Plans have been announced by the British Horseracing Authority to improve and modernise weighing-room facilities across all British racecourses.
A delegation of jockeys, racecourses and the BHA have been working since March to agree a programme of objectives aimed at meeting the current and future needs of jockeys of all ages and genders.
Weighing rooms and changing-room areas will now be reconfigured in line with the new standards, while some of the upgrades are immediate priorities such as the introduction of key safeguarding measures to provide private changing and shower facilities for jockeys, particularly for under-18s.
The safeguarding changes will be implemented by February 2022, and all racecourse saunas will be permanently closed or removed. Saunas have been out of action since the resumption of racing in June 2020 following the introduction of Covid protocols.
Other adaptations such as private changing and shower facilities, a shared communal rest room, a new communal working space for valets and flexibility to adapt changing room sizes will all be in place by October 2024.
Discussions are also taking place with trainer and jockey representatives about future weight structures. Since the pandemic jockeys have been able to take advantage of additional weight allowances.
BHA chief operating officer Richard Wayman said: “These agreed upgrades are the product of cross-industry collaboration, with jockeys, racecourses and the BHA working together since the beginning of this year.
“The recommendations, which have been endorsed by industry leaders, will deliver substantive improvements to meet the evolving requirements of a modern weighing-room environment, catering not just for today’s human athletes, but also future proofing for the next generation.”
PJA executive director (racing) Dale Gibson said: “Having consulted with our members, the PJA supports the permanent closure of saunas. Eighty-eight per cent of the 190 jockeys who responded to our recent survey voted for their removal, with just eight per cent wanting them to remain.
“The Covid Weight Allowance structure is currently being debated amongst industry representatives, with no immediate changes agreed it is vital that it remains in some shape or form.”
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Allegations of bullying and harassment against jockey Robbie Dunne will be heard by the disciplinary panel of the British Horseracing Authority next week.
Six days have been set aside for the hearing, at which Dunne has been charged with conduct which the BHA considers “is prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct and good reputation of horse racing in Great Britain by bullying and harassing a fellow licensed jockey” between February 13, 2020 and September 3, 2020.
The case is finally being heard after months of investigation and after contents of a lengthy BHA report into the allegations and culture in the weighing room were leaked to a newspaper last month, potentially putting the case – which centres around a complaint made by Bryony Frost – in jeopardy.
Following that dramatic development, 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.
The hearing is now set to go ahead, starting at 9.30am on Tuesday week, and 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.
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Rachael Blackmore was offered advice by the Cheltenham stewards as to what action she might take in the future should there be a repeat of the circumstances surrounding the dramatic match race for the SSS Super Alloys Novices’ Chase.
Blackmore’s mount had been headed by My Drogo, after setting the pace, when the odds-on favourite came down at the second-last fence.
Gin On Lime made a mistake and sprawled on landing, but Blackmore managed to keep the partnership intact, pick the Henry de Bromhead-trained mare up and get her to jump the final obstacle safely to claim the prize.
Had Blackmore parted company with Gin On Lime the two-horse race would have been declared void. In November 2009, the British Horseracing Authority introduced new safety rules with jockeys no longer being allowed to remount horses after the start of a race.
A report from the stewards following the race read: “An enquiry was held to consider the circumstances surrounding Rachael Blackmore, the rider of the winner, Gin On Lime, continuing in the race when her horse had made a very bad mistake at the penultimate fence.
“Blackmore and the veterinary officer were interviewed, and recordings of the incident were viewed. The veterinary officer stated that a post-race examination of Gin On Lime failed to reveal any abnormalities. The stewards noted Blackmore’s explanation that she felt the mare get to its feet quickly without any ill effects and having trotted soundly away, she was satisfied that Gin On Lime was fit to continue in the race.
“She was advised that in similar circumstances she should take more time to assess the welfare of her mount.”
Speaking immediately after the race, Blackmore – who in March became the first female jockey to be crowned leading rider at the Festival – said: “It was a very strange race and it was very unfortunate for the Skeltons what happened (with My Drogo), but the ball has fallen right for me I suppose.
“She just crumpled under me and it was quite a slow motion thing. She’s an extremely honest mare to go down and jump the last and canter over the line.”
