Tag Archive for: BHA

Verdict due on Thursday as Robbie Dunne’s disciplinary hearing concludes

The British Horseracing Authority’s disciplinary hearing into allegations jockey Robbie Dunne bullied and harassed Bryony Frost has been adjourned, with a final decision expected by noon on Thursday.

Dunne denies all but one of the seven charges brought against him after allegations from fellow rider Frost, although he denies the language used in the admitted breach, and has been present in High Holborn for five days as the hearing took place in front of a three-person panel.

The majority of the incidents in question took place in 2020, when Dunne is alleged to have threatened Frost by promising to “put her through a wing” and is also accused of using misogynistic language such as “f****** whore”, “f****** slut” and “dangerous c***” towards her.

Roderick Moore, representing Dunne, told the panel he had issues with Frost’s credibility after the allegations made about Dunne’s misogynistic behaviour were not echoed unanimously by other female riders.

Dunne, who has been present in High Holborn throughout the hearing
Dunne, who has been present in High Holborn throughout the hearing (Nick Potts/PA)

“I readily accept that Ms Frost was upset at times during her evidence to you last week, that was obvious,” he said.

“The panel needs to take considerable care when assessing her testimony and the weight that can be placed upon it, the fact that she was visibly upset does not mean that where she leads, the panel should necessarily follow.

“Ms Frost made a number of gender-based allegations. Those allegations were not supported in any meaningful sense by the six female jockeys who were interviewed by the BHA investigator.”

Moore also challenged the idea that Frost had been afraid of Dunne, telling the panel: “It’s hard to reconcile her contended fear for Mr Dunne when she spends as much time as she does in the male area of the weighing room.

“Her retort to me was that she is in the male weighing room because she gets more rides than they (other female riders) do, and that one follows from the other.

Frost after her Tingle Creek success aboard Greaneteen
Frost after her Tingle Creek success aboard Greaneteen (Steven Paston/PA)

“Lucy Gardner helped you with this yesterday, where she said there is no need for female riders who don’t want to go into the male area to do so.”

The panel also heard that Moore felt it would be unfair to judge Dunne independently to what is generally deemed acceptable in the weighing room at present.

“The way the weighing room is should not come as big news to anyone, there are BHA officials coming in and out all of the time,” he said.

“What would be grossly unfair is to make a judgement of Mr Dunne against a scenario that isn’t the real one.

“If something needs to change, that’s for the future, that’s a policy matter, a political matter.”

Louis Weston, representing the BHA, took issue with the acceptance of a hostile weighing-room culture and highlighted Moore’s perceived attempts to prove that Frost was unduly sensitive to this environment.

Dunne (right) at Aintree on Saturday
Dunne (right) at Aintree on Saturday (Tim Goode/PA)

“To point to her just being intolerant of nice Mr Dunne’s behaviour, that is a hopeless case and a very unfortunate one to put across. It isn’t acceptable,” he said.

“If what is being said, when you come to determine this case, there is a weighing room culture that allows jockeys to threaten serious injury to another or their horse, to call another a whore, a slut and a slag, then that culture is one that is sour, rancid and one that we say should be thrown out and discarded. Its time, if ever it had its time, has gone.

“It is breathtaking, properly breathtaking, to hear Mr Dunne’s friends speak of their tolerance of that conduct.

“It’s amazing that anyone in this sport is saying that it’s OK. You cannot have a sport that is open to men and women if it is tolerated that they get called a whore at work. It is so far beyond the pale, it doesn’t come down to a slight judgement, it is miles beyond the pale.”

Weston described Dunne as “wholly unimpressive, obviously untruthful and at times plainly incoherent” and told the panel that in his view he had given “appalling evidence” when hinging his response on Frost’s riding style despite provocation being no defence for the breaches of which he is accused.

BHA headquarters in High Holborn
BHA headquarters in High Holborn (John Stillwell/PA)

“It is victim-blaming and he has done it quite expressly. He is running an argument throughout this case that his conduct is justified and even acceptable by some culture of the weighing room,” he said.

Weston also made reference to Frost’s initial reluctance to come forward with her allegations and the supposed hostility she has suffered since, something he stated she would not have subjected herself to if she were not telling the truth.

“What I ask you to do is to ask yourself, mentally, this question – why would Bryony Frost make these allegations and put herself through this if what she were saying were not true?,” he said.

“It’s very clear that Ms Frost knew that by stepping up and confronting Robbie Dunne as she did she would run the risk of going against the grain of her profession and being ostracised and excluded, and she has been. Jockeys not talking to her, valets saying they are not going to work for her any more. It’s outrageous that they behave in that way because she had the guts to stand up to a bully.

Frost at Hereford
Frost at Hereford (David Davies/PA)

“No one else was helping her, no one else was protecting her, she had nowhere else to go. She didn’t come to the BHA at a sprint, she needed encouragement and she needed time to think.

“She needed a lot of time to come to this case and I suspect she wouldn’t have done that if she was going to tell a pack of lies.”

At the conclusion of both parties’ statements the panel retired to consider their verdict.

Robbie Dunne hearing to get under way on Tuesday

Robbie Dunne will face the British Horseracing Authority’s disciplinary panel on Tuesday as a possible six-day hearing into allegations of bullying and harassment begins.

The rider has been charged with conduct which the BHA considers “is prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct and good reputation of horse racing in Britain by bullying and harassing a fellow licensed jockey” between February 13, 2020 and September 3, 2020.

