NHS CHARITIES TO RECEIVE OVER £2.6m FROM VITUAL NATIONAL
5 April: NHS Charities Together are to benefit from donations of over £2.6m from bookmakers who took bets on the Virtual Grand National.
The virtual race was shown on ITV on Saturday afternoon and drew an audience of 4.8m, a 30% share of the TV audience.
People placing bets were allowed a maximum of £10 win or £10 each way on the runners and bookmakers said that they would donate the profits they made to the NHS.
The first five home were
1. Potters Corner 18-1
2. Walk In The Mill 16-1
3. Any Second Now 10-1
4. Tiger Roll 5-1
5. Burrows Saint 12-1
British and Gaming Council chief executive Michael Dugher said: “We are overwhelmed with the public support for the virtual Grand National and the support shown for NHS Charities Together.
“When the nation was in much need of some light relief, millions joined in the fun in honour of one of Britain’s greatest sporting events and helped raise a fantastic amount for our brave heroes in the NHS.
“The country is going through what is little short of a nightmare at the moment, so it was heartwarming to see pictures on social media of so many people enjoying themselves watching the excellent ITV and Carm Productions programme that had such impressive viewing figures.”
JUMP RACING TO BREAK UNTIL 1 JULY
2 April: The British Horseracing Authority has announced that it will delay the resumption of jump racing until the beginning of July. This decision was made following an initial proposal from the National Trainers Federation (NTF), with the aim being to provide clarity to the trainers and owners of jump horses and to assist them in minimising any unnecessary expenditure.
The decision has been taken in agreement with the Racehorse Owners Association (ROA), Professional Jockeys Association (PJA) and Racecourse Association (RCA).
As included in the industry plan announced on Monday, detailed proposals are being developed for a resumption of racing from 1st May, if that’s possible. When that happens, racing will begin on the flat and behind closed doors to minimise demands on emergency services.
The return to racing is also likely to be phased with a limited number of fixtures in the initial weeks. This reflects the likelihood that any easing of the Covid-19 situation, and any associated restrictions and pressures on medical services, will also happen progressively. With flat racing usually entering its core season at this time of year, the focus in the early stages of the return to racing will be on providing opportunities to the flat horse population.
A team led by the BHA’s Chief Regulatory Officer, Brant Dunshea, with representatives from across the industry met yesterday (Wednesday) to review the developing plan for resumption from 1 May.
Planning has also commenced for a return to jump racing, beginning from 1st July. It will include providing extra opportunities by programming more jump fixtures than would usually occur at this time of year, including during the originally scheduled jump breaks in August and September.
Tracks capable of holding jump racing in this period and most affected by the reduction in the number of jump fixtures earlier in the summer will be given priorit when programming additional opportunities.
Richard Wayman, Chief Operating Officer of the BHA, said:
“The decision to lose jump racing until July was not one which was taken lightly and we are very conscious of the impact this will have on many across our sport.
“We are working closely with the horsemen, racecourses and Levy Board to ensure the sport is ready for a resumption of racing at the earliest possible opportunity. Our planning is progressing well, and it is important that we keep everybody informed as it develops to help them with their own decision-making.
“The plan involves a phased return of racing, as well as increasing the jump programme in late summer and early autumn. With that in mind, we wanted to ensure that those who own or train jumps horses have a clear picture of how we are planning to proceed in the coming months.
“Additionally, we were keen to minimise the risk of any unnecessary expenditure by confirming that there will be no jump racing before 1st July. This will allow horses to have breaks away from training yards if owners wish them to.”
Emma Lavelle, President of the NTF, said:
“Having canvassed the opinion of Jump trainers, we felt a break in Jump racing until 1st July would bring clarity for owners, trainers and staff, and allow the immediate focus to be on Flat Racing which is already losing a major part of its core season.
“There was a willingness to engage in constructive conversation amongst the BHA and other stake holders and flexibility to produce a programme that will give plenty of opportunities to the summer jump population later in the year”.
Charlie Parker, ROA Board member and representative on the Resumption of Racing Group, said:
“The decision to delay the resumption of Jump racing until 1st July will help bring clarity to those who were looking forward to seeing their horses run over the summer months. By taking this decision, owners and trainers can now plan with more certainty, albeit with the knowledge that it will be a phased return and therefore opportunities for horses to run will be limited initially.
“The ROA will continue to work with the Resumption of Racing Group to ensure that, when feasible, British racing is able to restart a race programme as soon as possible.”
David Armstrong, Chief Executive of the RCA, said
“All parts of the industry are suffering right now, and racecourses are no exception, but we are fully supportive of this decision to give some certainty to horsemen and others around the timing of a resumption of jump racing.
“Equally, the commitment from the BHA that they will look to stage an enhanced programme of jump fixtures during the late summer and early Autumn is very helpful and should give some comfort to all those involved.”
Dale Gibson, Executive Director (Racing) of the PJA, said:
“The PJA, having consulted senior Jump Jockeys and our Board via conference call this morning, fully supports the plan for Jump Racing to return in July. Any changes to the summer programme present new challenges for everyone involved, especially during these incredibly difficult times. We all need to be willing to adapt and work collectively for the benefit to the sport as a whole.
