Posts

Leading racing figures form part of whip consultation group

Leading trainer John Gosden plus jockeys Tom Scudamore and PJ McDonald will form part of the Whip Consultation Steering Group which will take an active role in the upcoming public consultation on the issue.

The group draws on individuals from a wide range of backgrounds across the racing industry as well as representation from wider sectors including politics, horse welfare and the media.

Former racecourse stewards’ panel chair, racecourse committee member and racehorse owner David Jones, who is also an independent regulatory director on the board of the British Horseracing Authority, will chair the group.

The consultation aims to gather and assess the viewpoints of industry participants, non-industry stakeholders and wider public audiences, regarding rules, usage and penalties related to the whip.

The future of the whip in racing is to come under the microscope
The future of the whip in racing is to come under the microscope (David Davies/PA)

Other members of the group include trainer Henry Daly, Sir Michael Stoute’s head lad/assistant James Savage, broadcaster Nick Luck and Aintree clerk of the course Sulekha Varma.

The Steering Group held its first meeting last week and will now work towards finalising an agreed timescale for the consultation process, which is currently planned to run in the second half of this year.

Jones said: “It is essential that the consultation process is fair, open and transparent and the views of all parties are considered.

“In addition, any decisions must be made by those who have a deep understanding and knowledge of the subject matter and who are willing to both represent and consider a range of perspectives.”

Brant Dunshea, chief regulatory officer for the BHA, said: “The whips used in British racing are foam-padded and were designed with input from the RSPCA. Its use in races is subject to strict controls.

“The Horse Welfare Board were clear, however, that the use of the whip is an issue of public trust in the sport, and that the racing industry must be mindful of public opinion if it is to safeguard its long-term future.”

BHA chief Harrington quells concerns over Foster’s Festival runners

British Horseracing Authority chief executive Julie Harrington is not anticipating any issues for Denise Foster-trained runners at next week’s Cheltenham Festival – although the regulator is still seeking to clarify conditions surrounding the transfer of Gordon Elliott’s string.

Foster, known on the Irish racing circuit as Sneezy, has taken charge of more than 200 horses – having previously trained just 10 winners in the preceding five years.

Elliott is currently banned for six months – with a further six suspended – following an image posted on social media which pictured him sat astride a dead horse.

With the Cheltenham Festival beginning on Tuesday, the BHA was pleased the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board handed out a swift punishment but is aware winners for the yard, which has been hugely successful at the meeting in recent years, will inevitably bring with them unwanted headlines.

Gordon Elliott is currently serving a suspension
Gordon Elliott is currently serving a suspension (Simon Marper/PA)

“We want the coverage to be about the great stories and the great achievements of the horses – it is the shop window for our sport,” Harrington said, in a zoom call with members of the media.

Your first 30 days for just £1

“It’s an opportunity for us to really shine and tell the positive stories that are linked to our sport.

“We’re doing everything we can to support everyone to tell those stories. We hope the focus is on the horses.

“We’re not naive, though – we know people will have questions, but what we don’t want to do is detract from all the hard work that goes into preparing horses for the Festival. It would be such a shame for everybody who has worked all year to get those horses ready to not get the airtime that they deserve.”

Should a Foster-trained runner be successful next week – and with the likes of Zanahiyr, Grand Roi and The Bosses Oscar all favourites for their respective races, the likelihood is there will at least be one – then Harrington is well aware of the potential to overshadow the meeting.

“If Denise Foster has winners at the Festivals, the story being around the connections of that horse is what I hope is put forward,” added Harrington.

“We are really pleased that our colleagues in Ireland acted swiftly, so that this wasn’t hanging over us throughout the Festival.

“That’s not as simple as to say ‘let’s draw a line under it and move on’ – but the sanction is in place. Our temporary ban is lifted, because Mr Elliott’s ban is in place, and those horses are free to run for other trainers.

“In terms of any conditions to her licence, that is a matter for the IHRB. But I’m in contact with Denis Egan (chief executive) at the IHRB, understanding what those conditions are for the good reputation of racing in Ireland and Britain.

The Elliott saga was all across the news last week
The Elliott saga was all across the news last week (PA Wire)

“We’re asking what conditions have been put in place. But that is a matter for the Irish – we’re currently seeking clarifications of what conditions are put in place. We’re assuming we’ll know before Cheltenham.

“It will be conditions to the licence rather than the sanction – that is where they will be applied. We’re asking for those but also making it clear what our views are on behalf of JCR (Jockey Club Racecourses) as well.

“We want to make sure that any horses attending are not clearly under the Gordon Elliott flag.

“I’ve made our views on it clear, and we’re waiting to hear what conditions will be applied to Denise. Then we will also be able to look, if we’re not happy, at what is available to us within our own rules.

“At this point we’re having really good discussions, so I’m not envisaging us getting to that point (preventing the horses running).”

BHA announces interim suspension on Elliott runners in Britain

Gordon Elliott will not be permitted to have runners in Britain until the conclusion of an Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board investigation into an image on social media that showed the Grand National-winning trainer sitting on a dead horse on his gallops.

Racing authorities in Britain and Ireland have condemned the image, which Elliott confirmed in a statement on Sunday evening was genuine, apologising “profoundly for any offence that this photo has caused”, while seeking to explain what he said was the context of events that led to the photograph.