The case, which centres around a complaint made by Bryony Frost, is finally being heard after months of investigation, with the process also impacted by the contents of a lengthy BHA report into the allegations and culture in the weighing room being leaked to a newspaper last month.

Following the publication of some details of the case, the Professional Jockeys Association called on the BHA to bring an end its investigation – “however unsatisfactory that is” – as they believed a fair hearing had become impossible.

Bryony Frost, pictured at Chepstow
Bryony Frost, pictured at Chepstow (David Davies/PA)

However, the BHA has opted to proceed with the hearing, which will be held in person at BHA headquarters in London.

The independent disciplinary panel will consider whether Dunne was guilty of “conduct prejudicial to horse racing” and of “acting in a violent of improper manner” by “verbally abusing and threatening a fellow jockey” at Stratford on July 8, at Uttoxeter on August 17 and at Southwell on September 3.

If found guilty, the entry point for conduct prejudicial to horse racing is a fine of £2,000 or withdraw/suspend/disqualify a licence for three months. The range for the penalty is a fine of £1,000 to £15,000 and a ban from one month to three years.

For violent of improper conduct, the entry point is a four-day ban for a jockey with the range being one to 21 days.

The six days set aside for the hearing are November 30 to December 2 and December 7-9, if required.

PJA calls for end to BHA investigation into Frost-Dunne case

The Professional Jockeys Association has called on the British Horseracing Authority to “bring to an end” its investigation into Bryony Frost’s allegations against fellow rider Robbie Dunne – because it believes a fair hearing has become impossible.

Documents were leaked to a newspaper, and published over the past two weeks, and the PJA believes the matter therefore cannot now proceed “however unsatisfactory that is”.

In the leaked documents, it emerged Dunne had been charged with  “conduct prejudicial to the integrity or good reputation” of racing. Days later, it was revealed a second complaint was made by a female rider to the BHA over a safeguarding incident involving a male jockey.

An investigation has been ongoing for more than a year – a length of time which the PJA also called “unacceptable”, adding that its members are “upset” because of the negative headlines created around their weighing-room culture.

The statement read: “The PJA has a policy of not commenting on ongoing investigations and has such a policy out of fairness, respect to the process and to natural justice being allowed to be served without prejudice. The PJA cannot therefore comment on the case specific details but must comment on the current, deeply concerning situation.

“The BHA has been aware of a potential data breach in relation to the leaked documents since August, and reported itself at that time to the Information Commissioners Office. It is vital that the investigation into the data breach is concluded as a matter of urgency, the cause of the data breach identified and anyone involved held to account for the distress caused.

“The length of time taken in bringing this case to a conclusion is unacceptable.  Now that material has been leaked to the media, and the information leaked is the charge letter and accompanying documentation that should only have been available to the BHA, Robbie Dunne and his legal advisers, a fair hearing is impossible. The matter cannot now be permitted to proceed – and we call upon the BHA to bring this matter to an end, however unsatisfactory that is.

“The PJA is aware that its membership is upset by the negative headlines about the culture in the weighing room that have been circulating this past week. The PJA understands and sympathises with their frustration, particularly from those female jockeys who have contacted us. We are grateful to them for respecting the process that must be allowed to conclude.

“The PJA published a Code of Conduct in May, which was the first of its kind in racing.  We expect our members to abide by this code.  We want to ensure that our sport welcomes everyone and we agree that people need to be held to account against a set of rules and codes of expected behaviour.

“We do not, however, accept the explicit and implied criticism of our membership as laid out in recent articles. The PJA does accept that there are ‘heat of the moment’ exchanges, not uncommon in sport, that are quickly resolved – and there may also be occasions when behaviours do fall short of the PJA’s Code of Conduct and the Rules of Racing.”

Bryony Frost in action on course with Frodon at Cheltenham
Bryony Frost in action on course with Frodon at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

Paul Struthers, PJA Chief Executive, said: “Any individual subjected to behaviour that might constitute a breach of the Rules of Racing or the PJA’s Code Conduct must have the right to pursue a complaint, and that right must be respected. The PJA has no toleration of bullying and does not, and will not, stand idly by when it becomes aware of such conduct.

“When serious allegations are made it is vital that they are investigated thoroughly and speedily. Equally, an individual investigated for potential offences under the Rules of Racing is entitled to be subjected to a fair process and have a fair hearing.

“It is surely now impossible for that to happen in this case, however unsatisfactory that is for both parties.”

PA Media has sought a response from the BHA.

Doyle to miss Trueshan mount after suspension appeal fails

Hollie Doyle will miss the ride on Trueshan in the Qatar Prix du Cadran after failing in her appeal against a seven-day suspension.

Stewards at Kempton imposed the ban – to run from this Friday, October 1 to the same day next week, October 8 – for careless riding on runner-up Mountain Ash in the second division of the racingtv.com Handicap on September 17.

Doyle’s appeal took place on Tuesday, and afterwards the British Horseracing Authority announced via Twitter that it had been unsuccessful.

She will therefore be unavailable on Saturday, when she faced a choice of possible big-race rides – on Alan King’s Goodwood Cup and Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup hero Trueshan in the Group One marathon at ParisLongchamp or on top sprinter Glen Shiel at Ascot.