“This includes having an agreed plan for the initial resumption of racing, whenever that may be, as long as we are able to do so safely from both a national perspective and from a participants’ point of view. We look forward to working closely with other stakeholders in producing a plan to get racing back up and running as soon as possible.”
IRISH JUMP 2019/20 SEASON HAS FINISHED
1 April: HRI Board has announced the close of the 2019/20 Irish national hunt season and cancellation of Fairyhouse and Punchestown Festivals. The key developments from HRI today are:
- Plans agreed to keep Ireland on a ‘racing ready’ footing
- National Hunt season 2019/2020 to end
- 2020 Fairyhouse Easter and Punchestown National Hunt Festivals will not be rescheduled
- When racing resumes, it will do so with a month of Flat-only fixtures
- Significantly enhanced National Hunt programme in the October to December period
- 2020 BoyleSports Irish Grand National to be rearranged in this winter period
The Board of Horse Racing Ireland wanted to provide as much clarity as possible to the racing industry, in very uncertain times, agreeing it was prudent to bring the 2019/2020 National Hunt season to a close at this point.
The Board also discussed a strategy that would allow Irish racing to return as quickly as possible once it is appropriate to do so and within Government guidelines. The Board recognised that, at least initially, racing would restart on the Flat and most likely behind closed doors, with adherence to strict social distancing protocols as were successfully operated at ten race fixtures in March.
Nicky Hartery, Chairman of Horse Racing Ireland, said:
“We have stressed throughout that Government and HSE guidelines around fighting Covid-19 must come first and racing will only be able to resume when the Government guidelines permit and when there is adequate medical cover in place to ensure that race meetings can be staged safely. No-one can predict when this point will be reached.
“What the Board agreed today was a plan to get back racing once those guidelines allow.”
A number of fixture and race programme scenarios have been developed by the executive which will ensure a timely and agile response when a potential restart date becomes clearer. The plan for a staggered resumption strategy would initially see a programme of solely Flat racing fixtures for one month so as to prioritise the portion of the horse population which most require the resumption of racecourse action, whilst also minimising potential requirement for medical support.
The decision was also taken by the Board to end the 2019/2020 National Hunt season immediately, with the spring festivals at Fairyhouse and Punchestown not to be rescheduled. Instead an enhanced National Hunt programme from October to December 2020 will be revealed later this year and it is intended to include in that programme the 2020 BoyleSports Irish Grand National.
Brian Kavanagh (pictured), Chief Executive of Horse Racing Ireland said:
“Like many other sectors, the racing and breeding industry in Ireland will take a seismic economic blow from the fall-out of Covid-19. We will be working closely with Government to limit the long-term impact of this pandemic. We know that jobs will be lost in a key rural industry and that the viability of some industry institutions will come under serious threat.
“We are working on a range of industry supports which we hope to announce in the coming weeks. Once an achievable target resumption date can be identified, a new fixture list covering the rest of the year will be quickly published based on our on-going work, along with revised race programmes which will cater for the entire horse population.
“While the conclusion of the National Hunt season is a major blow for that sector and jump racing enthusiasts, in making an early decision we want to give as much certainty as possible to owners and trainers and this plan will allow winter National Hunt horses to take advantage of summer grass, reducing the costs for National Hunt owners, with the knowledge of an enhanced programme to come for them from the Autumn onwards, circumstances permitting.”
BOOKMAKERS’ PROTECTION OF CUSTOMER FUNDS
27 March: The Horseracing Bettors Forum (HBF) has established a register of the degree of protection of funds being claimed by various betting companies, and also shows the Gambling Commission’s categorisation.
The HBF conducted an audit of a number of the more prominent betting organisations and the level of protection they claim. In the absence of any indication to the contrary, HBF has reported that self-assessment.
In accordance with point 1 in the December 2017 version of the Betting Charter, “Advanced protection of punters’ funds”, the HBF asked that companies offer “medium” or “high” protection of customer funds. It has indicated where that has been claimed, and where it has not, in the the register.
The three levels of protection
- 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.
In the table below, 0=Not Protected, 1=Medium, 2=High
In the below table, ‘Medium’ in red font denotes that these bookmakers state in their T&Cs that they cannot absolutely guarantee that all funds will be repaid.
All information is as reported on that company’s website at the date of audit. All details are, to HBF’s best knowledge, correct at the date of audit. HBF cannot be held liable for any errors, or for updates which occur subsequent to the date of audit. The HBF has asked that any such updates or errors should be drawn to HBF’s attention.
The HBF hopes to expand this register in time and to revisit the details in it on occasion.
Details of the Gambling Commission’s categorisation in this area are given on its website: http://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/for-the-public/Your-rights/Protection-of-customer-funds.aspx.
It should be noted that the Gambling Commission leaves it to the companies in question to decide which category they fall into, but that they may check the accuracy of this self-assessment.
The HBF says customers are advised to read the relevant T&Cs and satisfy themselves that the company in question is providing the level of service it claims.
IRISH RACING SECURITY HEAD WINS DEFAMATION CASE AGAINST TRAINERS’ BODY
26 March: 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.
Gordon’s legal team, headed by SC Mark Harty, brought seven strands of defamation to the court, including the contentious Irish Field interview with IRTA chairman Noel Meade, published in August 2014.
One of the seven instances of defamation was not put to the jury who decided that Gordon was defamed in five of the six strands.