The British Horseracing Authority has amended its rules so that all racehorses entered to run in Britain must be signed out of the human food chain.
Announcing the change, which is to be brought into effect by January 1, 2022, the BHA stated that no entry for any horse would be accepted unless unless it had been declared as not intended for human consumption via the Weatherbys App and horse’s passport.
The rule will apply to all horses trained in Great Britiain, but the BHA is to liaise with other international jurisdictions and examine EU legislation to see if it is practical to include all international runners.
In Great Britain, being signed out of the human food chain also excludes horses from entering the animal food chain, which is regulated to the same standard.
James Given, Director of Equine Health and Welfare for the BHA, said: “British racing has in place a euthanasia code of practice to aid trainers and owners with end-of-life decisions. The guidance is clear that whenever possible, euthanasia should be performed at home or in suitable surroundings.
“The transporting of horses to an abattoir to be sold for consumption should not, in my view, be classed as euthanasia and is not an approach that we should tolerate in our sport, which is why a rule preventing this practice is a positive step.
“I am confident that most British trainers and owners agree with me on this and already observe this principle.”
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Trainer Johnny Farrelly has been permanently excluded from racing, the British Horseracing Authority has announced.
Farrelly was judged to be in breach of the BHA’s safeguarding regulations following a five-day hearing of the National Safeguarding Panel, which followed a referral by the BHA to the NSP.
He was found in breach of six offences under Regulation 4 – headed ‘prohibited conduct and the protection of young persons and adults at risk’ – and one under Regulation 6, which is headed ‘supporting provisions’.
The BHA said Farrelly had been “permanently excluded from British racing with the right to review not before a period of seven years has elapsed”, with the exclusion beginning on October 5.
Farrelly has already signalled his intention to appeal against the finding.
Tim Naylor, director of integrity and regulation for the BHA, said: “Everyone who works in British racing must be willing to call out and stand up to any behaviours which fall short of the values of openness, inclusivity and respect on which our sport is built.
“We are extremely grateful to the people who came forward in this case to highlight the concerns which eventually led to today’s finding. It was as a result of the brave actions of these people, reporting concerns via the sport’s confidential RaceWISE reporting line, that we have been able to successfully bring this case to a conclusion.
“This was a lengthy and complex investigation which called deeply on the expertise of the sport’s dedicated safeguarding unit, who deserve great praise. It also utilised the independent expertise of the National Safeguarding Panel to ensure that any verdict was provided by a fully independent, specialised arbitration process.
“We cannot comment further on the details of the case as they are confidential and we are bound by the NSP’s rules around disclosure.”
Farrelly has trained five winners so far this year and has sent out 130 jumps winners and 19 Flat winners in total during his career.
In a statement issued on his behalf by the National Trainers Federation, he said: “I intend to appeal against today’s findings and will therefore make no further comment about the hearing.
“I would also like it to be known that a police investigation concluded with no charges in relation to my conduct.”
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British horseracing has issued new guidance to racegoers as it makes final plans for the safe return of full crowds in England from Monday.
The Government confirmed earlier this week that the fourth step in the Covid roadmap will go ahead from July 19, allowing venues to return to full capacity with no social distancing.
The Scottish and Welsh Governments have since announced their own rules, and racegoers are advised to check in advance with racecourses in Scotland and Wales to ensure they understand the variations and differences in key dates.
While English racecourses will no longer have limits on crowds from next week, as legal restrictions come to an end, the public has been asked to observe a number of “requests”.
Those requests include being vaccinated against coronavirus and taking up the Government’s offer of free lateral flow tests, so spectators can “consider taking one before you travel” to a racecourse.
The Government has said it will encourage high-risk venues to use a system of Covid certification – and while British racing will not be introducing such a system at this stage, the British Horseracing Authority and the Racecourse Association are “working with DCMS to develop the detailed operation guidance needed to safely introduce certification”, should it be required.
On behalf of the sport, David Armstrong, chief executive of the RCA, said: “We thank all our racegoers for the responsible behaviour they have shown since they were able to return to racecourses, and we are very excited to welcome back all racegoers from Monday in England and later in August in Wales and Scotland.