The BHA’s Tweet on Tuesday afternoon read: “Following this morning’s hearing, Hollie Doyle’s appeal against the decision of the Kempton Park stewards, and subsequent penalty, has been unsuccessful.”

There is no Flat racing in Britain on Sunday – which means Doyle’s suspension lasts until the end of next week, and also that she could ride on day two of ParisLongchamp’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe meeting.

New Sunday cards are key addition to 2022 fixture list

A new series of eight valuable Sunday meetings is one of the key developments in the 2022 fixture list, published by the British Horseracing Authority on Monday.

The cards, programmed between May and August, are expected to be worth “in six figures” – with the BHA outlining its intention to support the objectives of “driving attendances, betting revenues and general interest levels, especially where those fixtures are covered by ITV”.

A total of 1,482 fixtures are scheduled – four fewer than last year – with 10 additional cards planned as a sixth Flat meeting on Saturday, although racecourses executives will be expected to contribute no less than £100,000 to prize money and “there should be a reasonable expectation that the fixture would attract an attendance of at least 7,500”.

Three ‘rider restricted fixtures’ will be staged to allow a slight extension of breaks for riders – in March and November on the Flat and in August over jumps – an idea which was successfully tried in Ireland this year.

The two Flat fixtures will be confined to jockeys who rode 30 winners or fewer in the previous calendar year, plus all apprentices and claiming professionals, while the National Hunt card will be confined to those who rode 20 winners or fewer in the previous calendar year, plus all conditionals and claiming professionals.

The six fixtures which comprised the inaugural Racing League this summer have not been added, with discussions ongoing following the conclusion of this year’s competition.

Richard Wayman, chief operating officer for the BHA, said: “In producing the 2022 fixture list, our overarching aim has been to enhance the appeal of racing to its followers.

“As ever, this has involved balancing a number of considerations such as seeking to deliver a competitive and compelling sport, while also supporting the revenues that encourage the acquisition and retention of owners and their horses.

“Also, staging fixtures at times when the public can enjoy them while also being mindful of the wellbeing impact on the participants who service them.

“Fixture policy is an area of tripartite decision making – and while there will inevitably be differences of opinion from time to time, there is complete agreement that the fixture list must continue to evolve as we listen to what racegoers, fans of the sport and the betting industry’s customers are telling us.

“We have built on some of the initiatives trialled during the pandemic, such as the creation of additional relatively high-value meetings on Sundays, and we will continue to look for more opportunities to use the fixture list to support the future of the sport.”

Riders who do not qualify for the restricted days will now have two six-day breaks in March and November on the Flat, with the jumps equivalent having a six-day holiday in April and a 14-day break from July 30 to August 12.

Dale Gibson, the Professional Jockeys Association’s executive director (Racing), welcomed the blank periods for participants, but underlined continuing worries about the number of fixtures planned for 2022.

He said: “Programming the fixture list is always a difficult job and has been particularly challenging this year. While we, along with other horsemen and women, have significant concerns about the sheer volume of fixtures programmed next year, we are pleased to note improvements elsewhere in the calendar.

“The results of the comprehensive PJA Jockey welfare survey in the spring clearly pointed towards the need for longer code breaks for our members under both codes.

“We would have preferred more progress in this area but are pleased that, following widespread consultation and lobbying, the existing breaks will be extended by way of using rider-restricted meetings.

“With another intensive fixture list to service in 2022, the burden on all those who service it will be significant.

“However, we are pleased to note that there is also one additional Flat-free Sunday programmed next summer to break up the long period of continuous racing, alongside subtle movement of fixtures to reduce excessive travelling for participants including racing and stable staff.

“There is still more to be done, but it is encouraging that the sport is slowly beginning to consider the wellbeing of the workforce when producing the fixture list, and we thank the BHA and other organisations for their continued help and support on this vital issue.”

One-meeting rule for jockeys to continue this year and in 2022

Jockeys will continue to ride at one meeting per day throughout this year and next, after sending a “clear message” to the British Horseracing Authority that the majority of them are in favour of the arrangement.

The BHA and Professional Jockeys Association confirmed in a joint-statement that the protocol, initially introduced as part of measures to ensure racing’s safe return behind closed doors during the COVID-19 pandemic, has been extended through 2022.

The announcement follows a consultation with jockeys and industry stakeholders.

The BHA’s chief operating officer Richard Wayman said: “Jockeys played a key role in ensuring racing’s return in 2020 was a success, adapting to a new way of working in unusual circumstances while still producing at the highest level on the track.

Jockeys in action in the Ebor at York last week
Jockeys in action in the Ebor at York last week (Nigel French/PA)

“It is our job to do everything we can to ensure the welfare of our jockeys, and it has become clear over the last year that the overwhelming majority of jockeys appreciate no longer competing at multiple meetings per day, and having to contend with the physical and mental pressures this placed upon them.”

Dale Gibson, executive director of the PJA, said: “Horseracing is incredibly demanding on trainers, jockeys and racing staff – particularly given the size of the fixture list.

“When you factor in early-morning work, extensive mileage, financial uncertainty and the significant physical and mental challenges of being a jockey, it’s arguably the most challenging of professional sports for an athlete.

“The PJA conducted a comprehensive jockey welfare survey earlier this year, with almost half the membership responding.

“The one meeting a day rule was one area we asked members about. The clear message, particularly from Flat jockeys, was that there had been significant benefits to jockeys from the rule – which for most outweighed any negatives – and that the majority, including 72 per cent of Flat jockeys, wanted the rule to remain.

