• In-foal mares not declarable
• No funds for Pre-race weighing of horses
• Awaiting research findings before decision on wind operations
The British Horseracing Authority has concluded a review into additional racegoer/punter information in light of a recommendation made by the then Board of the Horseracing Regulatory Authority in 2007 to “consider the Rules as to what information has to be put into the public domain, and when”.
In its review, the Authority has taken account of:
• an assessment of the potential benefits (including for racegoers and off-course punters)
• practical considerations for horsemen and others, and,
• guideline costs associated with implementing procedures for the disclosure of information.
The review was undertaken by the Executive before being presented to the Board which has decided as follows:
(i) Mares in Foal: The case for requiring disclosure of in foal mares is not considered to be sufficiently robust, nor the method of implementation and monitoring sufficiently clear or practicable to justify a requirement to disclose. Evidence has been produced that demonstrates that over 90% of in foal mares do not experience a marked improvement in racecourse performance. Whilst that fact may in itself be of interest, the practical issues concerned with disclosure are very significant and, furthermore, attempting to produce wholly accurate information would involve incurring significant costs.
(ii) Pre-Race Weighing: It appears unlikely that benefits of public information associated with pre-race weighing would exceed the considerable costs (estimated at £2m+) associated with its implementation and ongoing operation at each of Britain’s 61 racecourses. The resources required to finance such a project are not currently available and, until this situation changes, it is not an option to consider advancing this particular initiative. Having said that, the Authority does consider that such information could be disclosed – although the benefits may be limited by the relatively narrow window for dissemination – and the information would add to the data offering of Racing.
(iii) Wind Operations: the Authority’s view is that whilst from an inside information perspective there may be a case for requiring disclosure of the fact that a horse has undergone surgical intervention for the purpose of altering its respiratory characteristics, there are wider issues that require assessment before it can finalise its position. In particular, the range of surgical interventions, and the lack of information to compare their effectiveness, has raised concerns that disclosure may be more misleading than informative. An independent research project considering this area has been in progress for some time. They have agreed to share their findings once they are available in the New Year and the Authority will assess these results before finalising its position, with its deliberations also extending to consider any regulatory and/or ethical implications.
Nic Coward, Chief Executive of the Authority, said:
“We recognised that these issues needed to be addressed – not just from a perspective of establishing what might be considered ‘inside information’ but also taking into account the rights and needs of race-goers and punters for access to information. This is still a work in progress, and the Authority will be guided by the findings of ongoing research, ensuring that any decision we make is taken based on the facts available to us.”
Tim Morris, British Horseracing Authority Director of Equine Science and Welfare commented:
“It is important that the Authority’s decisions are informed by good scientific advice. The information on the effect of pregnancy is a good example of where proper scientific analysis has clarified the situation. The situation involving wind operations is more complex and requires more extensive scientific review and we await the results of that review with interest.”
For more information please contact Paul Struthers, Media Relations Manager, on 07966 590105.
3RD December 2008
Notes for Editors:
1. Mares In Foal
There is a dearth of peer-reviewed scientific studies on this topic. Informed Veterinary opinion was that known effects were that pregnancy removed the variation in behaviour seen through the oestrus cycle. Weatherbys and the Authority’s Racing Department considered the record of all in-foal mares with handicap ratings that participated in Flat races between 1997 and 2007. This analysis was produced by referring to subsequent foaling records.
During the period, 370 such mares were identified and their handicap ratings, pre and post covering, were compared. The analysis identified that once the mare was in foal:
• The rating of 109 of the 370 mares (29%) increased, thereby indicating that the mare had improved;
• The rating of 17 of the 370 mares (5%) remained unchanged;
• The rating of 244 of the 370 mares (66%) declined, thereby indicating that the mare had deteriorated.
When considering the performance of all 370 mares, on average, each mare’s handicap rating declined by 2.96lbs once in foal, with the median decline being 3lbs.
Arguably the most significant finding, however, was that the handicap rating of just 32 mares (8%) increased by 7lbs or more once they were in foal and that, therefore, for every mare that shows marked improvement once in foal, there will be at least nine mares which experience no such noteworthy improvement in performance. Indeed, the analysis would suggest that the performances of two-thirds of mares will deteriorate once they are in foal.
The fact of pregnancy is one thing, what it is likely to mean in terms of performance, at least on this analysis, differs between horses.