“As an outdoors event, people can have confidence in attending a race meeting in safety.
“Nevertheless, we encourage all to continue to follow the recommended advice and in particular to check on any restrictions that are still in place in Scotland and Wales. The safety of our racegoers will always be our top priority.
“We continue to liaise with our colleagues from other major sports and local and national authorities to ensure we are all operating to the highest levels of public safety. That includes planning for a system of Covid certification should that be required.”
The BHA also released updated Covid-19 guidelines and operating procedures for participants, with some “additional infection prevention and control measures” remaining in place in an attempt to “safeguard the industry from the risk of Covid-related disruption”.
The weighing room complex will remain a “strictly controlled area”, with participants entering the weighing room asked to wear face covering and continue to socially distance.
Elsewhere on course, the use of face coverings is recommended, particularly in enclosed and crowded areas.
Like spectators, participants are also encouraged to bolster their protection and reduce the risk of transmission of coronavirus by accepting both doses of the vaccine and completing regular lateral flow tests to identify positive cases in advance of raceday.
The BHA’s chief medical adviser, Dr Jerry Hill, said: “Racing has demonstrated throughout the pandemic our ability to conduct race meetings safely and sensibly, with participants adapting quickly to new processes and following rigorously the infection control measures in place.
“While the full return of spectators and the further easing of restrictions is welcome, with cases continuing to rise, racing must do what we can to protect our people and industry – especially against the ongoing risk of 10-day self-isolation for close contacts of infected individuals.
“The best way to bolster protection is through vaccination, accompanied by regular lateral flow testing, but we will also retain some measures on course to help protect those participants working in higher-risk indoor areas, particularly the weighing room complex.
“As ever, I want to thank everyone for their adherence to the protocols and continuing to behave responsibly on course. Avoiding disruption to the racing industry must remain our utmost priority – and everyone can play their part in this respect.”
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Officials at the Racecourse Association and British Horseracing Authority have welcomed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that the limit on numbers attending sporting events is likely to be lifted as part of the easing of Covid-19 restrictions in England on July 19.
Though a final decision will not be made until next Monday, the Prime Minister outlined plans that include the one-metre social distancing rule to be scrapped, as well as the compulsory wearing of face coverings.
The RCA, through its working groups and partnerships within the sport, will now focus its attention to supporting racecourses in preparing for full capacities and seeking similar clarification from devolved governments in Scotland and Wales.
Since May 17 there has been a cap of 4,000 allowed at meetings, except for Royal Ascot where up to 12,000 could attend as part of a Government pilot scheme.
The news of the lifting of limited numbers will come as a boost to the sport, especially with big meetings such as the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on July 24, five days of Glorious Goodwood from July 27-31 and York’s Ebor meeting from August 18-21 on the horizon.
RCA chief executive David Armstrong said: “It has been 476 days since British racecourses were able to welcome racegoers without restriction. Clearly this has been a difficult time for racecourses on both a commercial level, we estimate the pandemic has cost racecourses £400 million, and human level — we have deeply missed the atmosphere and presence of racegoers.
“The clarity provided by today’s Government announcement is wonderful news for racecourses in England and we will continue to work closely with our industry partners and the devolved governments for an update from Wales and Scotland.
“With some of the sport’s marquee events to come including the Qatar Goodwood Festival, York’s Ebor Festival and the Cazoo St Leger Festival at Doncaster, our attention now turns to helping racecourses prepare for a fantastic summer.
“Certain restrictions may remain in place to protect racing’s participants, but we will work closely with our partners across the sport to remove these as quickly as is possible whilst maintaining their safety.”
BHA chair Annamarie Phelps also reacted positively, saying: “We are delighted to hear the Prime Minister’s announcement today. Monday July 19 will be a significant day for all sports, and very much so for British racing.
“This news comes as a huge boost to an industry which relies so heavily on its nearly six million racegoing fans each year. A day at the races with the wonderful atmosphere generated by our racegoers is an experience unlike any other.
“Everyone involved in our sport has been looking forward to this news for the last 13 months, and worked tirelessly and with great patience to safely keep the show on the road in this time.”