The IHRB has already launched a full investigation – and while Elliott is licensed in Ireland, the British Horseracing Authority said it was “appalled” by the image and was “considering its own regulatory options”, but has now acted.

A statement on Monday evening said: “The British Horseracing Authority will not allow the Irish trainer Gordon Elliott to race horses in Britain whilst the Irish authorities investigate an image that appeared on social media over the weekend.

“The trainer admitted the photo was genuine and apologised for his actions.

British Horseracing Authority headquarters in London
British Horseracing Authority headquarters in London (John Stillwell/PA)

“The BHA, which regulates racing in Britain, will use powers under its own rules to refuse to allow horses trained by Mr Elliott to race in Britain pending consideration of the outcome of the Irish investigation.

“The action taken by the BHA recognises that Mr Elliott is licensed in Ireland, whose regulatory body, the IHRB, is carrying out its own investigation.

“However, Mr Elliott has entered horses to race in Britain, from which point the British rules of racing apply to him.

“The decision to refuse to allow horses trained by Mr Elliott to run in Britain is therefore an interim decision which the BHA regards as proportionate in these circumstances.”

Your first 30 days for just £1

The BHA added that owners of horses currently trained by Elliott are permitted to transfer them to a different trainer and run them at a British meeting, “providing they comply with the relevant rules”.

An earlier statement had read: “The BHA is appalled by the image that appeared this weekend. We expect all those in our sport to demonstrate respect for horses, on the racecourse, in the training yard, on the gallops, and wherever they have horses in their care.

“People who work in our industry believe their values – of caring for and respecting our horses – have been deeply undermined by this behaviour. On their behalf, and on behalf of all horse lovers, we say loudly that British horseracing finds this totally unacceptable.

“The BHA is considering its own regulatory options, recognising that the Irish authorities license Mr Elliott and are carrying out their own investigation.”

Horse Racing Ireland, the national authority for thoroughbred racing in Ireland, echoed those sentiments, saying the picture was a “disservice” to people in racing.

A statement said: “Horse Racing Ireland unreservedly condemns the disturbing photograph that appeared on social media at the weekend.

“This image does not reflect the care, attention and respect that race horses receive, and does a disservice to the thousands of people who look after their horses on a daily basis. Horse Racing Ireland notes and supports the IHRB investigation into the circumstances around the photograph.

“From a disciplinary perspective, the matter is in process, so any further comment on the matter or the detail of the case at this time would not be appropriate.”

Black Tears was a winner at Punchestown on Monday for Elliott
Black Tears was a winner at Punchestown on Monday for Elliott (Niall Carson/PA)

The IHRB is hoping for a speedy resolution to the case, with a spokesman adding: “As is the case with all investigations carried out by the IHRB, there is a process that must be followed – and that will be the case in this instance.

“As stated over the weekend, this will be dealt with as quickly as possible.”

Despite the controversy, it was business as usual for Elliott on the racecourse at least, as he sent out Black Tears to win the Grade Three Quevega Mares Hurdle at Punchestown – while Papal Lodge, Coach Carter and Mighty Potter were also on the mark for the Cullentra team.

Tiger Roll 2019 Grand National Winners Parade
Michael O’Leary will continue to support Elliott (Brian Lawless/PA)

Elliott also received a boost as Gigginstown House Stud owner Michael O’Leary confirmed his team – including dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll – would be going nowhere, opting to accept an apology for a “grievous but momentary lapse of judgement from Gordon”.

Cheveley Park Stud, who count hot Cheltenham Festival favourite Envoi Allen among their Elliott string, said they were “truly horrified and dismayed by the photograph”, but will wait for the IHRB investigation to conclude before making any decisions on the future.

Sire Du Berlais is prominent in the betting for the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Festival. Frank Berry, racing manager for his owner JP McManus, declined to comment on the situation when contacted on Monday morning.

But online bookmakers Betfair – for whom Elliott has been an ambassador for several years – made a swift decision to cut ties with the trainer.

A statement read: “While we recognise that Gordon deeply regrets and apologised unreservedly for his poor judgement, his actions are completely at odds with the values of the Betfair brand and that of our employees.

“With that in mind, we have decided to discontinue our association with Gordon with immediate effect.”

The four-day Cheltenham Festival is due to get under way on March 16.

British and Irish racing authorities condemn Elliott image

Racing authorities in Britain and Ireland have condemned the image of Grand National-winning trainer Gordon Elliott which circulated on social media over the weekend.

In a statement issued late on Sunday evening, Elliott confirmed the image, which showed him sitting on a dead horse, was genuine and apologised “profoundly for any offence that this photo has caused”, while seeking to explain what he said was the context of events that led to the picture.

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board has already launched a full investigation – and while Elliott is licensed in Ireland, the British Horseracing Authority is “considering its own regulatory options”, saying it is “appalled” by the image.

A statement read: “The BHA is appalled by the image that appeared this weekend. We expect all those in our sport to demonstrate respect for horses, on the racecourse, in the training yard, on the gallops, and wherever they have horses in their care.

“People who work in our industry believe their values – of caring for and respecting our horses – have been deeply undermined by this behaviour. On their behalf, and on behalf of all horse lovers, we say loudly that British horseracing finds this totally unacceptable.

“The BHA is considering its own regulatory options, recognising that the Irish authorities license Mr Elliott and are carrying out their own investigation.”