“Based on the survey results, the PJA board had no hesitation in asking the BHA to take this step, and I am sure that the vast majority of the membership will be pleased that it remains in place throughout 2022.”

PJA joint-president PJ McDonald added: “I am very pleased that the one meeting protocol has been extended, and believe strongly that it will benefit the long-term physical and mental health of riders competing today and in the future.

“This will allow us to achieve a better work-life balance, which is so important – whatever your profession.”

Former champion jockey Jim Crowley is among those to have welcomed the announcement.

“I think it’s good – a pity we didn’t do it years ago,” he told Sky Sports Racing.

“In this day and age, there’s so much traffic on the roads now.

Jim Crowley has backed the continuation of the 'one-meeting' rule for jockeys
Jim Crowley has backed the continuation of the ‘one-meeting’ rule for jockeys (Tim Goode/PA)

“I tried to get up to Haydock last week, and it took me seven hours! The volume of traffic is just increasing …

“I’m glad it’s worked out. Everybody is getting a chance – because if you might not be able to go to to one meeting, somebody picks up those rides.

“I think it’s a big plus for jockeys.”

BHA eager for further feedback as part of whip consultation

The British Horseracing Authority has urged people to continue to contribute to its ongoing public consultation on the use of the whip in British racing.

The 10-week process kicked off on July 1 with the launch of an online questionnaire, which will close on September 6, to gather a wide range of views on the topic from as diverse a set of backgrounds as possible.

The Whip Consultation Steering Group will then present the findings to the BHA board for consideration.

Brant Dunshea, the BHA’s chief regulatory officer, said: “The initial phase of public consultation is a vital part of this piece of work, as it is important we hear the views of as many people as possible on the use of the whip in British racing.

“With less than four weeks remaining for the public to have their say, I would like to take the opportunity to remind people to do just that by heading to the BHA website and clicking the link to the questionnaire that is prominent on our home page.

“This is an open and transparent process in which the views of all parties are welcomed and will be considered. I once again ask that everyone who wishes to take part to do so constructively and respectfully.”

Bailey asserts trainers and owners should take lead in care of retired horses

Kim Bailey insists it is the responsibility of his fellow trainers, and owners, to ensure ex-racehorses are properly cared for throughout their lives.

Bailey, who has trained the winners of all the top National Hunt races in a career stretching over more than 30 years, described the covert footage of abattoirs broadcast by the BBC’s Panorama programme as “horrific” and “horrendous”.

He stressed too, however, that it is incumbent on those who own and look after horses in their racing years to do all they can to help provide a safe and comfortable home for them afterwards.

Monday night’s Panorama documentary broadcast scenes of horses about to be euthanised at an abattoir in Swindon – reporting many had arrived there after gruelling and inhumane transportation from Ireland.

The British Horseracing Authority has responded by calling urgent meetings to discuss the troubling issues with industry leaders, including the independently-chaired Horse Welfare Board, and their counterparts at Horse Racing Ireland.

Bailey told Sky Sports Racing: “You can keep re-funding and adding more funds as long as you want to – but the end product is it is up to the trainers, I believe, to make sure the horses they have in their own care find a home afterwards whereby they can be looked after and treasured for the rest of their lives.

“I think it’s something trainers need to point out to owners that, when they get involved in racing, they are as responsible as we are to make sure those horses – when they leave racing – have a future.

“You just can’t get involved in a horse and say ‘well, actually it’s stopped racing now – I want to get rid of it’.

“They’ve got to hold on to responsibility themselves. It’s a dual responsibility, from the trainers’ point of view and the owners’ to make sure we look after where horses go after racing.”

Also crucial, Bailey believes, is the administrative infrastructure which allows the movement of ex-racehorses to be properly tracked.

Kim Bailey (left) with Harry Topper after his victory in the 2014 Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury
Kim Bailey (left) with Harry Topper after his victory in the 2014 Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“I think it’s incredibly important,” he said.

“We pass on horses on a regular basis – I think we’ve moved on about 20 this summer.

“We interview the people who are taking the horse on, (and) we get references from the people who are having them.

“They have to keep in touch with me during the entire time they have the horse. If at any stage during that period they find they can’t cope, for financial reasons or they find the horse is not suitable for them, the horse has to come back here – and then we can try again.”

One such horse was Bailey’s former Grade Two-winning chaser Harry Topper.

He added: “Harry Topper – who was a very good horse for me some years ago – we rehomed him three times.

“The third time, we found the ideal home for him in Ireland with a person who used to look after him when she was here.

“They go from here with a view that, if it doesn’t work out, they have to come back – so they can’t disappear.”

Enhanced governance by racing authorities can only help further.

“You can certainly push on the governing situation,” said Bailey.

“They have a microchip – horses are, like a human, (in that) they have a passport. They are there to see if we can trace where they’ve gone to.

“How far do you go to regulate the situation?

“There are always going to be (cases) whereby horses do not end up in the ideal home – and a decision has to be made as to what happens to that horse.

“But it should be a joint decision between the owner and trainer as to what you do next.”

Bailey was especially concerned by Panorama’s reports that many horses – including former top chaser Vyta Du Roc – had to endure transportation from Ireland to the abattoir in Swindon.

“I thought that was probably the most horrific part of the whole programme,” he said.

