Industry consultation results in recommendations for a more holistic approach to race planning 

23 Feb 2016

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has today announced the conclusion of its industry consultation regarding the development of a more holistic approach to race planning, and the publication of the arising recommendations.

The consultation began in autumn 2015, with the objective of designing an improved approach for creating race programmes to benefit horsemen, racecourses, and the wider Racing industry.

The consultation focused originally on engagement with representative stakeholder groups including the Racecourse Association (RCA), National Trainers Federation (NTF), Racehorse Owners Association (ROA), Thoroughbred Breeders Association (TBA) and other interested parties. Following this process a project team was established, made up of representatives from the Horsemen’s Group, racecourses and the BHA, to review the feedback and to make recommendations to the industry’s Executive Committee for implementation in 2016.

The recommendations sit under four key headings:

1.         Improved data to inform race planning decisions;

2.         Improved processes when compiling the race programme;

3.         Improved communication with trainers; and

4.         Increased visibility for racecourses.

Richard Wayman, Chief Operating Officer for the BHA, said:

“This consultation was an important opportunity for the BHA to review the methods used to create the race programme. We are very grateful to the many participants of the sport who provided their input.

“Although certain specific concerns have been raised, feedback has been largely positive with the majority of respondents saying that the race programme itself isn’t broken, but that the processes used to compile it could be improved to deliver a better outcome for our sport. At the heart of the recommendations is producing a more co-ordinated race programme supported by better data, increased analysis and additional feedback from trainers. The benefits of delivering these improvements will include a reduction in race clashes and gaps, better use of the available horse population, improvement in field sizes, and the delivery of more competitive and compelling racing.”

Claire Sheppard, Director of Racing for the RCA, said:

“A coordinated approach to race planning will ensure more information is available to all racecourses throughout the process.

“With a better understanding and increased transparency we’ll all be able to make improvements to the use of the horse population and ensure there are fewer race clashes, which in turn should deliver more competitive and compelling racing”

Rupert Arnold, Chief Executive of the NTF, said:

“The new holistic approach to race planning follows extensive consultation with trainers and the NTF and we welcome the plan to improve communication with trainers and alter processes to avoid duplication of inefficient race programming from one year to the next. This will be of benefit to the whole industry and its customers.”

Charlie Liverton, Chief Executive of the ROA, said:

“Race planning is one of the most important issues that racing has at present and the work that the BHA has done with racecourses and trainers up and down the country should be applauded. The next stage is even more important however, and we look forward to assisting the race planning process so that the recommendations are fully implemented for the benefit of all industry participants.”

The recommendations in summary are:

Improved data

The BHA will develop a forward-looking analytical model that will a) establish a clearer picture of the number of horses in training and b) forecast the horse population’s demand for specific race types. The design of this model will enable us to strike a better balance between staging the most appropriate racing opportunities for the horse population, and ensuring that the race programme sets out clear pathways for the development of certain animals and the breed as a whole.

In addition, an alternative system will be delivered to provide the BHA with a clearer picture of those horses in training that are ready to run. The proposed method will utilise the activities already carried out by trainers (for example the making of entries and declarations). This data will be used to inform the programming of Interactive Race Planning (IRP) slots, as an accompaniment to the existing online forum.  The BHA will review the number and spread of IRP races for 2017 as part of the project to design the analytical model.

Improved processes / visibility for racecourses

In conjunction with racecourses, the BHA is changing the way in which the race programme is compiled in future. Amongst a number of changes, this will involve greater co-ordination of the programme including that the BHA will now make proposed changes to the conditions of all races of below Class 4 on the Flat and for Classes 4 to 6 over Jumps, where previously these changes were submitted by racecourses. The courses have given their consent for the BHA to make these changes upfront, although they will still have the option to make further amendments if desired.

In time, the BHA will also provide racecourses with a live-view system of the changes being made to the programme at other tracks in order to flag up any geographical or race type clashes and gaps for these to be addressed.

Improved communication with trainers

Quarterly meetings will be held with trainers in conjunction with the NTF to gather feedback on the programme and to introduce any changes that may be required.

A ‘red button’ function will also be developed for use by trainers online, which will enable participants to contact the BHA directly with any queries in relation to the race programme, including the opportunity to flag up any potential gaps or clashes for the BHA and racecourses to review.

A more dynamic race search feature will also make the race programme easier to view online.  It is anticipated that this new software will enable our sport to publish the race programme in a more dynamic way in future.

The BHA is already working on changing the internal processes and developing the software needed to support the delivery of the recommendations during 2016. Some of the recommendations will be introduced immediately, such as the quarterly review of the race programme with trainers, while others, including the development of the analytical model, will take more time. The BHA is aiming to introduce these changes from the start of the compilation of Programme Book 1 for 2017, which begins in August shortly after the intended publication date for next year’s Fixture List.

The delivery of a more optimal race programme is also dependent on the balance of the Fixture List, which will continue to be an area of focus for the BHA and stakeholders in 2016 and beyond.