are among the changes to the fixture list announced by HRI for the remainder of 2020, with a new schedule published for August through to December.
Following the previously announced June and July schedules, which featured nine extra race meetings, a further 39 will be added in the last five months. This will restore 48 of the 87 fixtures that were lost between the end of March and next Monday’s resumption of racing at Naas. The total number of fixtures now scheduled for 2020 will be 331 compared to the original allocation of 370 for the year. There will be an increase to the number of fixtures every month with September seeing an extra 11 meetings compared to the original fixture list, and 10 additional fixtures set for October.
The Flat turf season is extended by a week and will now end at Naas on Saturday 7 November. There are also two extra meetings at the Curragh in the final week of the 2020 Flat turf season, while extra Flat opportunities will be provided in November with the five Dundalk fixtures lost earlier in the year all being added back into that month. There will be three all-weather meetings (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) in each of the three weeks after the end of the Flat turf season, meaning that the overall number of Flat fixtures in November doubles from seven to 14.
Jason Morris, HRI’s Director of Racing, said: “We have worked closely with all racecourses to develop a fixture list for the remainder of 2020 which is appropriate for both the horse population and each individual track, and we are very grateful for the excellent co-operation received from racecourse managers. We have spread the additional opportunities throughout the year and over both codes to reflect the meetings that were lost over the March to June period. By significantly expanding the number of Flat opportunities in November, including an extra week of turf racing, we are elongating the season in recognition of the severely delayed start experienced by owners, trainers and jockeys.
“All fixtures which were due to be staged from the start of July onwards have been retained with no track foregoing any of their meetings although some have changed dates. The meeting at Laytown on September 1 will be kept under review to determine, based on the government guidance that will apply at the time, whether it is possible to implement the necessary protocols at the beach venue.
“Race meetings are all single code to minimise the number of people working at the racecourse with the possible sole exception of the Listowel Festival. Depending upon social distancing requirements and potential crowd limitations in late September, Listowel could host mixed cards on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of their seven-day Festival. If this is not possible, there will be five all-National Hunt days, with Flat racing on the Monday and Thursday.
“HRI has agreed to a request from Punchestown to stage one Flat meeting (on September 3) which will be subject to satisfactory trial gallops being staged over the proposed track layout in advance of the fixture. Punchestown’s other six re-instated fixtures will all remain National Hunt.”
♦ Click here for 202i Irish fixtures https://www.goracing.ie/fixture-list/
BETTING BRANDS CEASE TRADING AFTER CUSTOMER SUICIDE
28 May: A Gambling Commission investigation, which arose following a customer’s suicide, into PT Entertainment Services (PTES), whose parent company is Playtech, and who traded as www.winner.co.uk and titanbet.co.uk, uncovered systemic failures in player protection. Both www.winner.co.uk and titanbet.co.uk have ceased trading.
In March 2019 the regulator began an investigation after being contacted by the family of a man who tragically took his own life in April 2017 aged 25. Although PTES surrendered its licence during the investigation the Commission decided that it was in the public interest to complete the investigation and publish its findings.
The Commission’s investigation identified serious systemic failings in the way PTES managed its social responsibility and anti-money laundering processes. In relation to the young man in question, the Commission concluded that the operator failed to carry out any responsible gambling customer interactions even though it was aware that several of his debit card transactions had been declined.
PTES also provided him with VIP status without verifying that he could afford to spend the amounts of money he was playing with – all of which are serious and unacceptable failings.
The investigation also revealed more general failings in the way PTES interacted with its highest spending customers. If the licence had not been surrendered the Commission would have imposed a £3.5m penalty and considered whether other sanctions were appropriate.
The Commission is continuing to investigate the role played by key individuals at PTES who still hold personal licences and will take any appropriate action following completion of further investigations.
Prior to surrender of its operating licence, PTES made a number of settlement offers which the Commission regarded as seriously deficient. PTES proceeded to donate £619,395, the amount it proposed as a regulatory settlement offer on 30 October 2019, to charity in furtherance of the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms.