Gordon said: “I have no issue whatsoever with any trainer, only the people who were behind this campaign, and there are only two or three people involved.
“I have no issue, and never had an issue, with any racehorse trainer and my relationships are very good with the racehorse trainers. It’s an absolute shame that it had to come this far. There was no need for it.”
Asked if he was going to stay in his role as the regulator’s head of security, Gordon replied: “Why shouldn’t I? I have done nothing wrong and have been completely vindicated by this jury.
“It has been a nightmare six years and has had a huge personal toll on my family and on myself by the way I was treated by the racing industry and particular figures within it who sided with the trainers. I think that is something that needs to be examined.”
SC John Rogers, representing the IRTA, told the court that he would be lodging an appeal on behalf of his clients.
BOOKMAKERS TO GET BUSINESS RATE RELIEF
26 March: Bookmakers will now benefit from a one-year break from business rates. They were included in a number of added retail businesses that would receive the tax break it was announced yesterday by Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak. As a result, thousands more businesses in retail, hospitality and leisure will not have to pay the rates for a year.
RACING POST TEMPORARILY HALTS PUBLICATION
25 March: The Racing Post newspaper is to temporarily cease publication the editor Tom Kerr has announced:
It is with great sadness I must announce that following Thursday’s edition the Racing Post will be temporarily suspending publication. Unfortunately, with racing in Britain and Ireland halted, betting shops closed, and our governments urging everyone to stay at home as much as possible to slow the spread of the coronavirus, we have been left with no other choice.
Recent events have had an unfathomable impact on our world. We have seen harrowing pictures of overcrowded hospitals and overwhelmed medical professionals in other countries, and in Britain and Ireland we are bracing ourselves for similar scenes, while hoping the extensive measures announced thus far will forestall them.
Sport and betting pale into insignificance when weighed against such terrible events, but we hope in these difficult last two weeks we have provided our readers with the information they need to understand what is happening, and some welcome distraction from the unrelenting news about Covid-19’s spread. In particular, I hope we have helped keep those employed in racing and facing difficult financial times ahead informed about the support available to them.
I am also incredibly proud of the work done by the Racing Post team during this crisis. From dozens of makeshift home offices, they have produced every word on every page you have read over recent days. Sadly, some of our team are being temporarily stood down, utilising the job retention scheme announced by the government, until the paper returns.
I know many of you will share our enormous disappointment that this is the last edition of the Racing Post for a while. However, we will continue to publish on racingpost.com and on the Racing Post mobile app, ensuring that racing professionals, punters and fans of the sport are informed and entertained for however long this shutdown might last. Racing might be suspended, but we know your passion for the sport and need for accurate information continues. We’re still here to serve you.
At some point in the coming weeks or months, when the worst of this disease has passed, horseracing will resume. When racing is back, the Racing Post newspaper will be back as well, filled with all the wit, wisdom, data and analysis that you expect from us.
It is important in these dark days to remember that better times will come again. In Thursday’s edition, our writers have picked out the stars of the sport who will keep them looking forward in the weeks to come. We can’t wait to see them, and we can’t wait to see you again too.
In the meantime, I wish all our readers the very best. Please do continue to join us online, but above all: stay safe, stay healthy and stay home.
THURLES ON ITV4
19 March: ITV Racing will broadcast five races from Thurles on Saturday 21 March, on air from 1.30-4pm on ITV4.
Ed Chamberlin will present the show, which will be produced in the UK with the smallest possible team.
As well as racing from Thurles, the team will look back at the recent Cheltenham Festival and the 2019-2020 jumps season. There will be no Opening Show.
ITV Racing would like to thank Horse Racing Ireland and Racecourse Media Group for making this possible
17 March: The British Horseracing Authority has confirmed that all horseracing in Britain will be suspended with effect from tomorrow.
Last night, The Jockey Club announced that The Randox Health Grand National has been cancelled due to coronavirus.
Two race meetings are scheduled to take place behind closed doors at Wetherby and Taunton today, but race meetings will cease up to the end of April. The decision will be kept under constant review.
The formal decision was taken by Board of the British Horseracing Authority this morning based on the statements made by the government yesterday and after consultation with senior industry leaders. Medical Advisers to the RCA and the BHA, who have been advising an industry group on the response to the crisis, have also been consulted.
The BHA took the decision to protect essential emergency services and the health and welfare of staff working in the racing industry. Racecourses and racing have obligations to ensure the safety of participants and provide medical cover which clearly cannot be fulfilled in these circumstances. This follows the new advice issued by government yesterday to combat the spread of the virus.
Nick Rust, the Chief Executive of the BHA, said:
“This is a national emergency the like of which most of us have never seen before. We’re a sport that is proud of its connection to rural communities and to the local businesses that support our industry. But our first duty is to the health of the public, our customers and to racing industry participants and staff so we have decided to suspend racing following the government’s latest advice.
“Racing is a family and I know we will pull together over the coming days, weeks and months and support each other. By stopping racing, we can free up medical resources, doctors and ambulances, be they private sector or NHS, to assist in the national effort to fight this virus. And we can support racing industry participants and staff as they face up to the personal challenges ahead and care for their own families.
