New BHA policy to permit race surface switch on raceday

07 May 2024 BHA Features Racing/Fixtures

  • Transfer of race surface on the day of a fixture to be allowed in exceptional circumstances
  • Surface switch only permitted when horses, participants and paying customers will be at or travelling to the racecourse and the only alternative is abandoning the fixture
  • Trainers given opportunity to opt out of running on updated surface

A new British Horseracing Authority (BHA) policy will permit an on-the-day switch between Flat turf and all-weather tracks where the original racing surface is deemed unraceable and the fixture would otherwise need to be abandoned.

The policy will apply where a change of surface may be possible on the day of the fixture due to a deterioration in the ground conditions, when horses, participants and paying customers will have already arrived at or be travelling to the racecourse.

It will only be relevant for racecourses that have both an all-weather and Flat turf surface – at present only Lingfield Park.

A surface switch can only be permitted by the BHA as part of a Going / Ground Enquiry, with the Stewards making a decision as to whether the original surface is unraceable.

Where a surface switch has been approved, trainers will have the opportunity to withdraw their horses without incurring a penalty. Any horses that remain in the race will run as advertised in the racecard, with race weight and conditions remaining as originally published.

All information and updates will be clearly communicated to participants, wider stakeholders and racegoers.

The new policy only deals with on-the-day surface switches that may be necessary in exceptional circumstances to enable the fixture to go ahead. All other transfer of surface requests in advance of raceday will continue to be dealt with by the BHA Racing Department as per the existing Fixture Policy.

Tom Byrne, BHA Head of Racing and Betting, said:  

“Following the abandonment of a Lingfield turf fixture in 2022, questions were raised by connections as to whether there could be a process in place to allow the affected races to simply transfer to the All-Weather course for those still willing to race, especially with participants and racegoers having already travelled to the course.

“By introducing this new policy, we hope that if we are faced with a similar situation again, a switch of race surface on the day of the race would be permitted, allowing the fixture to continue, rather than being abandoned.

“We expect that any such instance will be very rare, with an on-the-day switch only permitted in the most exceptional circumstances. However if the need does arise, then we give ourselves the chance to try and fairly deliver races for participants who want to run, as well as offering racing for customers both on and off-course”.

In a scenario where the BHA approves a transfer of surface:

  • Running orders would remain the same. However, if daylight was an issue some races may be abandoned to fit the fixture in before sunset. Gaps between races may be reduced to help fit in as many races as possible, but no race can be run earlier than its scheduled off time.
  • Race distances may vary slightly between turf and all-weather tracks, so any race would always be moved to the closest available start.
  • Race weights and conditions would remain as originally published. If a fixture moved from turf to all-weather and a horse has a different turf rating compared to their all-weather mark, they would still run off their turf rating.
  • All horses will run following the transfer of surface, unless their trainers (or representatives) utilise the ‘opt out’ period, which is as follows:
    • There would be a window during which trainers would be able to withdraw their horse due to the change of surface.
    • Any such withdrawals would be permitted without penalty.
    • Entry fees would be refunded to the owners of all entered horses other than those that run following the change of surface.
    • The withdrawal of any horse that had already been declared a non-runner would stand.
  • For any race that has a field size greater than the All-Weather Field Safety Limit, an elimination sequence would apply.

The full policy is available to view here. If you have any questions about the new policy, please contact the BHA Racing Department via [email protected].