Minimum ratings for Group and Grade 1 races introduced

14 Aug 2017 BHA Features Racecourse Racing/Fixtures
  • Minimum rating of 80 required to run in non-two-year-old Group 1 races from 2018
  • Minimum rating of 130 required to run in all non-Novice Grade 1 Steeple Chases and Hurdle races, and a minimum of 120 for Grade 1 Novice Steeple Chases
  • Human and equine welfare and protecting public perception of crown jewel races central to decision

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and Flat Pattern Committee (FPC) have today announced the introduction of minimum rating criteria for all Group 1 races other than those restricted to two-years-old.

From 2018 onwards no horse will be permitted to run in a non-two-year-old Group 1 race unless it has achieved an official rating of at least 80 by the day before the confirmation stage of the race, or in the absence of an official rating that their racecourse performance(s) have been assessed by the handicapper as being 80 or more.

In addition, the Jump Pattern Committee (JPC) has confirmed its support for extending the existing practice which is already in place at Cheltenham and Aintree for the 2017/18 season, such that a minimum rating of 130 should now apply to all non-Novice Grade 1 Steeple Chases and Hurdle races, and a minimum of 120 for Grade 1 Novice Steeple Chases. The proposal does not extend to Grade 1 Novice Hurdles, which can often attract talented but unexposed youngsters.

These decisions follow an application having been made by the Professional Jockeys Association (PJA) earlier in 2017. This application had already been tabled for consideration by the FPC prior to the issues surrounding the entry of Diore Lia in the 2017 Investec Derby, which further focused the need to implement a solution to this issue.

Ruth Quinn, Director of International Racing & Racing Development for the BHA, said: “The question of whether the races that form the pinnacle of our sport should require a minimum standard of competitiveness from equine participants is one that has been discussed in the past, but without an agreement being reached.

“Thanks to the PJA putting it back on the agenda, a further proposal was already being considered by the Flat Pattern Committee before the issues surrounding this year’s Derby put into clear focus the need for action to be taken.

“Introducing a minimum rating for these races has three clear benefits. Firstly, it will help protect the welfare of the human and equine participants in our major races by reducing the risk that comes with inferior horses competing against far superior opponents. Secondly, it will ensure that the risk of unsatisfactory results in these races is reduced by taking out the unknown factor and complications that can be caused in-running by an inferior horse. Finally, it will help preserve the reputation and public perception of our top races as crown-jewel events, ensuring the focus can remain on these races identifying and celebrating our sport’s champions.

“An initial minimum rating of 80 for Flat Group 1 races has been agreed between the relevant parties, but the impact of this will be monitored and this bar could be raised in the future, if it is felt appropriate.”

Dale Gibson, Executive Director for the PJA, said: “The PJA are fully supportive of the BHA announcement to implement a minimum rating to all Group and Grade 1 races in 2018. The move, initially proposed by the PJA, followed widespread consultation and agreement between senior Jockeys under both codes.

“The overriding welfare and safety of both horse and Jockey is of paramount importance to everyone concerned. Horses asked to race way out of their comfort zone in any major race present unique issues to other participants and rivals, not just in the shape of how the race is run but also increasing the potential for interference and possible incidents.

“Other major racing jurisdictions have similar restrictions, we totally support the agreements that have been reached in making this decision.”

The minimum rating requirement also includes the 2018 Derby. All owners with an existing entry in the race have been written to and informed of the change in the race conditions.

Andrew Cooper, Head of Racing for Jockey Club Racecourses’ London Region, said:“We welcome this move by the BHA to introduce a minimum performance criteria for Group 1 races, above the two-year-old age group. We wholly support this principle, and that the BHA Handicapper can still accommodate those horses that have not yet qualified for a rating. Clearly this new initiative will potentially impact the Investec Derby more than most Group 1s, and it can only serve to consolidate its quality and status as our premier Classic.”

The proposals did not cover minimum criteria for jockeys competing in these races. However, the BHA has overarching regulatory powers which allow for the declaration of a rider to not be accepted, in certain circumstances. The introduction of the minimum rating for horses, however, will generally remove the increased risk factor that comes when an inferior animal is combined with an inexperienced rider.