“There will be difficult months ahead for many of us. We need to focus now on ensuring that we can continue to look after our horses as the virus affects the thousands of participants and staff who dedicate their lives to caring for animals. We need to do what we can to support businesses inside and outside racing and the many people whose livelihoods depend upon this £4 billion industry.
“We are in constant contact with government which understands the very significant consequences of this decision for jobs and businesses. We will work with them to do our best to manage the impact.
“Racing leaders will keep today’s decision under constant review and endeavour to keep all customers, participants, staff and dependent businesses informed as the situation progresses.”
GRAND NATIONAL CALLED OFF
16 March: The 2020 Grand National has been called off.
Following the Government’s new public health guidance regarding avoiding social contact and stopping non-essential travel, and its statement that emergency services are withdrawn from supporting mass gatherings from tomorrow, the Jockey Club has decided that it is no longer appropriate to stage the event.
Jockey Club Racecourses, which runs Aintree and several of the UK’s leading racecourses, had been assessing the feasibility of running the world’s most famous Steeplechase behind closed doors with minimal staff on site, but the latest government information on the measures needed to contain the virus have led it to believe this is no longer a viable consideration.
Sandy Dudgeon, the Jockey Club’s senior steward said: “The Randox Health Grand National Festival was just three weeks away and it’s very clear to us it will not be possible for the event to take place. Public health must come first.
“We were working on a plan to stage the Grand National behind closed doors given its importance to the racing industry and beyond, but following the new Government measures confirmed this evening to help to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, this is not a viable option.
“I know this is hugely disappointing news for the many people who work in our sport and the many millions who were looking forward to this year’s event, but very sadly these are exceptional times and this is the responsible thing to do.”
RACING GOES BEHIND CLOSED DOORS TOMORROW
16 March: Racing industry leaders have confirmed a plan to continue racing behind closed doors from tomorrow. Any fixtures that take place in England, Wales and Scotland, initially until the end of March, will take place without spectators and with restrictions on the number of attendees.
The race meetings at Taunton and Wetherby on Tuesday will be the first in England to take place behind closed doors, following the approach taken at Kelso this afternoon. Customers are being asked to contact the individual racecourses for further details.
The intention is for scheduled race meetings to take place wherever possible. However, the situation is very fluid at present and decisions may have to be made to cancel meetings. Every effort will be made to notify customers and the betting industry at the earliest opportunity.
With race meetings due to happen every day, the aim is to agree a programme that is sustainable, in the light of possible staff absences, including in critical roles, in order to protect industry staff and support the wider effort to free up critical public services.
The plan was agreed today by the sport’s tripartite leadership, including the Racecourse Association, The Horsemen’s Group and the governing body, the British Horseracing Authority
The BHA is notifying the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport of the plan agreed today. Racing has continued to observe the government’s request for a proportionate response that takes into account public health and the impact on jobs and businesses.
The Chief Executive of the BHA, Nick Rust, said:
“Racecourses and racing yards are embedded in their local communities and we are acutely aware of our responsibilities to protect public health.
“The restrictions we are putting in place to close racing to spectators and limit attendees will reduce demand on public services. We also have a range of measures in place designed in response to the government’s guidance on public health and we will continue to update these as appropriate.
“We acknowledge that today’s decision will also impact on local businesses, especially hotels and restaurants, who are struggling at this time. We are following the government’s advice to strike a balance between protecting public health and maintaining business activity and will continue to do so. We thank our customers and staff for their support.”
Racing participants will be given further information later today and are asked to check the Racing Administration system where updates will be provided. The media will be notified of the arrangements for their attendance.
RACING READYING ITSELF TO BE RUN BEHIND CLOSED DOORS
15 March: Racing industry leaders are preparing to hold race meetings without spectators and to ensure that the competitors and participants attending only do so under strict conditions.
The sport’s tripartite leadership, including racecourses, participants and the governing body, the British Horseracing Authority, will tomorrow discuss an approach recommended by the industry’s COVID 19 group. It is likely to mean that racing moves behind closed doors later in the week, initially until the end of March. Racing’s fixture list will also be considered.
With race meetings due to happen every day, the intention is to agree a programme that is sustainable in the light of possible staff absences, including in critical roles, which protects industry staff and supports the wider effort to free up critical public services.
Monday’s race meeting at Kelso is already being run behind closed doors following guidance from the Scottish government. No spectators will be present and strict procedures will be observed to minimise the health risks for staff who do attend, including jockeys, trainers, racecourse staff, stable grooms and officials. The fixture will continue to be televised.
The BHA has been closely following official guidance on public health. Details of contingency plans have been shared with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Racing has continued to observe the government’s request for a proportionate response that takes into account public health and the impact on jobs and businesses.
The Chief Executive of the BHA, Nick Rust, said:
“Racing has worked hard to look after our customers and our staff by following the government’s guidance and taking proportionate action.
“We will agree plans to limit attendance to participants and staff only at race meetings from this week and put in place the contingency plans developed by the industry.”
The UK government has also been briefed on the issues involved in staging the Randox Health Grand National. A decision will be announced as soon as possible.
GAMBLING COMMISSION FINE BETWAY £11.6m
12 March: Online gambling business Betway is to pay £11.6m, alongside implementing a package of measures, for a series of social responsibility and money laundering failings linked to dealings with seven of its high spending customers.