“I’m sure Ireland have their own abattoirs – (so) I cannot understand why horses had to be dragged from Ireland to Swindon. It made absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.

“I think that’s one area we need to really push to find out why that happens – because (the horse) should never have been in the situation it was, to go from one country to the next.”

Panorama’s abattoir has caused great consternation – as have claims that contaminated horse meat found its way into the human food chain via fraudulent practice.

The Food Standards Agency, which regulates abattoirs, responded in a statement which read: “Upholding animal welfare and the safety and authenticity of the food we eat is a top priority for Government.

“The Food Standards Agency and Defra work closely with food businesses and slaughterhouses to ensure that animal welfare is maintained at all stages of food production and that all our food is correctly labelled and safe to eat.

“The FSA has asked Panorama to supply the footage that has been obtained during this investigation. If there is any evidence of mistreatment of animals, they will take action and investigate thoroughly.”

Bailey added: “The programme showed racing in a bad light, but it also showed the abattoir world is in a far worse place than we are.

“Their welfare regulations are obviously not as stringent as they rather hoped they are.

“To see what we saw last night – which was nothing to do with racing – is just awful, and you have to work on the theory that the abattoirs need to get themselves under control, because what they showed us last night was just horrific.

David Menuisier agrees with his fellow trainer Kim Bailey about the responsibility of care provided to ex-racehorses
David Menuisier agrees with his fellow trainer Kim Bailey about the responsibility of care provided to ex-racehorses (PA)

“Anybody who has to watch those sort of scenes, it’s horrendous to see.”

Flat trainer David Menuisier underlined his belief too that trainers owe a debt to their former charges when their racing days are over.

He said: “I think the pictures we saw last night were absolutely disgusting.

“People who are in the sport are basically there because they love horses, they are animal lovers – and what we saw last night (in the abattoir footage) was just atrocious.

“I’m trying to rehome a horse now who I’ve cared for three or four years. I’ve had a few phone calls, but I want to meet the people and make sure they are right for him before anything is agreed.

“I think we possibly need to look at better traceability for horses after they leave racing, but many horses do go on to have a happy retirement.

“We are nothing without them, and we owe it to them to make sure they have happy lives. We need to make sure from A to Z, like humans, they are cared for and treated well.”

BHA calls urgent industry meetings on Panorama content

The British Horseracing Authority will hold urgent meetings with the independently-chaired Horse Welfare Board, and other industry leaders, to discuss the content of a BBC Panorama investigation.

The BHA will also contact colleagues at Horse Racing Ireland after the Monday night programme, entitled The Dark Side of Horse Racing,  broadcast covert footage filmed inside one of the UK’s biggest abattoirs – which it is claimed showed rules surrounding the slaughter of horses being breached.

The programme reported that horses had been transported from Ireland to the UK with an injury before arriving at an abattoir – which is against the approved practices and is an issue the BHA will look at as a “matter of urgency”.

A statement from the BHA, referencing the welfare standards, read: “This includes transporting horses over long distances to an abattoir, especially if these have injuries, which is not acceptable under the British racing industry’s guidelines for euthanasia.

“The Food Standards Agency, which regulates abattoirs, is responsible for maintaining standards of animal welfare. We would support them if they decide there is evidence of mistreatment of animals which requires investigation, given the public concern that may arise from this programme.

“The British racing industry, and the 7000 and more staff who look after our horses day-in, day-out, across Britain, are proud of the unparalleled standards of love, care, attention, and respect our horses receive. Where end-of life decisions are being considered, we want these to take place in accordance with the euthanasia guidelines developed by the industry’s Horse Welfare Board over the last 12 months. These aim to ensure that horses’ welfare is protected and that all available options for rehoming are examined.

“Our sport has set out its wider approach to equine welfare in a strategy published in 2020, which the programme chose not to highlight. One of the core aspects of this strategy is collective lifetime responsibility, and the report identified the need to further enhance our record in the fields of aftercare and traceability.”

The BHA also stated that significant steps had been taken since the publication of the strategy – including a review and recommendations for the funding of the aftercare sector.

The statement spelled out that industry discussions of the issues raised are set to take place on Tuesday.

It added: “The BHA and other leaders from the British racing industry, including the independently-chaired Horse Welfare Board, will be meeting tomorrow to consider further the issues raised by this programme.

“We will also be in contact with our colleagues in Ireland.”

Another claim in the programme was that contaminated horse meat was finding its way into the human food chain via the fraudulent practice of switching microchips inside horses to evade passport checks which may show an animal had been treated with Bute.

In response, the Food Standards Agency said in a statement: “Upholding animal welfare and the safety and authenticity of the food we eat is a top priority for Government.

“The Food Standards Agency and Defra work closely with food businesses and slaughterhouses to ensure that animal welfare is maintained at all stages of food production and that all our food is correctly labelled and safe to eat.

“The FSA has asked Panorama to supply the footage that has been obtained during this investigation. If there is any evidence of mistreatment of animals, they will take action and investigate thoroughly.”

Horse Racing Ireland responded after the programme too, stating: “Horse Racing Ireland unreservedly condemns the practices shown in the images from the Swindon, UK abattoir, portrayed this evening in the BBC documentary Panorama.

“HRI supports calls for an investigation by the relevant UK authority into this abattoir.

“This footage showed both animal and human health issues and is not reflective of the care that racehorses receive in the horseracing industry throughout their lives.”