However, Phelps added: “While racing is perfectly suited to spectators enjoying a sporting experience in a safe environment, it may remain the case that some protocols around the operation of sporting events for participants and officials remain in place in order to protect sports from the potential impact of positive cases and close contact self-isolation requirements, and permit international competitors.
“We are currently working with our industry colleagues to consider how this might apply to racing and how our racedays will therefore operate from July 19 onwards, and we await further clarity from Government.
“We also look forward to spectators being permitted to return to sporting events in Scotland and Wales in greater numbers in due course, and continue to engage proactively with the Devolved Administrations on this issue.”
The Prime Minister said that it is a “propitious moment” to ease coronavirus restrictions, suggesting it would be harder to end them in the autumn and winter months.
He told a Downing Street press conference: “If we do find another variant that doesn’t respond to the vaccines, if heaven forbid some really awful new bug should appear, then clearly we will have to take whatever steps we need to do to protect the public.
“But on balance, given the massive success of the vaccine rollout, given the fact that this is a propitious moment, a good moment to do it given the coming summer holidays, the natural firebreak we have there, and given the difficulty of then imagining us opening up in the context of the colder autumn/winter months, I think this is a balanced and cautious approach.”
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Spectators in Wales will be able to join those in England and Scotland in attending race meetings from next week after the Welsh government announced the public can return to sporting events on Monday.
Racegoers returned to tracks in England and Scotland on May 17, albeit in reduced numbers, and Chepstow’s meeting on June 11 will mark the first occasion Welsh fans can get back on course.
In both England and Wales, a maximum of 4,000 racegoers are permitted – excluding the pilot event at Royal Ascot which allows 12,000 people – while the limits in Scotland vary from track to track, with Ayr having a cap of 250 and up to 1,400 at Hamilton.
The next stage of the road map out of Covid-19 restrictions is pencilled in for June 21, although it is not expected to confirm until June 14 if it will go ahead, and what guidelines will apply to sporting events in England.
David Armstrong, chief executive of the Racecourse Association, said: “The government said when it published the road map that it wanted Covid restrictions to be lifted from June 21 at the earliest, but it has also said repeatedly that it wants to proceed with caution.
“Racing is pushing hard for the maximum attendance at race meetings from that point and to remove the current rule that has a lower limit for outdoors sports compared to those that take place in stadia with ticketed seating. Our venues have very significant outdoors space, where transmission rates are lower, allowing spectators to be distributed over large areas.
“We may not find out what the guidelines are until a week before this change comes into effect but will be ready to reconfigure racecourses depending on decisions made by national and local authorities, who license each event.”
Julie Harrington, chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority, added: “I’m very positive about the ability of racing to take place safely as we’ve demonstrated throughout the long period of racing behind closed doors. I have been able to make that point directly to ministers and am delighted that Royal Ascot has been selected as a pilot event.
“We are now awaiting the government’s review of social distancing rules, which need to be relaxed if we are to welcome back more spectators from June 21.
“There is a lot of speculation in the media, but the government has told us no decision has yet been made. We are working closely alongside other elite sports to seek clarity from government at the earliest possible moment. There are a number of major sporting events shortly after June 21, such as the Euros, Wimbledon, the Open Golf and the British Grand Prix.
“We thank all those owners and spectators attending racing at present for their patience in bearing with restrictions and look forward to the day when these can be safely removed.”
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The founder of the Autism In Racing initiative has been astounded by the “100 per cent positive” reaction to its launch.
Bobby Beevers, a broadcaster for SIS and raceday presenter, came up with the idea after being diagnosed himself recently.
Beevers was prompted to undertake a series of questionnaires about autism when, while his daughter Sophia was being tested for the condition, his mother and his wife Rachelle began to piece together similarities between the two.
“Because Rachelle had worked in nurseries and worked with kids with autism she knew what to look out for, things like flapping hands and running around,” he said.
“She spoke to my mum, who told her these were things I used to do as a kid.
“One thing I do is talk passionately about racing, because I’m interested in it. If the person I’m talking to shows a subtle expression that they are not really interested in what I’m saying, I don’t pick up on it and just keep talking. I’ll also talk to anybody as if they are my best friend – as many in the press room will know!