In one instance, the operator failed to carry out source of funds checks on a ‘VIP’ customer who deposited over £8m and lost over £4m during a four-year period. In another, Betway failed to carry out effective social responsibility interactions with a customer who deposited and lost £187,000 in two days.
The Gambling Commission investigation found that as a result of a lack of consideration of individual customers affordability and source of funds checks the operator allowed £5.8m of money to flow through the business which has been found, or could reasonably be suspected to be, proceeds of crime. The majority of this money will now be divested and returned to victims.
The regulator probe also revealed inadequate management oversight and investigations into responsible Personal Management Licence holders are ongoing.
Richard Watson, Executive Director at the Gambling Commission, said: “The actions of Betway suggest there was little regard for the welfare of its VIP customers or the impact on those around them.”
Mr Watson said today’s case illustrated why operators’ management of high value customers must change and why the industry must do everything to interact with customers responsibly.
He said: “As part of our ongoing programme of work to make gambling safer we are pushing the industry to make rapid progress on the areas that we consider will have the most significant impact to protect consumers. The treatment and handling of high value customers is a significant piece of that work and operators are in no doubt about the need to tackle the issue at speed.
“We have set tight deadlines for when we expect to see progress and if we do not see the right results then we will have no choice but to take further action. This case highlights again why progress needs to be made.”
ALTIOR “THINGS ARE LOOKING UP”
9 March: Nicky Henderson has issued a more positive bulletin today regarding the likelihood of Altior running in Wednesday’s Queen Mother Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, tweeting that “we are not out of the woods, but things are definitely looking up”.
Henderson’s statement in full read: “Altior has definitely improved over the last 24 hours and consequently we have declared him for the Champion Chase on Wednesday, although he is not yet 100%. If the race was today he would not run, but if the soreness on the splint abates at the same rate as it has done in the last 24 hours he definitely has a chance of making the line-up.
“He continues to work twice a day in our water treadmill, which is excellent work, and he is not missing any crucial gallops or schooling as they had all been completed before this lameness set in yesterday morning.
“We will obviously be monitoring the situation very carefully but both ourselves and our vets are personally happier this morning and are a lot more hopeful that he will make it. We will just have to see how the next 24 hours goes. Fingers crossed.”
ALTIOR IN UPHILL BATTLE TO BE FIT FOT CHELTENHAM
8 March: Altior is facing a race against time to defend his Queen Mother Chase title at the Cheltenham Festival on Wednesday after being found lame.
Trainer Nicky Henderson said “We’re working away and we’ll either get lucky or we won’t.
“It’s due to an old splint that has been dormant. It’s never bothered him before and, typically, it rears its ugly head now.”
Altior will be attempting a third win a third Queen Mother Chase since Badworth Boy was the last horse to win the race three times.
RACING LEADERS SUPPORT HORSE WELFARE STRATEGY
20 February: Leaders of racing’s stakeholders have given positive support to the Horse Welfare Board’s five-year horse welfare strategy, published today
Annamarie Phelps (pictured), Chair of the BHA, said:
“The publication of this strategy is a landmark moment for the sport. A unified and coordinated approach around welfare will bring together the remarkable people and first-class work that already exists in the industry to create something that is greater than the sum of its parts.
“The scope of the ambition set out by the Horse Welfare Board was daunting at first glance. But it’s based on the strongest of foundations – the pride, passion and dedication of the thousands of people who work in the racing industry.
“Our thanks go to the Horse Welfare Board for their significant personal investment in pulling together this strategy. Their commitment and innovation must now be matched by the industry. We must work together to raise our ambitions, show unity and positivity and demonstrate to the world why we are all so proud to work in this great sport, and how the thoroughbred racehorse is our industry’s greatest and most cherished asset.”
Maggie Carver, Chair of the Racecourse Association, said:
“I would like to congratulate the Horse Welfare Board in producing such a thorough, comprehensive, evidence‐based report. That evidence shows that there are areas where we can strive to do better and that there is an urgent need to respond to changes in society in order to keep racing popular.
“It is now up to all of us to respond with positive plans for improvement and change, not just in the short‐term but sustainably over the years ahead.”
Nicholas Cooper, President of the Racehorse Owners Association (ROA), said:
“The founding principle of the Horse Welfare Board was to better engage the wider bloodstock and racing industry in a structured manner, in order to allow our great sport to advance welfare standards for all thoroughbreds, as well as minimise – wherever possible – the risks associated with racing horses.
“The strategy proposed today is of huge importance and significance for the racing industry and the welfare board should be congratulated for delivering such a rounded and thorough document. We hope that the entire sport will get behind it and support the strategy, and play their part in its implementation.”
In a statement, the National Trainers Federations said:
“The NTF supports the strategy published today by the Horse Welfare Board. We join others across the sport in acknowledging collective responsibility for the horses we nurture and cherish – they are at the centre of our world.
“Trainers are already committed to the well-being and safety of the horses in their care and are proud of the standards of horse welfare delivered in conjunction with their staff. Sports people are competitors – they understand the drive for continuous improvement. This strategy gives us the opportunity to test how good we are and use research to show us where standards can be enhanced.”
