New ‘low sun’ protocol introduced

22 Oct 15

Paul Barton, the BHA’s Head of Stewarding, discusses the issue of low sun in jumps races and steps which are being taken to reduce the number of races which are being affected:

Being “too sunny” is not something we often associate with the British winter, but it is fair to say that the sunshine caused us one or two issues through the last Jumps season! This was because we saw a sharp rise in the number of races being affected by low sun, causing hurdles or fences to be omitted as the jockeys were deeming them unsafe to jump.

The figures show that 2014 saw a significant spike in the number of races and number of meetings that were affected by low sun:

Low Sun

We are not sure what caused this. It seems unlikely that 2014 was an exceptionally sunny year – it certainly didn’t feel that way! We have discussed this with the PJA and some of the jockeys and we just don’t know for certain what caused it.

What we and the riders agreed, however, is that something needed to be done about it. As such we have initiated a new protocol for riders and officials to follow when low sun looks like it might be an issue.

Up until now if the riders got down to the start of a race and were of the view that an obstacle should be omitted then they would just inform an official and those obstacles would be bypassed. The view is that we would clearly not want a jockey to jump an obstacle if they thought it was unsafe and therefore would always act on the jockeys’ views.

The new protocol, which we discussed with the jockeys at their recent Jump Jockeys Seminars and kicks in straight away, just asks them to follow a few steps before that decision is made, as follows:

  • If riders consider there may be a problem they should inform the Stipendiary Stewards as soon as possible, who will then inform the Clerk of the Course;
  • Riders should ride past the obstacle(s) that they have concerns over on the way to the start;
  • If riders still have concerns when arriving at the start, they should inform the Starter who will radio the Stipendiary Stewards;
  • The Stipendiary Stewards will then liaise with the Clerk of the Course to consider alternatives to removing obstacle(s);
  • If obstacle(s) have to be removed an announcement will be made;
  • If there are further races remaining on the card then the process above should be repeated for each race.

Hopefully what this will do is avoid instances where obstacles are omitted unnecessarily.

The jockeys were supportive of this approach at the seminars, so we look forward to putting this into place and hopefully reducing the number of affected races.

At the same time we ask for patience and understanding from racegoers when obstacles are omitted. If, after following this protocol, it is still required to omit a fence or hurdle then we hope that it will be clear that this has happened only because it is absolutely necessary for human and horse safety, which must always come first.