Your first 30 days for just £1

Horse Racing Ireland, the national authority for thoroughbred racing in Ireland, echoed those sentiments, saying the picture was a “disservice” to people in racing.

A statement said: “Horse Racing Ireland unreservedly condemns the disturbing photograph that appeared on social media at the weekend.

“This image does not reflect the care, attention and respect that race horses receive, and does a disservice to the thousands of people who look after their horses on a daily basis. Horse Racing Ireland notes and supports the IHRB investigation into the circumstances around the photograph.

“From a disciplinary perspective, the matter is in process, so any further comment on the matter or the detail of the case at this time would not be appropriate.”

Black Tears was a winner at Punchestown on Monday for Elliott
Black Tears was a winner at Punchestown on Monday for Elliott (Niall Carson/PA)

The IHRB is hoping for a speedy resolution to the case, with a spokesman adding: “As is the case with all investigations carried out by the IHRB, there is a process that must be followed – and that will be the case in this instance.

“As stated over the weekend, this will be dealt with as quickly as possible.”

Despite the controversy, it was business as usual for Elliott on the racecourse at least, as he sent out Black Tears to win the Grade Three Quevega Mares Hurdle at Punchestown – while Papal Lodge, Coach Carter and Mighty Potter were also on the mark for the Cullentra team.

Tiger Roll 2019 Grand National Winners Parade
Michael O’Leary will continue to support Elliott (Brian Lawless/PA)

Elliott also received a boost as Gigginstown House Stud owner Michael O’Leary confirmed his team – including dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll – would be going nowhere, opting to accept an apology for a “grievous but momentary lapse of judgement from Gordon”.

Cheveley Park Stud, who count hot Cheltenham Festival favourite Envoi Allen among their Elliott string, said they were “truly horrified and dismayed by the photograph”, but will wait for the IHRB investigation to conclude before making any decisions on the future.

Sire Du Berlais is prominent in the betting for the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Festival. Frank Berry, racing manager for his owner JP McManus, declined to comment on the situation when contacted on Monday morning.

But online bookmakers Betfair – for whom Elliott has been an ambassador for several years – made a swift decision to cut ties with the trainer.

A statement read: “While we recognise that Gordon deeply regrets and apologised unreservedly for his poor judgement, his actions are completely at odds with the values of the Betfair brand and that of our employees.

“With that in mind, we have decided to discontinue our association with Gordon with immediate effect.”

Gordon Elliott apologises ‘profoundly’ and offers ‘context’ to events that led to social media image

Gordon Elliott has said he “cannot apologise enough” after an investigation was launched by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board into an image of the Grand National-winning trainer circulating on social media.

The image was posted and widely shared on Twitter on Saturday, with the regulatory board of the sport in Ireland later tweeting: “The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board are aware of an image circulating on social media and the matter is under investigation.”

It appeared to show Elliott sitting on a dead horse on the gallops – and while many people commented on social media that it looked fake, the County Meath handler said in a statement issued on Sunday evening: “I would like to address the speculation and rumours that have been rife since an old photo of me began circulating on social media yesterday afternoon.

“Firstly, I apologise profoundly for any offence that this photo has caused and can categorically state that the welfare of each and every horse under my care is paramount and has been central to the success that we have enjoyed here at Cullentra.

“The photo in question was taken some time ago and occurred after a horse had died of an apparent heart attack on the gallops. I appreciate that an initial viewing of this photo suggests it is a callous and staged photo, but nothing could be further from the truth.

“At what was a sad time, which it is when any horse under my care passes away, my initial reaction was to get the body removed from where it was positioned.

Your first 30 days for just £1

Elliott has offered
Elliott has offered “context” for the image which appeared on Twitter (Simon Cooper/PA)

“I was standing over the horse waiting to help with the removal of the body, in the course of which, to my memory I received a call and, without thinking, I sat down to take it. Hearing a shout from one of my team, I gestured to wait until I was finished.

“Such background information may seem trivial at this time and will not allay the concerns of many people both within and outside the world of horse racing.

“However, I feel it is important to provide people with some context surrounding this photo. To the racing community, to anyone who has worked with and loves horses and to anyone offended by this image I cannot apologise enough.

“Horse welfare and the care and attention to detail involved is absolutely at the core of everything we do here and both myself and all of my team pride ourselves on those standards.

“Again I apologise for any offence caused and ask people to consider this statement as opposed to the various falsehoods and misinformation being circulated on social media.

“At this time I would like to stress that I continue to extend my full cooperation with the ongoing IHRB investigation.”

Speaking on Sunday lunchtime, an IHRB spokesman said: “The investigation is under way, and it will be dealt with as quickly as possible.”

The British Horseracing Authority welcomed the IHRB’s investigation, and is hoping for a swift resolution, calling the image “shocking”.

Elliott trains dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll
Elliott trains dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll (Brian Lawless/PA)

A spokesperson said: “We hope the Irish authorities will quickly confirm how this shocking picture originated.

“Respect for horses is a fundamental value of our sport, contrary to the impression in this picture. The IHRB have assured us that the investigation will be carried out as quickly as possible and that they will keep us informed as more information becomes available.”

Elliott is a three-time Grand National winner, having sent out Silver Birch to claim the Aintree prize before Tiger Roll became the first back-to-back winner of the race since Red Rum when lifting the world-famous event in 2018 and 2019.