Parent company Playtech has also pledged to donate a total of £5m to mental health and gambling-related harm charities over the next five years as part of its strategy to promote better online health.
Neil McArthur, the Commission’s Chief Executive, said: “This is a tragic case which came to light after I was contacted by the family of the young man who very sadly took his own life. I want to thank them for their bravery in bringing his case to our attention and we are grateful for the way they have worked with us in such terrible circumstances so that we could understand what happened.”
“Although PTES has ceased trading, we decided to complete our investigation and publish our findings, as the lessons from this tragic case must be learned by all operators.’
“This case – like so many others we have seen – illustrates why the management of so-called ‘high value customers’ has to change. Operators must do everything in their power to interact with customers responsibly. We will shortly be opening a consultation to make permanent changes to the way operators recruit and incentivise high value customers.’’
RACING ISSUES GUIDELINES TO GET GOVERNMENT APPROVAL FOR THE SPORT’S RETURN
24 May: The technical guidelines for racing’s participants and staff to follow so that the sport can receive government approval to resume safely behind closed doors have been issued by the British Horseracing Authority. The main requirements of the guidelines are:
- Racecourse attendance will be kept to a bare minimum, with farriers, medical staff, stalls handlers, stewards and vets all deemed essential, whilst trainers, plus one groom per horse, will be allowed racecourse attendance
- Two reporters (drawn from the Press Association and the Racing Post) will be allowed, as will two photographers
- Owners will not be allowed racecourse entry, and there will be no bookmakers
- There will be screenings for everyone prior to racecourse entry, and anyone with a temperature above 37.8C will be refused access
- All saddles and jockey’s equipment must be disinfected on arrival, whilst horseboxes must be disinfected before and after each journey
- Horsebox drivers will either have to stay with their vehicles or use a designated rest area.
- Anyone likely to be in a situation which breaches social distancing rules will be required to wear a safety mask and, as well as anyone entering the parade ring, this applies to jockeys, stable staff and stalls handlers – the BHA have obtained supplies of safety masks
- Jockeys’ changing rooms will be reconfigured to meet with social distancing rules, and saunas and showers will not be available
- Only bottled water will available by way of refreshment
Racing’s resumption is conditional upon the government agreeing that restrictions can be eased further as part of Step Two of its coronavirus recovery strategy, which includes the return of professional sport and other cultural events. The first race meeting is scheduled for 1 June. The guidelines require participants to take action in preparation for attending meetings.
The BHA has worked with racecourses and representatives of trainers, jockeys and staff to adapt a normal race meeting, provide medical screening for all attendees in advance and maintain social distancing.
The guidelines have been developed in consultation with officials from Public Health England and a group of cross-sport Chief Medical Officers, and drawn up under the direction of the BHA’s Chief Medical Advisor, Dr Jerry Hill. They are aligned with the government guidance for the return of elite sports published so far but can be adapted if required by subsequent guidance.
The key principle is to act in line with government policy to protect those working and competing at race-meetings, and to reassure the wider community that the risks of spreading corona virus have been kept to a minimum.
Race meetings without the public are an important stage in a full return to work for the racing industry which, says the BHA, is worth more than £4 billion annually for the economy, much of which is generated in rural areas. Some 20,000 staff are directly employed, with tens of thousands more working in jobs that depend on racing.
British racing remains in direct discussion with the devolved Governments regarding timescales for a potential resumption in Scotland and Wales.