“When Sophia was diagnosed in the first lockdown I wanted to find out for myself if I was too, and spoke to my GP. The first assessment was over Teams – but I had another face to face, and after filling in a few more forms they came to the conclusion that I was also autistic.”
It is still quite a big leap from being diagnosed with a condition to then doing something which will help others in a similar situation, but that is what Sheffield-based Beevers – a Rotherham United fan – set out to achieve.
“It was when Sophia was in the process of being diagnosed Rachelle said she’d love to make everything a lot more accessible for people with autism,” he added.
“When she said that, it was when I started thinking racing could step up to the mark.
“Crowds and noise are two major factors, but autism is such a broad spectrum – it affects people in different ways. I’m fine with crowds – but for Sophia, while I haven’t taken her to a football match yet, I would imagine we might take ear defenders out of caution.
“She’s fearless, though. We can take her to a theme park, and she’ll go on the rides no problem.”
Beevers wasted no time and went right to the top by speaking to British Horseracing Authority chair Annamarie Phelps, who was immediately on board with his vision.
“I went to Annamarie, and she was the first person in racing that I told that I was on the waiting list for an autism assessment. Actually admitting that to someone made me think it was a good thing,” he said.
“She told us she was 100 per cent behind the idea. I put together a team, and we were having meetings over Zoom – building up relationships including with Arsenal.
“The reaction has just been 100 per cent positive. Twitter can be toxic at times – but the support behind this, everyone has just been brilliant.
“The amount of followers in the first week, the response from people in and outside racing has been brilliant. People have been sending me messages about their situation and told us they were wishing us all the best. We’ve got off to a great start and we have so much planned going forward. It’s important we get this year, a trial year, right.”
One of the initial stages is to trial autism-friendly sensory spaces at Doncaster, Haydock and Musselburgh later this year.
“It could be that people have shied away from taking their family racing for fear of what might happen when they get there,” said Beevers.
“But by putting these mobile sensory rooms in, a safe a supportive place on the course, they might think again now.
“We need to plan where these rooms go. They need to be in the right place – you can’t just plonk them anywhere.
“But if you want to spend all day in them you can, or come and go after visiting the paddock. It’s all fine.
“The hope is in maybe 10 years’ time there might be one on every course, but at the minute it is a mobile room. We’re hoping to go down the same route as football, who converted hospitality boxes into sensory rooms. That would be fantastic if we could do that, but it might be a case of building one from scratch.”
Those who know Beevers will agree he is full of energy, and in this instance his enthusiasm has clearly worn off on others.
“Racing has got behind this unbelievably, and from the start I said I just wanted to give autism a voice,” he added.
we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet and want to make a change.
“Hopefully anyone who wanted a career in racing – be that a stable lad, jockey or whatever – but might have been put off by their autism, this initiative will hopefully show them they don’t have to be, because the support is there for them.
“We’ve got provisional dates from the racecourses when the first days will be, but they’ll be announced when everything is finalised. Hopefully it will be something special.
“The team I work with have all been very supportive, and we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet and want to make a change.”
To keep in touch with developments within the initiative follow @autisminracing on Twitter.
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A pilot scheme of raceday saliva tests for jockeys to detect cocaine and other banned substances is now under way.
The joint-venture, developed by the British Horseracing Authority and the Professional Jockeys Association, began this week, with tests taken at Kempton on Monday and Lingfield on Tuesday.
Announced in February 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 the presence of any banned substance, above the existing thresholds, in a rider’s system.
Under the pilot, any jockey who does not test negative would be stood down from riding for the day, with racing set to become the first major sport in Britain to utilise on-the-day screening for banned substances through oral swabs, should the pilot prove successful.
The BHA said the pilot will continue over a period of two months, “during which time the testing methodology and raceday procedures can be assessed and improved where necessary, prior to a decision being taken as to whether the matrix can be rolled out on a more permanent basis”.
BHA chief regulatory officer Brant Dunshea said: “Saliva testing is a progressive next step for our testing and surveillance of prohibited substances. In particular, the fact that it provides near-instant results means that we are now able to screen for the substance on the day of race.
“The fact that it is a more cost-effective methodology will also allow us to significantly ramp up our testing capacity – something that we are supporting further through the allocation of an enhanced testing budget.