The 42-year-old also counts 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Don Cossack among the best horses he has trained, with 32 Cheltenham Festival wins to his name so far.

Elliott houses a number of favourites for this year’s Festival, including Envoi Allen and Zanahiyr, while Tiger Roll himself is also due to run in the Glenfarclas Chase over Cheltenham’s cross-country fences.

Gordon Elliott ‘cooperating fully’ with IHRB investigation

Gordon Elliott has said he will be “cooperating fully” with the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board after an investigation was launched into a purported image of the leading trainer which was posted on social media on Saturday.

The image was posted and widely shared on Twitter, with the regulatory board of the sport in Ireland later tweeting: “The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board are aware of an image circulating on social media and the matter is under investigation.”

The image appears to show Elliott sitting on a dead horse on the gallops – although many people have commented on social media that it looks fake.

Elliott responded from his official Twitter account.

He posted: “I’m aware of a photo in circulation on social media. The IHRB have been in contact with me regarding this photo and I will be cooperating fully with their investigation.”

Speaking on Sunday lunchtime, an IHRB spokesman said: “The investigation is under way, and it will be dealt with as quickly as possible.”

Elliott is a three-time Grand National winner, having sent out Silver Birch to claim the Aintree prize before Tiger Roll became the first back-to-back winner of the race since Red Rum when lifting the marathon event in 2018 and 2019.

Elliott with dual National hero Tiger Roll
Elliott with dual National hero Tiger Roll (Niall Carson/PA)

The County Meath handler also counts 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Don Cossack among the best horses he has trained, with 32 Cheltenham Festival wins to his name so far.

Elliott houses a number of favourites for this year’s Festival, including Envoi Allen and Zanahiyr, while Tiger Roll himself is also due to run in the Glenfarclas Chase over Cheltenham’s cross-country fences.

The British Horseracing Authority has welcomed the IHRB’s investigation, and is hoping for a speedy resolution.

A spokesperson said: “We hope the Irish authorities will quickly confirm how this shocking picture originated.

“Respect for horses is a fundamental value of our sport, contrary to the impression in this picture. The IHRB have assured us that the investigation will be carried out as quickly as possible and that they will keep us informed as more information becomes available.”

BHA planning for return of owners and amateur riders on March 29

British racing has confirmed plans to welcome owners and amateur riders back on course from March 29 – with a mid-May return of spectators, in line with the Government’s road map for easing coronavirus restrictions.

The British Horseracing Authority announced its proposed schedule on Friday evening, following this week’s publication of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s four-step route towards the end of lockdown over the coming months.

The BHA outlined its phased intentions after meetings with Government officials – with a schedule which confirms both this year’s Cheltenham Festival and the start of the new Flat season on March 27 will take place entirely behind closed doors.

Next month's Cheltenham Festival will take place behind closed door
Next month’s Cheltenham Festival will take place behind closed doors (David Davies/PA)

Measures such as the return of amateur riders, suspended during the current lockdown, and owners are set to be introduced on a timeline which mirrors dates in the Government’s road map.

The first key date identified by the BHA is March 29, the second step in the national road map – when it is hoped owners can begin to attend meetings and amateurs ride again, both with the resumption of point-to-points and at fixtures under rules.

A BHA update read: “Following the publication on Monday, February 22 of the UK Government’s plan to ease lockdown restrictions in England, the industry Covid-19 group has carefully studied the implications for racing in England.

“Any changes to racing protocols will move in parallel with the steps set out in the road map and are therefore dependent on the Government’s timetable.

Your first 30 days for just £1

“Since the plan was published on Monday February 22, the BHA and senior racing executives have engaged with Government to agree how racing can unwind its own restrictions.”

The BHA also announced details of arrangements available to owners as of March 29 – with enhancements to their raceday experience permitted only after the next step on the road map, from April 12 at the earliest.

The update added: “At this stage (March 29), racecourses will not be able to provide hospitality – and strict attendance rules will remain in place, including, including a health screening process.

“Further enhancements to the owner experience will be permitted from Step Two, which comes into force from Monday April 12 at the earliest.

“In line with the resumption of outdoor hospitality on that date, our goal is for racecourses to be able to re-introduce outdoor hospitality for
owners, in line with Government guidance.”

In line with the Prime Minister’s announcement at the beginning of this week, the return of racecourse crowds can be anticipated from May 17 – Step Three of the roadmap – with earlier pilot sports and leisure events already mooted in Government advice.

The BHA added: “British Racing is keen to play a role in pilots organised through the Government’s events research programme.

“British Racing will be making representations for racecourses to be allowed to host up to 10,000 spectators at Step Three, in line with the guidance on other spectator arenas, instead of the 4,000 for outdoor events.”

Crowds have been largely absent from British racecourses since the fixture list resumed last summer, following two months without any racing during the early stages of the pandemic.

Two pilot events did take place at Warwick and Doncaster, before a brief return of spectators in December until lockdown returned as coronavirus cases increased again.

The BHA’s chief operating officer Richard Wayman said: “We are all eager to open up our racecourses once again to owners, spectators and our amateur jockeys.

“Owners have continued to support racing through the difficult winter months, and we will work together as an industry to get them back as soon as possible, recognising that the Government timetable is still subject to conditions being met.”

Welcoming the news, Charlie Liverton, chief executive of the Racehorse Owners Association, said: “Owners have continued to support the industry unwaveringly through this period of lockdown.

