Our work on the Racecourse
Whilst each of the 60 courses throughout Britain vary in terms of size and topography, all must adhere to common standards set out by the British Horseracing Authority in order to obtain a licence to race. The Racecourse Department plays a vital role in the ongoing monitoring and improving of participant safety, welfare and workplace standards across the industry.
The Director of Raceday Operations & Regulation oversees the Racecourse Department, as well as a large number of Officials acting on the Racecourse.
Common standards are set down in the BHA’s ‘General Instructions to Racecourses’, covering the following topics for which racecourses have to meet strict licence conditions:
Work that the Racecourse Team does to monitor racecourses includes:
- State of the Track
- Marking of Courses
- Running Rail
- Winning Post
- Steeple Chase Fences
- Hazard Warnings/Course Direction Markers and the by-passing of obstacles
- Racetrack floodlighting
- Facilities for Integrity Services
- Stable Yard and Horse Box Park
- Racecourse Stables
- Canteen and Hostel
- Stewards’ Boxes and Room
- Judges’ Boxes
- Weighing Room
- Winners’ Enclosure
- Parade Ring/Horsewalks/Saddling Boxes
- Starting Arrangements
- Medical Facilities
- Veterinary Facilities
- Sampling Unit
Racecourse Licensing and Course Inspection
The Racecourse Department in High Holborn administers the racecourse licensing process. It also coordinates and prioritises necessary action points based on the regular racecourse reports compiled by the team of four Inspectors of Courses.
The Inspectors of Courses are all former jockeys, which the BHA views as vital for the role: knowing how a course rides gives an invaluable perspective on the siting of a fence or the layout of running rail on a bend.
Their role is primarily a regulatory one, ensuring that agreed standards are met. However, with the experience it has, the team is often asked for advice by Clerks of the Course on areas such as turf management, fence construction and course configuration.
Design and Construction of Courses
The Inspectorate plays a key role in monitoring progress and specification details during the construction phase.
The Racecourse Department produces the Racecourse Manual, which sets out all of the requirements for the design and construction of racecourses within in the UK.
Please note: this Manual was produced in 2008, before the switchover to the new Rules structure. Therefore, the small number of references to Rules are now outdated. The Manual will be reprinted in 2010, but in the meantime please refer to the new Rules website for the up to date Rule references.
Racecourse Research and Development Projects
The Racecourse Department is at the centre of many of the industry’s racecourse research and development projects (such as the Turftrax GoingStick, new hurdle designs and irrigation best practice) and manages the synthetic (All Weather Track) surface protocol when manufacturers wish to obtain the necessary approval for their surfaces to be used on licensed racecourses. All new plastic running rails also have to undergo standard laboratory testing, overseen by BHA, before they can be approved for use on British courses.
Infrastructure Refurbishments and Rebuilds
The Department also has significant input into the pre-construction approval of major infrastructure refurbishments or racecourse rebuilds, which in the past few years have included projects at Doncaster, Kempton, Aintree and Ascot, as well as ten brand new stable yards across the country. This ensures that the facilities used by racing’s participants and professionals meet the required standard.
Racecourse Integrity and Welfare Policy Implementation
Responsible for significant input into policy projects which have welfare or integrity implications, the Racecourse Department spends much of its time working alongside the Integrity Services and Veterinary Departments. Such projects have, in recent times, included upgrades to racecourse stabling, enhanced on-course CCTV systems, race Start initiatives, the provision of electronic scales in the Weighing Room and the implementation of a Stop Race Protocol.
The Department also coordinates the industry’s response work relating to major raceday incidents and issues.
An annual report, compiled by the Racecourse Department, is submitted each year to the Fixture Allocation Group. With detailed recommendations as to the number of racedays and the ideal pattern of fixtures at each course from a turf-management perspective, this ‘Optimum Use of the Turf’ document, based heavily on going and field size statistics, ensures that informed judgements can be made as to a course’s ability to stage fixtures.