Major measures to tackle non-runners announced following industry consultation and review

16 Aug 2017 Racecourse Racing/Fixtures

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has today published in full a significant series of measures with the objective of decreasing non-runner rates in British racing.

This follows an extensive data analysis and consultation with the National Trainers Federation (NTF), Professional Jockeys Association (PJA), Racecourse Association (RCA), Racehorse Owners Association (ROA) and Horseracing Bettors Forum (HBF).

At its meeting in July 2017, the BHA Board approved the package of recommendations which aim to reduce the number of non-runners to a minimum, without putting at risk the additional international revenues that are being generated by the use of 48-hour declarations for Flat races. These revenues have risen from an estimated £6m in 2006, when 48-hour declarations were introduced for all Flat races, to their current annual level of approximately £16m.

These measures have been designed to alter behaviour in trainers with relatively high non-runner rates and also to address specific behaviours linked with the most frequent reasons for non-runners. In addition, steps have been taken to tackle concerns raised by trainers regarding racecourse-related factors which contribute to non-runner rates.

Richard Wayman, Chief Operating Officer for the BHA, said: “While there are a number of valid or unavoidable reasons for non-runners, it is important that, as governing body and regulator, the BHA does all that it can to reduce the number to a minimum.

“Non-runners are a source of frustration to those who watch and bet on the sport, creating uncertainty in betting markets, reducing participation, the number of runners, and the competitiveness of races. They can also impact significantly on jockeys and owners, especially if horses are withdrawn late.

“It is, of course, important that trainers have the ability to withdraw horses for valid veterinary or welfare reasons, or if there has been a change in the going. But equally, we must also ensure that such an ability is not misused. We were also clear in compiling these recommendations that we must not unfairly penalise the vast majority of trainers who operate within the spirit of the rules.”

A summary of the recommendations is as follows. The full list of recommendations can be found here.

  • The BHA will publish tables showing individual trainer non-runner rates from the previous 12 months at the end of each quarter.
  • Any trainer with more than 100 declarations in the period with a non-runner rate above a published threshold percentage (namely 50% above the average non-runner rate) will be suspended from using self-certificates for 12 months.
  • Any trainer above the threshold but not included within the published data (due to having fewer than 100 declarations during the previous 12 months) would have their situation reviewed. Any such trainer may be suspended from using self-certificates if it was considered appropriate by the BHA.
  • Any horse that has been declared as a non-runner with a vet’s certificate would not be able to race on the two days following the race.
  • Stewards to hold an enquiry where a horse is scheduled to run on identical going as that on which it had been withdrawn during the previous month because of the ground. Where a pattern arises or where it is considered that circumstances warrant it, action may be taken such as preventing the horse from running.
  • The number of going-related non-runners will remain under close scrutiny, particularly when there has been only a marginal change in the going description. Should there be insufficient decline in the number of going-related non-runners, consideration will be given to the possibility of introducing a scale of going changes within the rules of racing and requiring a more significant change of going for a horse to be withdrawn, albeit with a greater degree of tolerance at the extremes of going
  • All cases of a late change to going descriptions (i.e. once racing has started), to be recorded and reviewed by the BHA, alongside situations where a high percentage of horses are withdrawn having already arrived on the course. Where records indicate cause for concern, BHA racecourse inspectorate team to increasingly visit the relevant racecourse prior to race meetings to assess ground conditions and compare with the Clerk’s going description.
  • BHA to encourage the ROA and PJA to agree that an owner will pay the full riding fee to the jockey of a non-runner declared after 9am on the day of the race. It is also proposed that this would take the place of any increase to the riding fee in 2018.
  • In cases where non-runners incur a fine, the fixed £140 fine is to be substantially increased for any such non-runners declared after 9am on the day of the race
  • When considering whether to extend the 10am deadline for declarations under Rule F (90), any trainer who has declared more than one horse will be treated as if a maximum of one declaration has been made.

Richard Wayman added: “There is no silver bullet to tackle the issue of non-runners. We need to balance the needs of trainers, owners, jockeys and staff with those who watch and bet on racing. That we need to minimise the number non-runners is not open to challenge. But we need to do so without unfairly restricting or penalising trainers or compromising the welfare of horses. This calls for a proportionate, balanced and targeted set of measures.

“What we have proposed, having consulted widely with participants, is designed to address public perception, encourage participation, safeguard revenue and mitigate some related financial losses by encouraging the right behaviours and discouraging the small minority who misuse the current system.

“The impact of the measures on the numbers of non-runners will continue to be closely monitored over the coming months, including any changes to the reasons provided for non-runners.”

A full implementation plan is currently being produced and, wherever possible, the measures outlined will become effective from October 2017. In relation to the measures involving trainers with high non-runner rates, the ‘league tables’ will be published from October 2017 and it is anticipated that automatic suspension from self-certifying will begin to apply from the end of March 2018.

Notes to editors:

1. Full details of the 10 recommendations can be found here.

2. Total Non-runners (2012-16):

2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Jump 2561 2645 2247 2197 2616
Flat 6498 6043 5967 5593 5777
TOTAL 9059 8688 8214 7790 8393
  1. Non-runners per race (2012-16):
2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Jump 0.72 0.71 0.59 0.58 0.70
Flat Turf 1.26 1.05 1.10 1.07 1.09
Flat AW 0.75 0.76 0.67 0.60 0.64
TOTAL 0.94 0.86 0.81 0.78 0.84
  1. Non-runners as a percentage of declarations (2012-16):
2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Jump 7.50 7.36 6.71 6.50 7.56
Flat Turf 11.43 10.31 10.86 10.44 10.59
Flat AW 7.48 8.06 7.21 6.37 6.55
TOTAL 9.13 8.73 8.58 8.13 8.56
  1. Non-runners by reason (2012-16):
2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Vet’s Certificates 1062 1031 997 1085 1000
Self-Certificate 3658 3843 3176 2945 3184
Going 3389 2800 3082 2910 3271
Others 950 1014 959 850 938
TOTAL 9059 8688 8214 7790 8393

6. Comparing the first seven months of 2017 with the equivalent period in 2016 shows a slight decrease in non-runner rates overall. Using non-runners as a percentage of declarations as a measure, rates have fallen over Jumps (8.27% to 7.44%). Conversely, there has been an increase in the rates on the Flat for both Flat Turf (10.78% to 11.26%) and Flat All Weather (6.27% to 6.53%).