Someone tell the BHA it’s all in the timing
Barely a week goes by where there’s not some sort of question raised about the BHA’s running of the sport’s integrity, and the past week has been no exception.
Starting with one of the more trivial matters, but still questionable, trainer Peter Hedges was fined £140 when a member of his team squirted water at a horse, not one of his, who was showing reluctance to go to the start.
Such encouragement for a recalcitrant horse is harmless.
So instead of being praised for coming to the help of a fellow handler, the action of Hodges’s member of staff results in a fine, much to the annoyance of the trainer who was both critical of the rules and the stewards who handed out the fine.
Fortunately, common sense prevailed and the fine was replaced by a caution – scant reward for showing initiative and offering a helping hand.
Another trainer less than happy with the BHA is Epsom handler Jim Boyle who was part of the Surrey training centre’s open day on bank holiday Monday. But, instead of welcoming visitors to his yard, he was greeted by two vets who had come to do random drug tests on the horses.
Not unnaturally Boyle was angry at the timing of the visit, not least because it delayed his part of the open day proceedings – the busiest day of the year for Epsom yards.
Why the vets’ visit took place on that particular day has gone unanswered, but it does come across as being a crass decision and it seems doubtful if the tests would have thrown up different results if conducted the day before or the day after.
Something else which has raised eyebrows is the lifting of an indefinite ban on former owner Gary Banham who, in 2010, was investigated for bets against his horse Sabre Light who was beaten in a race at Lingfield two years earlier.
During a visit by investigative officers he become abusive and used threatening behaviour, for which he received a six-month ban
The lifetime ban was for failing to answer questions concerning the case, and trainer Jeff Pearce and former trainer Geoff Huffer were also warned off indefinitely.
It now transpires that the ban was lifted five years ago, but was not made public.
The BHA now say the ban was lifted following an approach by Banham and they considered a number of factors “which included assurances by Banham”, adding that there was no threat to racing’s integrity.
Banham is now reported as a financial backer of a yard near Newmarket, once occupied by John Ferguson, which will be run by Paul Howling, who has come out of retirement, with Banham’s nineteen-year-old daughter, Chelsea, as assistant trainer.
It’s quite a turnaround of events that a lifetime ban is lifted after five years and curious that it takes another five years for it to become public knowledge.
If that represented a change of view by the BHA, there has also been the announcement of the new racecourse stewarding process.
Such changes were flagged-up last year when the now departed chief regulatory officer, Jamie Stier, said the new process would do away with non-professional stewarding, a proposal that provoked an angry response not just from honorary stewards but from participants in the sport as a whole.
The BHA has compromised and a stewarding panel will comprise two BHA-paid officials and an honorary panel chair.
But the damage had been done by the earlier announcement, and much goodwill has been lost, possibly to the extent that the BHA may have difficulty in recruiting people to join the new stewards’ panels.
Not so champion
It was a bit naughty of the Curragh to send an email promoting the Longines Irish Champions Weekend, the second day of which it hosts, with an image of its new Grandstand.
There was nothing in the email to say that it was an artist’s impression and that the stand, and many other facilities, are under construction and would not be available to racegoers at the advertised meeting.
Badges of honour
The Sandown annual members’ room lost one of its regulars earlier in the summer when 85-year-old Morris died of a heart attack. Around a dozen fellow racegoers attended his funeral and, in a nice touch, they wore their annual members’ badges as a mark of respect.