♦ The Racing Hub’s special report on the Horse Welfare Board’s report and recommendations can be found here http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-3tp
GAMBLING COMMISSION SUSPEND MATCHBOOK LICENCE
17 February: The Gambling Commission has suspended the licence of Triplebet Limited, who trade as Matchbook, a betting exchange.
Matchbook issued the following statement this evening:
A subsequent Tweet was issued by the Horserace Betting Forum:
Hopefully the @TeamMatchbook temporary suspension by @GamRegGB is resolved quickly, however as they have no protection in case of insolvency, it may be prudent to remove your funds in the interim. matchbook.com/page/rules_and Section 13 Segregated Accounts
Matchbook entered the UK betting exchange market in 2004 and racing has taken on an increasingly bigger role in the company’s activities, leading to sponsorships at Cheltenham, Goodwood and, most significantly, Ascot where it backs the Clarence House Chase.
Entries for Wolverhampton will close on Wednesday 19 February at 12 noon with declarations on Friday 21 February.
KEMPTON PARK SAVED AS HOUSING PLANS SCALED BACK
5 February: Jockey Club Racecourses have scaled back plans for housing development at Kempton Park, which means racing will continue at the turf jumps and all-weather track for the foreseeable future.
Sandy Dudgeon, senior steward of the Jockey Club, said: “Having weighed up the latest information, we’ve now put forward another option alongside the original full site for their consideration. This would involve just a proportion of the available land there and allow jump and all-weather racing to continue.”
The original plan was to demolish the racecourse and build 3,000 new homes, but the proposal never found favour with the local Spelthorne Borough Council.
The revised plan is to build fewer homes on land that is not used for racing, much of it where the old Jubilee start was situated and which has not been raced on since the all-weather surface was installed.
FORMER TRAINER ROBERT ALNER DIES
4 February: Robert Alner, trainer of 1998 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Cool Dawn, has died, aged 76.
He passed away in hospital on Monday night.
Having been a successful amateur jockey, Alner took out a training licence in 1993. His tally of other big-race winners from his Dorset stables included Kingscliff in the Betfair Chase, Miko De Beauchene in Welsh National, and The Listener in the Irish Hennessy.
A car accident in November 2007 left him paralysed and he and his wife Sally became the first couple to be granted a joint training licence in Britain a year later. They ceased training in 2010.
As well as wife Sally, Alner is survived by their two daughters Jennifer and Louise, who is married to trainer Robert Walford.
Walford said: “He’s been a boss, father-in-law and inspiration to me. He was a brilliant, top-class trainer who did so well with horses that were not expensive. He was tough and had plenty of courage.
“It’s a day of mixed emotions as it’s very sad but Robert had not been particularly well in the last week and had a bad day yesterday.”
RACEGOER NUMBERS DROP FOR FOURTH CONSECUTIVE YEAR
30 January: Racecourse attendance in 2019 fell by 2.6%, the fourth consecutive year the numbers have declined, with the Racecourse Association blaming in part the higher number of abandonments. These included a six-day halt to racing in February due to equine flu and a significant number of lost fixtures in the final quarter of the year on account of persistent rain resulting in waterlogged ground.
The number of fixtures in 2019 was 1,443, 28 fewer than 2018.
Figures from the Horserace Betting Levy Board show that average attendance per meeting for 2019 was 3,898, compared to 3,924 in 2018, when the number went below 4,000 for the first time in five years. Total attendance was over 5.62 million, compared to 5.77m in 2018.
Key abandonments in the final quarter of the year included the opening day of Cheltenham’s November meeting and Doncaster’s Vertem Futurity Trophy fixture – one of four consecutive abandonments at Doncaster in Q4 2019.
Highlights of the year included the Easter weekend which saw over 100,000 racegoers attend a race meeting from Good Friday to Easter Monday, whilst there were increased attendances at some of the sport’s most iconic events including Cheltenham’s The Festival™, the Investec Derby Festival at Epsom , the Ebor Festival at York and the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival at Newbury.
RICHARD JOHNSON BREAKS ARM
21 January: Richard Johnson has broken his arm after a fall at Exeter. He was unseated from his mount Westend Story at the sixth fence and was subsequently trampled on by Fox Pro.
He was taken to hospital and where it has been confirmed he has broken his arm between the elbow and the hand, and it will be plated on Wednesday or Thursday.
The trainer of Westend Story, Phillip Hobbs, said “He’s very positive and said he’ll definitely be back for Cheltenham no problem.
“Hopefully he’ll be riding before Cheltenham, but it’s obviously going to be more than a month before he is riding again.
BHA CHIEF NICK RUST QUITS
14 January: The BHA’s Chief Executive Nick Rust will step down at the end of the year after nearly six years leading racing’s governing body and regulator.
Mr Rust signalled his departure in a message to staff today. In his message he said:
“I’ve spent much of the past year reflecting on my situation after my personal bereavement at the end of 2018. I wanted to let you and the BHA know my decision and plans well ahead of leaving to allow plenty of time for a successor to be identified and appointed
“This is a fantastic job leading a team of passionate, hard-working people who want racing to have a prosperous and sustainable future as a clean, fair sport that looks after its horses and its people. You demonstrated that visibly with all the effort you put in to resolve the equine flu problems last year but I know how much more unseen work is going on across the BHA to progress our sport. I am hugely proud of what you do for British racing and thank you all.