“This should serve to act both as a deterrent to those who might consider using prohibited substances and provide reassurance to those who are competing on raceday.”
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The high-profile meetings at Ayr and Newbury scheduled for Saturday have been switched to the following afternoon as a mark of respect for the funeral ceremony of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.
It was announced on Friday the Duke of Edinburgh had died at the age of 99, with his funeral to take place at Windsor Castle next weekend at 3pm. A national minute’s silence will be observed as the ceremonial royal funeral begins.
Sporting bodies have been in discussions regarding plans for next Saturday’s fixtures, with the Football League announcing that matches scheduled to begin at 3pm will be rearranged.
The British Horseracing Authority has now confirmed no racing will take place in Great Britain between 2.45pm and 4.15pm – and as a result, the Coral Scottish Grand National fixture at Ayr and the Dubai Duty Free Spring Trials meeting at Newbury will now be held on Sunday.
Saturday’s meetings at Bangor, Thirsk, Brighton and Nottingham will go ahead but with different start times to ensure races do not clash with the ceremony. Start times will be announced on Monday.
The BHA said in a statement: “British racing will continue to appropriately reflect the period of national mourning at fixtures through to Saturday, April 17, including wearing of black armbands and flags flying at half-mast.”
The sponsors of the Scottish National feel the switch “is definitely the right thing to do”.
it would feel entirely inappropriate to stage the race next Saturday under the circumstances.
“This is definitely the right thing to do out of respect for the occasion and the Royal family, and we would like to commend the BHA and the various stakeholders for the speed and flexibility they’ve shown in making this decision,” said Simon Clare, Ladbrokes Coral PR director.
“Scottish Grand National day is a day of celebration of one of the sport’s most prestigious races and it would feel entirely inappropriate to stage the race next Saturday under the circumstances.
“The fact we are racing behind closed doors means it is much easier to shift a big meeting back a day than in a normal year, and we are very appreciative of ITV’s support in agreeing to broadcast the meeting on Sunday.”
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Leaders of British racing have welcomed the government announcement that £21million of loan funding will be made available through the sports winter survival package.
The money will be lent to the Levy Board due to its role in providing central funding of industry costs of race-day regulation, equine welfare and industry training, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has announced.
The funding is to ensure essential race day integrity costs and related health and safety expenditure are safeguarded, enabling the Levy Board to continue their programme of financial support and funding into the industry, which has suffered as a result of Covid-19.
British Horseracing Authority chief executive Julie Harrington said: “We are extremely grateful to officials at Sport England, DCMS and the Treasury for their support in agreeing this funding to racing.
“We are grateful also to the Levy Board for agreeing to our proposal and borrowing this money to support the central funding of racing.
“This money will help ensure racing continues behind closed doors despite the absence of spectator revenues. This will benefit our racecourses, our participants and their communities, and the vital role racing plays as an employer and contributor to the rural economy.”
David Armstrong, chief executive of the Racecourse Association, added: “The RCA and its Members are very grateful to the Levy Board, DCMS and Sport England for putting in place this vital funding for the sport.
“Racecourses have suffered lost turnover of over £325m since the pandemic began and this funding will provide a crucial bridge for both racecourses and horsemen as we begin the long road to recovery.”
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An industry pilot scheme to offer routine pre-raceday Covid-19 testing for racecourse attendees, including jockeys, valets and officials, will begin on Monday.
Funded by the Horserace Betting Levy Board, the pilot, which will last for an initial four-week period, will use regular and repeat Lateral Flow Testing (LFT) to detect positive Covid-19 cases well in advance of raceday, with the aim of reducing the risk of transmission on course and any potential disruption to the industry.
The pilot has been designed to support racing’s existing infection control measures. It will seek to establish whether routine testing of higher risk individuals can help further safeguard the industry and its people against new variants of the virus during the gradual easing of lockdown.
Dr Jerry Hill, the British Horseracing Authority’s chief medical adviser, said: “Advances in testing means that it can now be delivered in a more rapid, convenient and targeted way. Rapid lateral flow testing is being used routinely in local communities and other sectors to support the easing of lockdown restrictions, detect cases early and break chains of transmission.