The BHA and Dr Hill have carried out a detailed assessment of the risks from returning over several weeks. The background risks for a horseracing event without the public are considered to be low:
- It is a non-contact sport in which social distancing can be maintained in most situations
- It takes place out of doors where the risks of virus transmission are recognised to be lower
- Most of those attending live in rural areas where the incidence of COVID-19 is generally lower
- Training of horses has continued: staff and riders have already adapted to social distancing
- Most attending will do so in private vehicles and are not reliant on public transport
Through its resumption plans, the BHA say British racing will ensure that:
- It will act in line with government policy to protect those coming back to work and minimise the risk of spreading the virus
- For those working at an event, including officials, racecourse staff and participants, the implementation of the guidelines ensures that racing will take place in a more controlled environment than most day-to-day activities
This will be achieved through a combination of:
- Efficient, repeated, targeted medical screening to ensure as much as possible that everyone who is on a racecourse is safe to be on that racecourse
- Detailed guidance and protocols around managing a race day safely and mitigating the risks of the transmission of corona virus
- Education to support behaviour changes, alongside sanctions if appropriate and necessary
Racing will liaise with NHS Providers in order to reduce the use of any medical or NHS services to a minimum, acting responsibly by using other healthcare resources – private ambulances, hospitals and medics – to protect the NHS.
The guidelines will be updated and adapted to remain in line with government policy and will be kept under constant review to ensure any learnings from resumption are identified and included.
The BHA’s Chief Regulatory Officer, Brant Dunshea, said
“Racing has been able to develop its guidelines based on our experience of operating bio-secure environments to control the spread of infection in horses, and a robust approach to regulation and enforcing the rules.
“Our trainers, jockeys and staff carry out their roles in a highly disciplined way because working with horses always carries risks. I am very confident they will adapt quickly to this new set of measures designed to protect them from transmission of the virus.”
RACE CONDITIONS AND PROTOCOLS UPDATED
22 May: Further to the earlier announcement of the Royal Ascot 2020 scheduled, which will include extra races and with every race having a maximum number of 24 runners, the BHA has stated that elimination from Royal Ascot races for two-year-olds will be based purely on previous finishing positions, with priority given in the following order:
- Horses that have won an Open Novice or Maiden race
- Horses that have won a Restricted Novice or Maiden race
- Horses that have finished second in an Open Novice or Maiden race
- Horses that have finished second in a Restricted Novice or Maiden race
- Horses that have finished third in an Open Novice or Maiden race
- Horses that have finished third in a Restricted Novice or Maiden race
- Horses that have finished fourth in an Open Novice or Maiden race
- Horses that have finished fourth in a Restricted Novice or Maiden race
- Unraced horses
- Horses that have run but have not been placed in the first four
Other important points to help with planning have been issued, some of which have already been included in earlier BHA updates, and other that have been finalised over the past few days.
- 72-hour declarations
These will be in place for all races from 1 June until further notice. This will ensure all participants are able to complete the necessary preparatory steps between declaration and attendance at the racecourse, including the compulsory pre-entry health screening (details of which will be communicated to the industry in the coming days). The BHA appreciates that the use of 72-hour declarations will create additional challenges for trainers and will revert to 48-hour declarations once it is clear this is viable.
- Field sizes – the following will apply:
All non-Pattern and Listed races will be limited to 12 runners per race. This reflects risk modelling that indicates that field sizes of 12 or fewer in non-Pattern and Listed races reduces the risk to participants on the track. Even though more races have been programmed at each fixture than would normally be the case, it is recognised that this will increase competition for places. This will be reviewed at the end of the first week of racing.
Pattern and Listed races will not be limited to 12 runners. These races will be subject to the existing maximum field size limits, or any other limit imposed by the racecourse at which the races are to be held. Again, this decision is based on risk modelling, which indicates that Pattern and Listed races are less likely to involve an incident.
- Handicapping – with the start of the season being delayed, the BHA will help more horses become eligible for a handicap rating after two runs.
A horse will be eligible for a handicap rating if it (i) finishes in the first six places on both of its first two starts, or (ii) has completed two starts having won first time out. It is also confirmed that the handicap rating for any horse that has, as a result of either of these changes, become eligible to be rated, will be published within the ‘Official Ratings’ section of the BHA website.