A further statement from the National Trainers Federation also condemned the practices depicted in the covert footage.

It read: “The scenes at the abattoir shown in Panorama tonight were sickening, and the National Trainers Federation (NTF) has no hesitation in condemning those practices. We note that the programme produced no examples of horses trained in Britain suffering a similar fate at this or any other abattoir.

“Britain has a well-established and highly esteemed programme for rehoming racehorses trained in this country. Managed by the industry’s charity Retraining of Racehorses, the programme has successfully expanded the market for racehorses to move on to new careers away from the racecourse. Such is the demand, our trainers tell us that they have no difficulty finding good new homes for retired racehorses.

“Along with all other stakeholders and participants in British horseracing, the NTF fully supports the industry’s Horse Welfare Strategy published in 2020 under the auspices of the independently chaired Horse Welfare Board.

“The strategy notes that ‘Euthanasia can…sometimes be effective in preventing unnecessary suffering and avoiding a welfare problem’.

“British trainers take a responsible and compassionate approach with racehorses that have long-term injuries. If a vet recommends euthanasia, their aim would be to carry it out at the trainer’s premises in a professional and humane way in accordance with the industry’s euthanasia guidelines.”

‘Some level of reform’ likely to whip rules before start of next Flat season

Chief regulatory officer Brant Dunshea is anticipating “some level of reform” to the whip rules next spring after the British Horseracing Authority’s public consultation on the issue is completed.

The consultation begins on Thursday as an online questionnaire opens for a period of 10 weeks, with the BHA seeking to gather responses to a number of set questions related to whip rules and penalties, as well as the opportunity to provide more detailed, freeform suggestions or comments.

Respondents will be asked to consider what the rules should allow in terms of permissible use, whether the existing penalty framework provides sufficient deterrent to prevent rule breaches, whether disqualification should be considered as a penalty for rule breaches, whether international rules should be harmonised and whether engagement with the sport would change if the whip rules were changed.

The consultation was announced in February 2020 after the Horse Welfare Board published its five-year strategy for the sport, which recommended the process to examine the use of whips for encouragement in racing, with action “ideally” taken by the end of October 2020.

The Covid-19 pandemic has delayed implementation of that plan, but with the online questionnaire set to be followed by focus groups and detailed discussions with relevant parties, recommendations will then be determined by the Whip Steering Group and undergo further engagement before being presented to the BHA board for consideration and approval in early 2022.

Dunshea underlined any rule changes would be given a “bedding-in period”, but would expect any amendments to be implemented “before the start of the Flat turf season” next year.

He said: “The HWB itself recommended that as a minimum penalties should increase and the industry members’ committee and BHA board all endorsed the recommendations of the report, so I think on that basis whilst nothing has been pre-determined, no decisions have been made and no options are off the table, I think it would be a reasonable expectation there would be some level of reform as a consequence of this process.”

People can respond either as individuals and/or to submit the views of collective groups, organisations or bodies, although Dunshea quelled any suggestion of possible manipulation of the results by groups with a vested interest as an “external insight company” has been engaged to help analyse and interpret the data.

The BHA's chief regulatory officer Brant Dunshea
The BHA’s chief regulatory officer Brant Dunshea (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

He explained: “We are of course alive to the fact internet surveys can be influenced by organised groups of individuals who may attempt to skew the numbers, but our third-party external firm is very experienced at understanding and analysing information as it comes in and this sort of thing is something we can easily identify through the process.”

In a media briefing, Dunshea pointed out the HWB recommendation was to examine the penalty structure around rule breaches rather than a “referendum” on use of the whip.

He added: “I want to emphasise, this is not a polarised yes/no debate or vote or referendum on whether the whip stays or goes. That’s really important to note. The responses are a guide that will be considered by the steering group. Ultimately it’s a decision for racing to make.”

Julie Harrington, chief executive of the BHA, believes the consultation offers the opportunity to “facilitate a positive, open debate” on the issue of the whip.

She said: “At a time when societal and political views are constantly changing, the future health of our sport will depend in part on the maintenance of social licence and the trust that the public and politicians have in us.

“The racing industry must be willing to listen to and understand a range of perspectives if it is to prosper and safeguard its long-term future.

“Moreover, we must have rules and a penalty structure which are viewed as fair to participants and the betting public, which encourage riding within the rules and which deter rule breaches.

“By carrying out this consultation we are looking to signal and facilitate a positive, open debate about this important issue for our sport from the viewpoint of perception and fairness. We encourage everyone with an interest in the subject to take part in the consultation. This is your opportunity to be heard.”

Dr Jerry Hill awarded MBE

Dr Jerry Hill, the British Horseracing Authority’s chief medical adviser, has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Hill has been honoured for his services to British horse racing during the coronavirus pandemic.

He played a pivotal role in devising the new protocols needed for the industry to resume on June 1 in 2020.

Hill said: “I am genuinely humbled by this award. British racing’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been a truly collaborative one, and the industry has shown what it can achieve when it pulls together.

“I believe that this award reflects the hard work and commitment of many people across the sport.”

Annamarie Phelps, chair of the BHA, said: “This award recognises Dr Hill’s remarkable achievements on behalf of the racing industry.

“Jerry’s priority throughout the COVID crisis has always been to put the health of racing’s participants, racegoers and the general population first.

