February field sizes maintain positive trend

06 Mar 2015
  • Increase in average field sizes on both Flat and Jumps
  • Proportion of races with more than eight runners up, proportion of races with fewer than six runners down

Following the publication of encouraging statistics regarding field sizes in January, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has today published the figures for both January and February, which show further signs of improvement.

The figures are released two months on from the implementation of a range of initiatives designed to tackle the issue of small-field races. These include a targeted approach to certain ‘pinch-points’ in the racing calendar when field sizes have been identified as a critical issue, such as All Weather racing and Jump racing in the period from January to March.

The overall average field size in the period 1 January – 28 February 2015 was 8.29, a rise of 3% from 8.03 in the same period in 2014. Flat racing saw average field sizes rise from 8.15 to 8.36 (+3%), Hurdle races rose from 8.31 to 8.97 (+8%) while Chases rose from 6.83 to 7.07 (+4%).

The number of individual runners rose 6% from 5,498 to 5,815.

The proportion of races with eight or more runners rose by 3.9% from 52.4% to 56.3%, with a 3.6% rise on the Flat (56.8% to 60.4%) and a 4.9% rise over Jumps (48.4% to 53.3%). The proportion of races with fewer than six runners decreased by 3.4%, with a 3.1% decrease on the Flat (16.4% to 13.3%) and 4.3% decrease over Jumps (21.3% to 17.0%).

Ruth Quinn, Director of Racing for the BHA, said:

“The continued upturn is encouraging, although our optimism remains tempered with caution. It is too early yet to say definitively which of the initiatives have been most effective in this period, or indeed whether there are other factors at play.

“There remains a long way to go to get field sizes where we want them to be, and this is going to be a lengthy process which is addressed not only by field-size initiatives but through a three-dimensional approach to the issue across the entire sport, including stimulating an increase in ownership and horses in training.”

The short-notice race removal trial has seen 46 races in January and February designated as “at risk”, i.e. receiving 10 entries or fewer. Of these races, only six received fewer than five declarations. Of these six races, only one was deleted, while the other five were run, three because it was felt there was a genuine need for the race to take place owing to a lack of suitable alternative races, and two because the race in question was part of a six-race card, which made the races ineligible for deletion. The average number of declarations for “at risk” races was 6.35.

The BHA will publish monthly field size updates from now on via britishhorseracing.com in the “BHA News and Blogs” pages (https://www.britishhorseracing.com/news-media/bha-news/).

Notes to Editors

1. The full list of initiatives already announced to address the issue of small-field races is as follows:

  • Targeted removal of 70 All Weather races in January to March and rebalancing the Flat programme.
  • A limit of, on average, 6.5 races being staged on All Weather cards in the January to March period.
  • General restrictions on the number of races per fixture, including specific restrictions at certain times of the year.
  • A trial of short-notice race removal for certain races which achieve less than five declarations in January to March.
  • Targeted removal of 100 Jump races, in particular Chases, from pinch points in January to March and September to November.
  • Through establishment of targets for field sizes and strengthening the use of data, BHA – in conjunction with racecourses – will deliver a more optimised race programme.
  • A formal review of the entry, declaration and non-runner processes.
  • The use of £4.2m of the bookmakers’ Additional Voluntary Contribution Fund to ensure that most Class 2 – 6 races will pay down to at least 6th place (8th place for Class 2 races).
  • The programming of valuable series of Sunday races, such as the recently announced Veterans’ Steeple Chase Series, again using the Bookmakers’ Additional Voluntary Contribution Fund.
  • Lifting the restriction on the number of races that can be re-offered on any one day.
  • Ongoing situational analysis of Jump racing


Average Field Size


Jump Type

2015 Vs. 2014
Flat 8.36 + 0.21
Chase 7.07 + 0.24
Hurdle 8.97 + 0.66
NH Flat 9.21 – 0.02
Hunter 6.84 – 1.43
Total 8.29 + 0.26

Races with eight or more runners

Flat 60.4% +3.6%
Jump 53.3% +4.9%
Total 56.3% +3.9%

Races with fewer than six runners

Flat 13.3% -3.1%
Jump 17.0% -4.3%
Total 15.5% -3.4%


3. Details of the proposals announced in 2014 to address small-field races can be found here: https://www.britishhorseracing.com/press_releases/bha-reveals-initiatives-address-small-field-races/

4. Further information about Racing’s commitment to tackling the issue, and the ongoing situational analysis of Jump racing, can be found here: https://www.britishhorseracing.com/press_releases/addressing-small-field-races-remains-top-priority/

5. Short-notice race deletion trial: For the purposes of this trial, races that attract 10 entries or fewer are flagged as “at risk.” If these races then receive 4 declarations or fewer, they may be subject to deletion.  In all instances the Racing Department will review the entries for all such races to ascertain whether there is a genuine need for the race (i.e. based on whether there are any other available opportunities for horses). Only those races put “at risk” can be considered for deletion. More details about the trial can be found here: https://www.britishhorseracing.com/press_releases/short-notice-race-removal-trial-commence-1-january-2015/