In addition, the current rules state that in order to run in a handicap with a Total Race Value of £45,000 or more, a horse must have run at least three times. Given the lack of opportunity for a 3yo to have a third run this year before some such handicaps take place, this rule will not be enforced until 1 July. This means that relaxation of the qualification rules outlined above will now also apply to high value handicaps until the end of June.
- British-based horses
There will be no regional restrictions in place for British-based horses on resumption. However, the revised fixture list provides a good geographical spread of fixtures to maximise opportunities for horses across the country.
- International runners
There will only be permitted to run initially in the three Group 1 races taking place in Britain during the first fortnight (Coronation Cup, 2000 Guineas and 1000 Guineas). Under current planning, international runners will be able to participate in all Pattern and Listed races taking place in Britain from 15 June 2020 onwards. The BHA is also assessing the implications of this evening’s announcement from the UK Government on quarantine measures for international travellers to the UK from 8 June. Further guidance will be issued in due course.
- Overnight accommodation at racecourses
Overnight accommodation will not be available at ANY racecourse for staff or horses from 1 June and until further notice.
- Jump racing
The provisional fixture list includes Jump racing from 1 July. As confirmed previously, the BHA will amend Jump novice status so that winners since the beginning of February will retain their novice status until 30 November.
NEW INITIATIVES PLANNED FOR IRISH RACECOURSE TV COVERAGE
20 May: New initiatives in the television coverage on Irish racecourses are planned after Horse Racing Ireland announced that IRIS, a family run business based in Bartlemy, County Cork, has been awarded the contract for the provision of televised services to Irish horse racing.
The use of raceday tracking cameras and drone cameras, which aim to enhance the viewing experience, are part of an initial four-year deal, running until May 2024, with an option to extend on an annual basis up to a maximum of 10 years.
The contract covers a number of roles on each of Ireland’s 26 racecourses, including supplying raceday integrity services to the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, racecourse CCTV and providing race coverage to Sports Information Services (SIS) and Racing TV as well as working alongside terrestrial broadcasters.
Bart Arnold, Managing Director of IRIS, said:
“We are delighted to have the opportunity of continuing to support Horse Racing Ireland and the Association of Irish Racecourses in the provision of televised services to Irish horse racing. There are several new technologies being introduced which will create innovative ways of viewing, entertaining and informing racing fans around the world. The new arrangements will see the introduction of best in class facilities for the raceday Stewards, enhancing the integrity of Irish Horseracing into the future. A superb team of people are in the background, delivering a quality service with professionalism, commitment and enthusiasm.”
IRISH RACING TO RUN FULL PROGRAMME OF GROUP RACES
20 May: Horse Racing Ireland has published a revised list of Group races, Listed races and Premier Handicaps for the Covid 19 impacted 2020 Flat racing season which includes an important change to the conditions of the Tattersalls Gold Cup. These are the most significant races which are pivotal to the breeding industry and sales catalogues.
The Tattersalls Gold Cup will now be run at the end of July and will offer a new Group 1 opportunity for horses aged three-years-old and up over 10 furlongs, filling a significant gap in the revised Pattern.
The publication confirms that the full complement of Group races will be run through the year given their importance to the Irish breeding industry.
Racing resumes in Ireland behind closed doors on 8 June having missed 87 fixtures since 24 March, and Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of Horse Racing Ireland, said: “The revised list of Pattern races published today will see the many of them run on their original dates and under their typical conditions, though inevitably some have had date, race conditions and even venue changes to allow them fit into the new schedule.
“Apart from the three Group 1 races normally run on Guineas weekend, all other Group 1 races in Ireland will be run on their originally scheduled dates and venues.
“The two-year-old Group race programme will start about six weeks later than normal, in early July, but again the full complement of opportunities will be run between then and season end.
“2020 will be anything but a normal year, but in the circumstances, we have tried to preserve the opportunities which the Irish race programme offers to the better horse.”
♦ The 2020 revised programme of pattern, listed and premier nurseries and handicaps can be found here