“The financial contribution of some £30m a month that owners make to trainers, jockeys, racing staff and all those in the rural economy who are indirectly supported is critical to have enabled the industry to derive the majority of its income streams since June 1, 2020.

“We thank you for that support. Owners have not been able to watch their horses on the racecourse of late and we wholly recognise the desire to be able to return to the racecourse at the earliest opportunity.

“Working with industry stakeholders these discussions remain ongoing.”

BHA publishes full fixture list for remainder of 2021

Jockeys will continue to ride at a maximum of one meeting per day for the immediate future, while minimum prize-money levels are set to be restored to pre-Covid levels, the British Horseracing Authority has announced.

Racing’s rulers published a complete 2021 fixture list on Friday after initially only unveiling definite dates for the first four months of the year together with provisional plans for the remainder due to the uncertainties surrounding the pandemic.

The BHA has now confirmed a list, which encompasses a total of 1,486 meetings, developed “with a view to maximising revenue for the sport and participants, while safeguarding participant well-being and taking account of the horse population”.

There will be five fewer fixtures in total this year compared to what was scheduled in 2020, with the volume of races in July and August reduced “to ensure competitive racing and safeguard against possible reductions in horses in training as a result of the pandemic”, with juvenile numbers forecast to take a potential dip.

Crowds will be absent from next month's Cheltenham Festival
Crowds will be absent from next month’s Cheltenham Festival (David Davies/PA)

With the backing of the Levy Board, which has allocated £16.4million for prize-money between May 1 and June 30, and increased racecourse contributions, minimum race values will be reinstated for all tiers of races in 2021, with class one races and heritage handicaps having been operating at 75 per cent of their pre-Covid levels.

Richard Wayman, chief operating officer for the BHA, said: “Publishing the full fixture list now will provide greater certainty for the sport and its customers. This is particularly important for racecourses, who are being asked to make increased executive contributions as Levy Board funding begins to scale back.

Your first 30 days for just £1

“Of course, until spectators return and retail bookmakers reopen, racecourse revenues remain under considerable pressure. However, the publication of the fixture list does, at least, reduce one area of uncertainty for racecourses and would allow for increased confidence in forecasting some of their future revenue streams.

“Working with racecourses and participants, we will continue to develop the sport to make it attractive to both existing and new customers and investors.

“In addition, racing continues to liaise with Government and the appropriate bodies around the return of owners and spectators to race meetings, the delivery and distribution of the Government’s £40m winter survival fund, the potential impact of the Gambling Commission’s consultation on remote customer interaction, and proposals for urgent reform of the Levy.”

Since the resumption of racing in June following the lockdown, riders have only been allowed to participate at one meeting a day to satisfy Covid protocols – and that measure will remain in place until restrictions are no longer required, when it will be reviewed.

Ahead of that review, the number of Flat jockeys likely to be available at any one time means that a maximum of five Flat fixtures will be staged on any single day, with 18 fixtures moved for one year only to account for this.

Easter meetings have also been tweaked as there are usually greater numbers of fixtures programmed to encourage attendances, but no crowds be permitted until May 17 at the earliest, when only a limited number of racegoers would be allowed under the Government’s road map.

Dale Gibson, the Professional Jockeys Association’s executive director (racing), was pleased to see two breaks in the Flat calendar and one in the National Hunt dates maintained this year, but feels more should be done on that front next year.

He said: “All parties, but especially the BHA Racing Department, must be thanked for their hard work and skill in maintaining a workable fixture list since we resumed from lockdown last summer. Finalising any fixture list is never an easy task, but has been made even more challenging this year for obvious reasons.

“Everyone has had to compromise as result of the challenges and ongoing uncertainties caused by the global pandemic.

“We are pleased that the NH break in August and the two scheduled Flat breaks in March and November have been retained as these have proved to be of significant benefit to all jockeys and their families.

More needs to be done to ensure riders have a proper break, says Dale Gibson of the PJA
More needs to be done to ensure riders have a proper break, says Dale Gibson of the PJA (Steve Parkin/PA)

“However, whilst we need to be mindful of recovering from the financial impacts of the Covid 19 crisis, much more needs to be done to ease the significant pressures on the workforce.

“Due to the Covid related changes to the fixture list this summer, Flat jockeys, valets and other racing staff will see 167 days of racing with only three guaranteed days off between April 19 and October 2 – two Sundays in May and one in July.

“Participants in racing are not afraid of long days and hard work, but that is a tough gig in anyone’s book. It is no wonder that jockeys suffer burnout at twice the rate of athletes in other professional sports and that more than 25 per cent of PJA members accessed some form of one-to-one mental health support in 2020.

“2022 needs to see a combination of extended breaks and more single code Sundays.

“The sport needs to pay more than lip service to participant welfare and any post-Covid financial recovery plan must balance maximising financial returns with the welfare of jockeys, trainers and racing staff.”

Saliva testing initiative welcomed by Professional Jockeys Association

British racing plans to introduce a ground-breaking pilot scheme of raceday saliva tests for jockeys to detect cocaine and other banned substances.

The joint-venture, developed by the British Horseracing Authority and the Professional Jockeys Association, is set to begin this spring.

Announced on the same day as jockey Philip Prince received a six-month suspension following a positive cocaine test, the intention is that oral swabs will be able to quickly indicate presence of any banned substance in a rider’s system.

