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
EXTRA JUMP FIXTURES ANNOUNCED
20 February: The British Horseracing Authority has announced two additional jump fixtures as follows:
Wednesday 26 February – Market Rasen – seven race card Thursday 27 February – Musselburgh – six race card
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:
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.
REARRANGED RACES AND EXTRA FIXTURES ANNOUNCED
17 February: The BHA has confirmed a number of additional races and fixtures following recent abandonments.
Kingwell Hurdle – following the loss of Wincanton on Saturday 15 February, the Kingwell Hurdle will take place at Kempton Park on Saturday 22 February. The fixture will now be an eight-race card. Those who had previously declared for the Kingwell Hurdle will have to re-enter. Entries close tomorrow, Tuesday 18 February at 12 noon with declarations at the 24-hour stage as normal. This race will be televised by ITV in addition to the four existing graded contests from the fixture.
Jane Seymour Mares Novices’ Hurdle – following the loss of Sandown on Friday 14 February this race will take place at Warwick’s existing fixture on Friday 21 February. This fixture will now be an eight-race card. Those who had previously declared for the race will have to re-enter. Entries close tomorrow, Tuesday 18 February at 12 noon with declarations at the 24-hour stage as normal.
Two “jumpers bumpers” fixtures have been programmed as follows:
Friday 21 February – Newcastle Sunday 23 February – Wolverhampton
Both fixtures will be seven race cards with the ability to divide to eight races if required. Entries for Newcastle will close tomorrow, Tuesday 18 February at 12 noon with declarations on Thursday 20 February.
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 anddrive. 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.