“This has similarly been the case throughout his six years as BHA chief medical adviser, during which the sport has made significant progress in the field of participant health and wellbeing.”

BHA chair Phelps vows to ‘see things changing’ as racing focuses on diversity improvement

British Horseracing Authority chair Annamarie Phelps believes her sport has been right to avoid “hypocritical” statements, and is instead taking effective steps to bring much-needed improvement in its diversity and inclusion policy.

Phelps, speaking to Sky Sports Racing on the anniversary of the death of George Floyd which sparked international protests, is placing her faith in a joint industry commitment to formalise change.

In Sky’s documentary The Uncomfortable Race, broadcast on Tuesday morning, concerns were voiced by a selection of young people from ethnic-minority backgrounds with aspirations to make their careers in racing.

Callum Helliwell, a former employee of Great British Racing and Goffs UK, was dismayed when there was no direct public response – as in many other sports – from the BHA or other racing industry leaders when the Black Lives Matter movement came to prominence a year ago.

Phelps explains it was a considered decision not to do so, because the sport did not believe it was in position to make a “grandiose statement” in good faith.

She said: “It wasn’t that we didn’t think about it.

“Racing did discuss what we should do in the immediate awful moment a year ago, and it would have been really hypocritical of us I think – at that time – to have said anything enormously public and meaningful about standing alongside our black communities when actually we don’t have very much ethnic diversity in the sport, and we had done probably at that time very little to try to be more inclusive.”

Instead, she believes, telling changes are afoot since.

“I think what the last year has taught us is that there are things we can do,” she added.

“There’s a whole raft of things, at all sorts of different levels, which are much more meaningful to those people, I hope, working in our industry than a grandiose statement which we (would have) had nothing behind at the time.”

Helliwell was, however, among those disappointed that racing did not instigate a public gesture of solidarity with BLM.

He said: “As a black person, if I see a man with a knee on his neck who cannot breathe, being filmed and killed in front of people – again by a police officer, in broad daylight, and racing can just ignore that and continue on like nothing has happened rather than just put in a single bit of acknowledgement … then what on earth are you going to do when something else happens?

People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest in Brighton, sparked by the death of George Floyd
People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest in Brighton, sparked by the death of George Floyd (Aaron Chown/PA)

“What are you going to do for the smaller elements, the ‘micro-aggressions’?

“If you see that, and that’s your first insight into racing, you’d be shocked. You’d (think) not only does the sport not want me here, it doesn’t want me full stop.

“That, to me, is disgusting. That is taking us so far back.”

He is convinced an opportunity was missed.

“The fact that racing fails to acknowledge that hits me harder than anything had hit me before, because it makes me feel like the sport that I love doesn’t care about the person that I am,” he added.

“I think racing has been left behind, left trailing by other sports.

“I really hope racing does pick it up. We’ve not lost completely – it’s not completely over. There is still something that can be done, things can change.”

Phelps is sure of that too, with her fellow administrators’ devotion to the cause as key.

Grand National-winning jockey Rachael Blackmore has helped to break down barriers for women in racing
Grand National-winning jockey Rachael Blackmore has helped to break down barriers for women in racing (Tim Goode/PA)

She said: “The industry commitment is the first step, I suppose, to the whole industry, the whole sport saying for the very first time and very publicly that diversity and inclusion matters.

“Diversity and inclusion is a really important subject for us as a sport, for us as an industry and for our future.

“In a year’s time, I hope we will have developed what is a really important step – to really understand the diversity across the sport, and in particular in relation to people from black communities and ethnic minority communities – which is something we don’t have at the moment.

“I’d like to see us taking a lot more steps to understand, be inclusive and to listen to the people within our organisations from any diverse community and make sure they are able to be themselves when they come into the sport.

“We, and our boards, will be holding each of our organisations accountable to it.

“I do hope we will get much clearer targets for some of these these areas, and you will see things changing.”

She hopes that a vision for a prosperous, inclusive future – in which gender equality and minority representation are dramatically enhanced – will be motivation for all.

“Rather than a stick at the moment, we’re looking at ‘what’s the carrot?’,” said Phelps.

“There’s a huge carrot out there for the industry and the sport.

“It’s not just about opening the door, changing our numbers and percentages, it’s about helping (all) to be their authentic selves and to be comfortable working in our sport and our industry.

“But we’re not there yet, at all. We’re not there on the gender, and we’re certainly not there in terms of cultural diversity.

“I hope that by the time we get through the next two, three, four years we will be looking at an industry population that mirrors the diversity we have in our society.”

Helliwell warns racing must address entrenched, traditional barriers.

“We have nepotism in this industry – rife throughout, and we’re very open about it – people giving jobs to friends and connections,” he said.

“What we need to be doing is people getting these jobs because they’re talented, to be able to interview for them because they’re talented – not be able to interview because they’re a friend of a friend.”

Horses on the gallops at Newmarket
Horses on the gallops at Newmarket (Mike Egerton/PA)

Elijah Michael and Kanane Francis, respectively racing-industry trainees as a lawyer and jockey, also spoke from personal experience to date.

Michael said: “(This) is not to say everyone in horse racing is racist.

“But it is a very white sport in these small pockets around the British and Irish countryside.”

Francis remains optimistic, despite the mixed reception he has found within racing, but would be encouraged if the sport could demonstrate to him that he belongs.

“In racing … they should at least do something to show ‘yes, they do support me’ – even if it’s not big … because it’s really a white-dominated sport,” he said.