If the pilot scheme proves successful, racing may become the first major sport in Britain to use saliva testing – which would enable them to stand jockeys down for that day’s racing.

A BHA statement read: “Any jockey who tests positive would be stood down from riding for the day, in the interests of the safety of fellow jockeys and horses, as is the case with breathalyser tests for the presence of alcohol.

Jockey Philip Prince will serve a six-month suspension after testing positive for cocaine
Jockey Philip Prince will serve a six-month suspension after testing positive for cocaine (Mike Egerton/PA)

“As well as providing instant responses, saliva testing is also highly cost effective. If the pilot proves successful and the system is rolled out on a permanent basis, this – combined with increased funding being allocated to testing in 2021 – would result in a significant increase in the number of raceday tests carried out each year.”

The BHA’s chief regulatory officer Brant Dunshea said: “This is an exciting and innovative proposal which could have a huge impact on our ability to protect the sport against individuals who are competing while under the influence of prohibited substances.

“We hope that the use of on-the-day screening, alongside increased testing capacity, will provide greater deterrent to potential offenders and greater reassurance to riders that they are competing in a safe environment, should the pilot be successful.”

Your first 30 days for just £1

Any jockey who provides a positive saliva test will then be required to undergo a second to confirm the result “for the purposes of any further investigation or disciplinary action” and will be contacted by the BHA’s chief medical adviser “to discuss any care and support that may be appropriate”.

BHA chief regulatory officer Brant Dunshea
BHA chief regulatory officer Brant Dunshea (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Dunshea added: “There is much more to tackling issues such as substance use than pure regulation.

“The BHA is also working with the PJA to take a wider look at this issue and how we can better educate and protect our participants and rehabilitate those who do become involved.

“We want to encourage a culture of openness within our sport. We want people to have confidence to come forward and speak up about all issues around health and well-being, and will seek to support anyone who faces problems or has found themselves in difficulty.

“We would encourage anyone who is involved with issues around substance use, or know of someone who is, to contact the PJA or the BHA’s Chief Medical advisor Dr Jerry Hill directly, or contact the PJA’s confidential helpline and support network run by Sporting Chance.”

Prince, who has ridden 69 career winners since 2009, admitted his breach of the rules and also confirmed he is already receiving residential treatment via Sporting Chance, which provides the PJA’s confidential helpline and support network.

“I would like to start by apologising to everyone I let down and to the wider sport and also to thank everyone that has helped me through this difficult time,” he said.

“The PJA, (trainer) Mark Lougnane and his wife Clare have been absolutely brilliant in the help and support they have given me.

“I’d also like to thank the BHA for their help, support and understanding through the entire process.

“I am still at Steps Together (residential treatment centre) – and without this place, I would still be in active addiction.

“I am now looking forward to my future back in racing and free from addiction and being me again.

“I am finally back in a positive frame of mind and looking forward to the future – which is looking much brighter for me personally than it was not so long ago.”

PJA chief executive Paul Struthers said: “I am delighted that Philip is responding so well to the support and treatment that is available through the PJA and that the honesty he’s shown and actions he’s taken since testing positive were given the credit they deserved by the disciplinary panel.

“Addiction of any sort is a terrible thing, and we are there to support any of our members who need it. While we will continue to foster an environment where we support those in need without judgment, and people feel able to come forward and utilise the help that’s there, it is equally important that we do everything we can to protect all our members.

“We therefore need a system that discourages poor decision-making in the first place, reduces the chance of addiction developing and encourages people to come forward for support at an earlier stage.

“One aspect of such a system is more testing, and it is for this reason that the PJA has been calling for more testing of jockeys for several years.

“We’ve been working closely with the BHA on the proposed pilot of saliva testing and very much welcome it.”

Racing leaders braced for ‘most critical period’

Racing is facing its “most critical period” since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, industry leaders have warned.

Deep concerns have been aired about the potential impact from the introduction of affordability thresholds for online betting customers, with the Gambling Commission currently undergoing a consultation process on on remote customer interaction, while the continued absence of spectators from racecourses and Brexit issues are also prominent.

The British Horseracing Authority has submitted a response to the Gambling Commission on behalf of the industry, and a statement issued from the sport’s tripartite members said: “The submission focuses on the economic consequences for racing and jobs in rural areas, the lack of evidence in support of the intervention and the disproportionate impact on people who bet safely and lawfully.

“The BHA, the Racecourse Association and The Horsemen’s Group discussed the industry’s response at a meeting last week and believe there could be a disastrous impact on racing’s finances and its recovery from Covid-19.

Racegoers made a brief one-day return at Doncaster's St Leger meeting as part of a crowd trial scheme - but racecourses still remain empty
Racegoers made a brief one-day return at Doncaster’s St Leger meeting as part of a crowd trial scheme – but racecourses still remain empty (David Davies/PA)
Your first 30 days for just £1

“Racing supports the Government’s review of the 2005 Gambling Act and its intention to address the potential for harm. It agrees that gambling laws should be fit for the digital age as well as recognise the economic contribution made by the betting industry and associated industries such as horseracing.

“The BHA’s members believe this is the appropriate way to consider a significant intervention such as a new affordability threshold and that parliamentarians should examine any resulting proposals.”

Racecourse Association chief executive David Armstrong said: “Racing is approaching the most critical period since the beginning of the pandemic.