“With the committed support of our new Chair, Annamarie Phelps, the BHA has put itself, and helped put our sport, in a place where we can be optimistic about our future. The foundations for success are in place. Only this afternoon, I spent several hours with our Executive team reviewing our plans for 2020. We have a busy and exciting year ahead.
“The industry’s Horse Welfare Board which the BHA and our members set up only eight months ago is finalising an ambitious strategy for further improvement of racing’s exceptional standards of care for our horses. For me, it will be a landmark moment after an unrelenting focus on this issue over the past few years. I’ll begin the process of implementing the plan to deliver the BHA’s part of the strategy, but given my decision, it’s the right time for someone else to pick up the challenge of delivering on these ambitions through a programme of work we expect to take five years or more.
“The BHA has also completed some other important work over the past few months, which I have personally championed. We published the review of the buying and selling of horses just before Christmas. We have established a safeguarding team to protect young and vulnerable people in our sport. Our new approach to raceday stewarding is bedding in and the industry is picking up the challenge on diversity and inclusion as we saw so vividly in 2019 through the amazing story of Khadijah Mellah and the remarkable achievements of our female jockeys.
“If I look back further, I’m very proud of the way the sport came together to secure a very important change to the Levy in 2017. Without it, racing’s finances would be in a more difficult place than they currently are. The BHA team I lead worked hard over several years to put forward the arguments to government and the industry ensured that a consistent, simple message was communicated to Parliamentarians and the media. It’s an important reminder of the influence that racing can exert when we work together in a common purpose.
“Of course, there’s always more to do and racing faces its share of challenges as any sport or business does. The job’s never done. But my successor can look forward to the support of a top-class Chair and an expert Board, a capable and excellent team and an industry that when it comes together and works in a collaborative way can be highly effective.
“2020 promises to be a great year for British racing. I believe we can achieve many more things together this year if we continue to focus on a progressive approach that keeps British racing relevant, understood and accepted.”
Commenting on the announcement, the BHA’s Chair, Annamarie Phelps, said:
“We’re all going to miss Nick’s passion and drive. It is typical of his deep commitment to British racing that he’s given us plenty of time to find a new leader, avoiding a vacuum and ensuring a seamless transition. He’s been a great help to me personally over the last few months as I’ve got to know the sport and the industry. We’Il be using all our complementary skills over the next few months to keep racing moving forward.”
The BHA will begin the process of selecting a new Chief Executive in the next few weeks.
JOCKEY CLUB RACECOURSES CHIEF QUITS
14 January: Paul Fisher is to stand down as Chief Executive of Jockey Club Racecourses (JCR) in February, after a long period of service with The Jockey Club group.
Fisher has worked for The Jockey Club for 19 years, initially joining JCR (then known as Racecourse Holdings Trust) at the start of 2001 as Finance Director of its three London racecourses. He was promoted to Managing Director of Kempton Park in 2005, before taking on responsibility for running the UK’s leading racecourse group in 2008 as JCR’s Chief Operating Officer. He was made Managing Director in 2013 and its Chief Executive in 2017.
JCR stages more than 300 horseracing fixtures each year at its 15 venues nationwide, including some of the nation’s biggest events, such as The Festival presented by Magners at Cheltenham, the Randox Health Grand National Festival at Aintree and The Investec Derby Festival at Epsom Downs.
Paul Fisher said: “After 19 fantastic years at The Jockey Club, and more than ten of those running Jockey Club Racecourses, I’ve decided it’s time for a fresh challenge. I’m proud of the commercial growth, record prize money contributions and significant improvements to our facilities and the overall customer experience we’ve been able to deliver around the country at our courses, large and small.
“I’ve also really enjoyed introducing a range of innovations and launching successful ventures, such as Jockey Club Catering, Jockey Club Services, Jockey Club Live and Rewards4Racing, as well as our Racecourse Bond that attracted £25 million of investment from racing fans and enabled us to successfully redevelop Cheltenham.
“But most of all I’m proud of how we’ve developed so many talented people, including through the Management Academy I introduced, and the positive culture we’ve built together. I wish them all the very best.”
BAN ON USING CREDIT CARDS FOR BETTING
14 January: Betting by credit cards will be banned on 14 April the Gambling Commission has announced. The ban will apply to all online and offline gambling products with the exception of non-remote lotteries.
Neil McArthur, chief executive of the Gambling Commission, said: “Credit card gambling can lead to significant financial harm. The ban that we have announced today should minimise the risks of harm to consumers from gambling with money they do not have.
“We know that there are examples of consumers who have accumulated tens of thousands of pounds of debt through gambling because of credit card availability.
“There is also evidence that the fees charged by credit cards can exacerbate the situation because the consumer can try to chase losses to a greater extent.
“We realise this change will inconvenience those consumers who use credit cards responsibly but we’re satisfied reducing the risk of harm to other consumers means that action must be taken. But we will evaluate the ban and watch closely for any unintended circumstances for consumers.
The announcement comes after research undertaken by the Gambling Commission revealed 22% of online gamblers using credit cards are classed as problem gamblers.
BHA SENDING VET TO LOOK AT ALTIOR WHO STILL HOLDS KEMPTON ENTRY
8 January: The BHA is sending a vet to trainer Nicky Henderson’s yard to examine Altior who has not actually been scratched from Saturday’s Silviniaco Conti Chase despite Henderson ruling out the horse from running in the Kempton race. The BHA has also asked Henderson (pictured) to clarify Altior’s participation “in the interests of fairness and transparency”.
