Nic Coward, Chief Executive of the British Horseracing Board (BHB) and Horseracing Regulatory Authority (HRA), gave a media briefing in central London today, at which a number of announcements were made. This followed meetings on Monday of the Directors-designate of the new British Horseracing Authority, as well as the Boards of BHB and the HRA, and the news that Paul Roy will assume the role of BHB Chairman.
Progress with the British Horseracing Authority
“Racing has a ‘fit for purpose’, unified governing and regulatory body now operating as one team, moving in one direction. We have a new, independent structure and I know other sports are looking across at Racing and what has been achieved. We will be here to lead, to challenge, and to deliver the best for Racing.
“All of us are frustrated at the number of acronyms currently in existence, but we are very keen, as fast as possible, to operate as the British Horseracing Authority. We are at the final stages, but we have to find the right solution to the Pension Scheme issue.”
Grand National Meeting
“Yesterday’s Board meetings followed a weekend in which the nation was gripped by the Grand National.
“I was not happy at the way the start operated, no-one was, but we have said we will look at this. What we should be focusing on is that on Racing’s big day our sport clearly demonstrated that horse welfare will be put first, even if it means a day’s programme will be disrupted. I would like to pay tribute to both the HRA and racecourse veterinary teams, particularly racecourse vet Alasdair Topp.
“Our team has been in regular contact with the vets at the Philip Leverhulme Equine Hospital at Leahurst where Graphic Approach is being looked after, and I am delighted to report that he continues to recuperate and they are looking at sending him home next week. The team there has carried on the excellent work of the veterinary teams at Aintree.
“The first big appointment for the new organisation will be a new Director of Equine Science and Welfare, covering all strands of our work and aimed at the best possible care for the horse.
“I also could not talk about the Grand National without praising the outstanding work of Andrew Tulloch and his team in achieving such good, safe ground despite the unseasonably warm and dry weather – an example of track management of the highest order.”
Jockeys’ Working Restrictions
The HRA Board on Monday approved the new rule that will limit Flat jockeys to riding at a maximum of nine meetings a week, commencing on Saturday 21st April until the end of the evening racing period.
“We are taking a clear stance, and have worked with the Jockeys Association of Great Britain to develop the trial. Our approach does not stem from a desire to impose unnecessary restrictions on riders, but from listening to jockeys and a desire to promote the welfare of Racing’s participants.”
“The HRA Board approved the Working Group’s recommendations yesterday and we will be publishing the results in the next few weeks. We must all understand what is on the right and wrong sides of the line, particularly with new law that will make cheating a criminal offence coming into force in September, which will affect everybody. We need to protect the sport and that’s why we’ve led the way in this area. It’s taken longer than we had hoped but that reflects the importance and complexity of the issue.”
Sale of the Tote
“Following yesterday’s Board meetings, we have been asked by the racecourses and owners to get involved in the process. Paul Roy will lead on this, providing a fresh input to help achieve the best for Racing after a protracted process.”
Request for Extra Fixtures / Turf TV
“We have formally received a number of requests from racecourses for extra fixtures, but we will not be sanctioning them, and won’t grant additional meetings on the basis of whether or not particular bookmakers choose to show particular fixtures. It is not what we are here to do on behalf of British Horseracing.”
Strategic Review of the Fixture List
“The first few weeks have been the start of a listening period. One message that has come through loud and clear is that there is a need for a root and branch review of the Fixture List. This will be driven by the new BHA Board, which sees it as a key priority.
“There will be no ‘sacred cows’. We will focus on what we want the Fixture List to deliver. We need to know what Racing’s real objectives are, design our seasons accordingly and work hard to promote them with our partners in innovative ways. The Order of Merit should be entrenched within the calendar, and responsibility for its commercial success now passes to Racing Enterprises Ltd.
“The new Board, with its experience, knows this won’t be easy, but we are here to take the lead in the best interests of British Horseracing. It will be an open process, and we will be inviting everyone with an interest in Racing to contribute their views.
“We have to be about creating the quality events that grip the nation, and bringing to life the many amazing stories that Racing delivers on a daily basis. We must also work to attract more punters to bet on British Horseracing. This is all about finding the optimal fixture programme to achieve all these objectives.”