“With external regulatory issues facing us in the form of the Affordability Review, the Gambling Act Review and Brexit plus no immediate prospect of racegoers returning, the next six months will be the most crucial period on our recovery journey.

“The support from the Members Committee at this time is very welcome – the industry must pull together in these challenging times.”

On the subject of spectators and the impact of the pandemic, BHA chief executive Julie Harrington said: “A majority of our work, and of leaders across the industry, is currently focused on a range of financial issues that are vital to racing recovering from the impact of Covid.

Empty bookmaker pitches at Goodwood
Empty bookmaker pitches at Goodwood (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“We have to plan for a range of possibilities and are working with government and other sports on the return of spectators and owners as soon as that is possible. We thank our owners for their patience and continued support amidst the current uncertainty.”

Charlie Liverton, chief executive of the Racehorse Owners Association, said: “The effect of Covid-19 continues to impact British Racing, both on and off the racecourse. The potential ramifications of Government reviews including the Gambling Act and the Affordability Review are concerning, and the support from the Members Committee in tackling these challenges is very welcome.

“Owners continue to support the industry week in, week out, and we extend our sincere thanks once again for their contributions. The return of owners to the racecourse remains a key objective, working with the RCA and BHA to open up racecourses to racegoers as soon as regulations allow.”

BHA ‘grateful’ to Hollie Doyle for outlining inquiry concerns

The British Horseracing Authority has voiced gratitude to Hollie Doyle over concerns she raised about the tone of a stewards’ inquiry.

Doyle was unsuccessful in her appeal against a six-day ban for improper use of the whip on Echo Brava at Kempton last month.

In a statement, the BHA noted that outcome indicates she was able to make her point effectively in the initial inquiry – although Doyle felt “pretty intimidated” in the course of it and, for that reason among others, decided to appeal.

“It’s important all parties involved in a stewards’ inquiry have faith in the process and feel that they are given the opportunity to state their views in an objective environment,” said a BHA spokesman.

“We are grateful to Hollie for raising the concerns she had following her experience at Kempton.”

The BHA is currently engaged in a programme of training for stewards nationwide.

The spokesman added: “Over the past two years the BHA has developed and facilitated training for all stewards across the country on process and procedure – and while the pandemic has had an impact on that, further professional development in this regard is ongoing and planned in 2021.

“We also note the disciplinary panel, in dismissing the appeal against the six-day ban Hollie Doyle received for using her whip in the incorrect place, felt she had been able to make all of the points she hoped to raise in responding to the charge in the original inquiry.”

PJA pledges to protect interests of all members

The Professional Jockeys Association has promised to “protect and support the health and well-being of all its members” amid reports of some unrest in the weighing room.

King George VI Chase winner Bryony Frost alluded to difficulties she was facing following her greatest success in the saddle – and while she has not commented on the specifics, it is believed to stem from an incident at Southwell in September, according to a report in The Times.

A complaint has since been lodged by Frost with the British Horseracing Authority.

Speaking to the media the day after her victory aboard Frodon at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, Frost said: “The more success you have, the more people will frown at you as well as smile with you, so you have to accept it all.

“I’m very lucky I’ve got a supportive team and family around me, and I’m starting to build that bubble in tight.

“I will never change myself because of what some opinions are, as that is not what you are supposed to do.

“As you grow up, you have to remain yourself, and that’s the important thing.”

Paul Struthers, PJA chief executive, said in a statement: “The overwhelming priority of the PJA is to protect and support the health and well-being of all its members, whether on a one-to-one basis, through collective representation or working with other stakeholders in the sport.

“Whilst it would not be appropriate to comment on specific individuals or issues at this time, supporting our members from a pastoral perspective and ensuring appropriate behaviours are responsibilities we take very seriously.”

When contacted, a spokesperson for the British Horseracing Authority said: “The BHA does not comment on ongoing investigations or speculation concerning potential investigations.”

BHA states ‘racing continues’ following shutdown rumours

The British Horseracing Authority has been given no indication from Government that a stoppage of elite sport in Britain is imminent, the PA news agency understands.

Rumours on social media on Sunday evening suggested a shutdown of sport, including racing and football, was under consideration in a bid to reduce the rising rate of coronavirus.

However, it understood that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has contacted the ruling body of racing to inform that no such discussions have taken place, and no formal meetings were planned for Monday.

On Monday morning, the BHA posted on Twitter: “British racing continues behind closed doors this week”, followed by a list of fixtures scheduled to take place on Monday and Tuesday.

The BHA also later tweeted a reminder to all participants to follow the Covid-19 protocols in place – both on course and in yards.

Racing to continue without crowds in Tier 4

Fixtures will continue behind closed doors in all areas affected by the Government’s new Tier 4 coronavirus restrictions, the British Horseracing Authority has confirmed.

A BHA statement was published on Saturday night following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that much of south-east England, already subject to Tier 3 arrangements, will move into a stricter Tier 4 for two weeks from Sunday.

That effectively means a return to the lockdown measures which prevailed nationally last month, in an attempt to mitigate the spread of the pandemic during Britain’s latest wave of the virus.

Several major meetings – including Kempton’s Ladbrokes Christmas Festival, headlined by the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day – are set to take place in the areas affected, and were therefore already scheduled to do so without crowds following their previous move into Tier 3 earlier this week.