With Altior still officially a runner the BHA said:
“As a result of this, the BHA has, in the first instance, spoken with Mr Henderson and reminded him of his obligation under the rules to immediately scratch a horse if, at any time between closing and the deadline for declarations, the trainer becomes aware that the horse is not going to run.
“The BHA has also arranged for a BHA veterinary surgeon to examine the horse tomorrow (Thursday).
“In the interests of fairness and transparency for racing fans and the betting public, it is for Mr Henderson to clarify his plans publicly as soon as he can.
“The BHA will monitor the situation but we won’t comment on wider issues or any potential rule breaches at this point.”
Nicky Henderson said: “I have nothing further to add to what is in the BHA statement this evening.”
CHELTENHAM FORCED TO DENY FESTIVAL CHANGES
8 January: Cheltenham Racecourse has been forced to deny plans to extend the Festival to a fifth day or include Saturday as part of the Festival meeting.
Speculation had been rife since Martin St Quinton, the track’s new chairman, told ITV Racing that nothing had been ruled in or out in regard to extending the Festival or change the days on which it occurs.
That speculation was fuelled when trainer Alan King wrote in his weekly Racing Post Weekender column that he’d had a “long chat” with St Quinton during which King said he was now in favour of extending the Festival to five days after listening to St Quinton outlining the benefits of extending the meeting.
With some interpreting King’s report of the chat with St Quinton as indicating an official line, Cheltenham issued a statement saying “We have four fantastic days of the Festival running Tuesday to Friday, and no plans for a fifth day.”
A number of issues facing a fifth day, run on a Saturday, were highlighted, including logistical factors, strong competition from other sports, primarily football and rugby, with subsequent squeeze on media coverage, and reduced appeal of corporate entertaining on a Saturday.
It was added that establishing a Festival Saturday was a much sterner challenge than many people think.
- Secret Profiteering: collusion between two parties to make a secret profit through the sales process – usually, but not exclusively, the vendor on the one hand and the Agent for the purchaser on the other
- Dual Representation/Commission: where the Agent acts for both the purchaser and the vendor in the same transaction and charges commission to both parties (without one or both parties’ knowledge)
- Luck Money: an anachronistic practice whereby the Agent for the purchaser demands and receives money (in some cases, a substantial sum calculated as a percentage of the sale price) from the vendor on the sale of a horse
- Bidding Up: the artificial increase in the sale price of a horse at auction through a series of pre-agreed bidding where the pre-agreement leads to the purchaser paying more for the horse than he/she would have done, but for the pre-agreement, such practice being of particular ethical concern where it leads to bidding up beyond the reserve price
The review’s project leader, Justin Felice OBE, said in the report that there was a pressing need to change and modernise the culture of the bloodstock industry in a way which stops unethical and/or unlawful conduct being “normalised” and ultimately condoned.
“A united front across all the various industry stakeholder groups is, in our view, needed to change the current behaviours and culture.”
The report goes on to say:
“There can be no doubt that the self-regulatory model agreed in the amended Code in 2009 is not fit for purpose and requires urgent attention and overhaul. Put simply, the bloodstock industry is not being regulated in any meaningful way as it currently stands and there was a surprisingly widespread lack of knowledge that the Code even existed. This is not an acceptable or sustainable state of affairs.”
Following analysis of all the feedback and other materials obtained through the Review process, the following four core themes emerged in terms of recommendations:
- Greater cross-bloodstock industry co-operation
- Enhanced and tighter regulation, with an enhanced new Bloodstock Industry Code of Practice (the New Code) being put in place, in tandem with the introduction of a BHA operated licensing system for all Agents operating in the British bloodstock industry and the BHA taking a more proactive lead as the sole relevant regulatory authority
- Improved education, communication and awareness
- Greater transparency in certain aspects of the sales process
Felice goes on to say:
“I strongly believe that those recommendations, if implemented, provide an opportunity for transformational and once-in-a-generation change within the bloodstock industry. I would emphasise the Review Team’s belief that there is a clear risk to the integrity and reputation of British Racing if the areas of concern highlighted in this Report are not addressed as a matter of some urgency.
“On a positive note, there does appear to be near-universal support for an industry-wide effort to create a zero-tolerance culture towards allegations of unethical and/or unlawful behaviour in the bloodstock industry, which reinforces my belief that now is the time to act. The recommendations proposed in this Report have been presented to key industry stakeholders, who have been positive in their feedback, with no objections being raised to the nature of the recommendations.”
- Improving the scheduling of race times through periods of congestion so that there would be fewer clashes and delayed races
- Reducing the number of 35-minute intervals and introduce a more even distribution of time between races
- Reducing on-the-day hold requests, thus enabling BHA and HRI officials to frame raceday timetables from an earlier stage
- Broadcasters would be able to draw up their running orders to the published off-times rather than having to request delays
- The risk of avoidable near-clashes – whereby one race is only held until seconds after the preceding race has concluded – should reduce as racecourses would be expected to adhere to the published off-time
- Off-course punters and the viewing public would be fully appraised of the scheduled off time.