“I would love to see, maybe a black trainer – just something to show ‘we’re starting this, and we’re going to make this happen’.”

Francis said he has not always felt universally welcome so far on the Newmarket gallops.

“I have sensed feelings that I might be on my own,” he added.

“Not many people have tried to interact with me, tried to speak to me on the yards I’ve been to.

“Even when I’m riding out, I get the dirtiest looks … you can just see people (thinking) ‘Why are you here? You don’t fit in, you’re not meant to be here’.

“But I just try to keep going with what I want to do, because I want to make these boundaries open up to a lot of other kids like me.”

Racing crowds will return as pandemic restrictions ease next week

Racecourses in England will be able to welcome customers through their gates from next Monday after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced step three of the road map out of lockdown will go ahead as planned.

The British Horseracing Authority responded to the Prime Minister’s confirmation by giving the green light for crowds to return from May 17 – up to a maximum of 4,000 or 50% of capacity, whichever number is lower.

The first meetings able to race in front of a crowd will be Redcar and Carlisle on Monday afternoon – before Leicester and Windsor race in the evening.

Ffos Las race on Monday too, but the Welsh Government has still to announce a change to protocols – so for the time being, meetings will continue behind closed doors there.

The partial lifting of coronavirus restrictions means the Cazoo Derby meeting will be run in front of paying customers next month, and Royal Ascot will also have a crowd – although because stage four does not begin until June 21, it remains unclear whether that showpiece meeting will be able to host 10,000.

Since lockdowns began last March, spectators on racecourses have been restricted to pilot events at Doncaster and Warwick in September and limited crowds at a handful of meetings in December.

In a joint-statement issued by the BHA, the Racecourse Association and the Horsemen’s Group, it was also confirmed that owners will also be allowed to see their horses and meet with their trainers and jockeys in the parade ring from next week.

Richard Wayman, Chief Operating Officer of the BHA, said: “It is extremely exciting that we are finally able to welcome racegoers back to our racecourses.

“It will allow racing’s many fans to come back to the sport they love after more than a year away. We know there is a huge public demand for families and friends to meet up, outdoors, enjoy great food and drink and the unique social occasion of a race meeting.

“In addition, from next week, racing can once again offer our owners the opportunity to feel much closer to the action on a racecourse by returning to the parade ring. Racing’s leaders very much appreciate the commitment and patience shown by owners over the past year when their attendance and experience at racecourses has been restricted by the pandemic.”

David Armstrong, chief executive of the RCA, said: “This next step in the Government’s road map is hugely important milestone in the recovery of British Racing.

“Racecourses are very excited to welcome racegoers back and to be able to offer them a full race day experience whilst extending our provision for owners to whom the sport remain greater in for their continued support.

“Lockdown began almost 14 months ago, and it has been a very challenging journey for the industry and for racecourses in particular through several false starts and aborted pilot events. May 17 marks a key step on the return to normality.”

Charlie Liverton, Chief Executive of the ROA said: “Owners have played a critical role in keeping horse racing going behind closed doors throughout the past 12 months, contributing over £30million a month in training fees alone.

“While the invoices have continued, the ability to go racing and be a part of the race day experience has been greatly hindered as the country, and the wider industry, dealt with the pandemic at large.

“It is therefore a welcome step that come May 17 owners can get a step closer to the action with a return to the parade ring.

“There is more work to be done, and we will continue to work with the BHA and RCA to improve the race day experience for owners, while recognising this milestone in the Government’s roadmap.”

Racing’s annual Levy income forecast at £80million

Racing’s income from the Levy is set to be around £80m for the latest financial year – despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Levy Board has borne the brunt of funding prize money since last March, with racecourses unable to accept paying customers and high-street bookmakers closed for the large majority of time.

“There was no British racing for the first two months of the Levy year, and it was far from certain when racing resumed in June 2020 as to what the level of betting activity would be in the months that followed,” said the Horserace Betting Levy Board’s chairman Paul Darling.

“We have also seen licensed betting offices either closed completely for parts of the year or open with restrictions.

“Since June, we have attempted to balance on the one hand our desire to commit substantial extra support for the sport from our reserves with, on the other hand, the uncertainty around our own ongoing future income.”

The British Horseracing Authority views the forecast figure as a positive, especially taking into account there was no Grand National in 2020, and has pointed to the growing television audiences as another plus.

BHA executive director Will Lambe said: “Today’s news shows how racing continues to provide great excitement and entertainment to the public and is a fun and responsible way to enjoy betting.

“It’s a credit to the commitment and passion of all our participants and to the great stories that racing generates through our jockeys, trainers, owners and the staff who look after our horses.

“We thank all the media who have brought these stories to the British public over the last 12 months, including our racing channels and ITV sport.

“We thank the Horserace Betting Levy Board for the work it has done over the past year to support racing through this crisis, increasing its expenditure so that prize money levels could be maintained wherever possible, and providing additional funding to racecourses.

“We also thank our colleagues in the betting industry, who do so much to promote racing to their customers. These results demonstrate the potential for growing the public’s engagement in racing, the benefits this can bring to the tens of thousands of people employed in both our industries and to the country as whole, especially in rural economies.

“As British racing battles to recover from the financial impact of Covid, this is an encouraging moment as we strive to achieve better funding for our world-class industry, including a fair and sustainable Levy.”

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.”