“The pilot can help provide valuable insight into the practicalities of utilising rapid testing of asymptomatic individuals, to reduce the risk of transmission and protect our industry and its people from disruption as lockdown eases and we move towards the return of spectators.
“By focusing testing on individuals working predominantly indoors and who have multiple contacts on a raceday, we can mitigate risk for those most likely to be exposed to the virus.
“On behalf of all involved in the pilot, I’d like to sincerely thank the Horserace Betting Levy Board for agreeing to fund the testing process, and The Racing Foundation for committing to a financial support package for any jockeys or valets who need to self-isolate, should they receive a positive result”.
Paul Struthers, chief executive of the Professional Jockeys Association, said: “The diligence of participants, including jockeys and valets, in following racing’s protocols has resulted in no known on-course transmission of Covid. This pilot can help establish whether pre-race testing can further improve safety on course, and we are supportive of it.
“On behalf of our members and valets, I would also to thank the Racing Foundation for once again offering support during this pandemic. Being able to offer financial support to jockeys and valets who take part in the pilot and test positive will at least provide some financial security during any period of self-isolation.”
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Officials at the British Horseracing Authority have welcomed the resolution of the investigation into the image of Grand National-winning trainer Gordon Elliott posted on social media.
A hearing by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board referrals committee banned Elliott from training for 12 months – with the last six months suspended – after an image emerged last weekend of Elliott sat on a dead horse.
The BHA had already imposed an interim suspension on Elliott runners in Britain until the conclusion of the investigation.
A statement read: “We welcome the fact that the Irish authorities have acted swiftly. The suspension will be reciprocated here in Great Britain. The existing restriction on Mr Elliott having runners in Great Britain will stay in place until the suspension takes effect on March 9.
“The IHRB Referrals Committee pointed to the fact that the photo showed appalling bad taste and demonstrates a complete absence of respect for the horse. We endorse these comments, and the view that respect is an integral and essential part of the duty of those in charge of animals.
“Today’s decision confirms that horses will not be able to run at the Cheltenham Festival or Grand National Festival in the name of Gordon Elliott.
“However, if horses are transferred directly to other licensed trainers prior to March 9 – when the suspension is due to commence – they will be able to run.”
The Cheltenham Festival is scheduled to get under way on March 16, with the Grand National meeting starting on April 8.
Discussions between Newbury and the British Horseracing Authority could lead to the racecourse continuing to act as a vaccination centre on days when racing takes place.
Since last Thursday the Berkshire track has been used as a Covid-19 vaccination hub, providing up to 1,500 jabs daily. The service was temporarily halted due to the jumps fixture on Wednesday afternoon.
A BHA spokesperson said: “The BHA supports the idea that the vaccination service is a national priority and therefore the aim is to make arrangements which allow racing events to take place alongside the vaccination rollout where possible.
“We would consider any such proposal from Newbury and work with them on possible arrangements for future racedays.”
Newbury said in a statement on its website: “When the NHS first approached Newbury Racecourse to use one of the grandstands as a local vaccination centre, they were made aware of our scheduled racing meeting on Wednesday, January 20 and all future fixtures. It was also made clear that under the BHA and government guidance for elite sport with our current layout, the vaccination centre could not operate on live racedays.
“We understand the NHS considered this carefully and given the centre is not providing vaccinations to the public seven days per week, they have planned their vaccination programme accordingly to work around the two racedays we host in the next 42 days.
“Following the success of the first week of the vaccination centre with positive feedback from patients, we now have an established operational model that the NHS wish to use moving forward. As a result, we are now able to approach the BHA to see if an exception can be made to the regulations for future racedays, allowing the vaccination centre to operate alongside racing if required.”
It added: “Newbury Racecourse is extremely proud to play a small part in the fight against COVID-19 capitalising on the abundance of space we have to offer and have played a role throughout the pandemic as a community hub, acting as a Primary Care Unit during the first lockdown and operating a Meals on Wheels service to some of the most vulnerable and elderly in the area.
“Together with West Berks NHS, the local GP surgeries and the host of volunteers, we remain completely committed to supporting the local community and surrounding area during this challenging time.”
Newbury’s next fixture is scheduled for Saturday, February 13.
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