Saturday’s statement from racing’s national governing body read: “A Government official has confirmed to the BHA tonight that Tier 4 is equivalent to the restrictions that applied to elite sports in the second national lockdown in November.

“Racing will continue behind closed doors in Tier 4 in England – with no spectators and owners subjected to the same restrictions as in November, which limit attendance to a maximum of 45 on the course at any point.

“Owners attending must comply with the BHA’s protocols as well as national guidance, and satisfy themselves that their travel to, and attendance at, race meetings is legitimately linked to their business involvement in British racing.

“Each individual racecourse will provide information specific to their events – which owners are asked to check before attending.”

The BHA continues to stress the importance of awareness for all of up-to-date guidelines and policy, adding in the statement:  “All those attending racing behind closed doors, including participants, are asked to note the Government’s latest statements about the risks of virus transmission and ensure they continue to follow racing’s protocols.

“The BHA and racecourses will continue to liaise with Government, Public Health England and local Safety Advisory Groups and keep the situation under review. We will share any further relevant details as and when we have them.”

BHA welcomes Government funding package for coronavirus-affected sports

British Horseracing Authority chief executive Nick Rust has welcomed the Government’s announcement that up to £40 million will be made available to racecourses to help them weather the continuing hardship of behind-closed-doors racing.

Plans for a combined £300m cash injection for 11 sports severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic were unveiled by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, with racing second to only rugby union in terms of the support it will receive.

Racing has been staged without spectators since it resumed on June 1, barring two crowd pilot events at Doncaster and Warwick in September, with racecourses warning of dire consequences if the sport continues to operate without racegoers.

Working with racecourses and horsemen, the BHA put in a detailed submission to Government at the beginning of October, which included an updated assessment of the economic impact of the absence of spectators for a further six months until the end of March.

Losses were estimated at a further £70m and the Government has recognised that plea in its Sport Winter Survival Package, providing the support, which will largely be in the form of loans, to help racecourses.

Rust said: “The support for racing recognises the sport’s position as the second biggest spectator sport in the UK and the financial peril faced by the tens of thousands who depend upon racing for their livelihoods.

BHA chief executive Nick Rust
BHA chief executive Nick Rust (Victoria Jones/PA)

“We are grateful to DCMS and its ministers and officials who have come together with their colleagues at the Treasury to secure this assistance for horseracing. We also thank the many MPs who have supported the need to help the racing businesses in their constituencies.

Your first 30 days for just £1

“Once again, this demonstrates that when racing speaks to government with one voice, we are so much more effective.

“I would also like to thank the members of the BHA team who put our submission together and presented it to government and officials. They work tirelessly to protect the interests of racing.

“Whilst advancing the case for financial support, they have also helped to ensure the sport continues behind closed doors, with owners present, and supported the efforts to get spectators back. I am very proud of all they are achieving.”

However, a BHA statement also underlined its commitment to reviewing the current Levy system, whilst also highlighting how the closure of betting shops will also impact on racing’s finances.

It added: “The most significant pressure – the absence of spectators – remains, whilst the closure of betting shops will further impact the amount raised by the Levy.

“We continue to press government to address structural challenges with the funding of horseracing, which would be best addressed by an immediate review of the Levy and its contribution to the international competitiveness of British racing.”

The BHA, which told MPs the “most important way government could help racing was to secure the return of spectators at the earliest opportunity”, is now seeking to clarify the criteria of issuing loans as well as further information as to how any funding will be made available to Scottish and Welsh racecourses.

Empty stands at Cheltenham's October meeting
Empty stands at Cheltenham’s October meeting (David Davies/PA)

Charlie Liverton, chief executive of the Racehorse Owners Association and speaking on behalf of The Horsemen’s Group, also made it clear Levy reform is a key issue.

He said: “As we continue without spectators on courses, this financial support from Government is vital and welcome. There are clear challenges for our sport with the flow of funds to participants severely restricted, impacting the grassroots every day.

“I hope that this additional support for racecourses will work for everyone in the sport and we see the funding trickle down to the committed participants that keep racing going. There is more to do to address structural funding issues and we continue to support calls for Levy reform.”

The Government had hoped to allow spectators to return to venues on a socially-distanced basis from October 1, but it delayed those plans after a rise in coronavirus infections nationwide.

A pilot scheme took place at Doncaster in September before plans to return crowds were halted
A pilot scheme took place at Doncaster in September before plans to return crowds were halted (David Davies/PA)

The final amount received by each sport or organisation may ultimately differ from the amounts which have been set out initially when final decisions are made by an independent decision-making board, and supported by Sport England.

David Armstrong, chief executive of the Racecourse Association, added: “On behalf of our members, we welcome the announcement of financial support for racing and look forward to working with Government and Sport England on how this funding will be allocated.

“Racecourses face an extremely challenging environment until spectators can return in full and we continue to work closely with Government and other major sports to expedite this as quickly as possible.”

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Oliver Dowden
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Oliver Dowden (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has said there is “definitely a chance” of spectators being back in sporting venues ahead of Christmas.

Speaking on talkSPORT on Thursday, Dowden said: “There is definitely a chance of it. We are in close discussions with the centre of Government about what we could do as we go back into the tiering system.

“There’s a possibility in the lowest-risk areas to open the door ajar a little bit, start to prove in the lowest-risk areas that we could make this work then I’d love for us to be able to do that.”