The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) have today announced reciprocal arrangements to adjust the restrictions on participation by runners trained in international jurisdictions.
As a result, as of 1 October internationally-trained horses will be permitted to participate again in all British races other than Class 5 and 6 handicaps/classified stakes on the Flat, and Class 5 handicaps over Jumps.
Any such runners would remain subject to the relevant Government regulations in place at the time, including reference to whether the horses, and therefore any individuals accompanying them, are trained in an exempt or non-exempt country.
Reciprocal arrangements will be introduced in Ireland from 1 October, albeit the Irish Rules of Racing will continue to state that “a horse trained outside of Ireland, with a Flat handicap Rating of less than 60 will not be qualified to run in an Irish Flat Handicap.” All overseas runners in Ireland will also be required to adhere to Irish Government guidelines and HRI protocols.
When racing resumed in June, restrictions were put in place based on the principles of COVID-19 infection control and ensuring sufficient opportunities for domestic runners in a reduced race programme. These considerations were balanced against the fact that, at the highest levels, international competition is important for the sport and the breed. As a result, foreign-trained runners were permitted in Class 1 races and Heritage Handicaps only.
The industry’s Racing Group, including representatives from horsemen and racecourses, have considered the matter subsequently, with their recommendation that it is appropriate to relax the restrictions approved by the BHA Board at its meeting on Tuesday 15 September.
The new restrictions are intended to balance the importance of GB-trained horses being given an opportunity to run, especially in low-grade handicaps, with the requirement to improve the quality of racing and see the best possible horses compete, and encourage international competition.
This approach will remain under constant review with the possibility of a return to tighter restrictions in the future if circumstances change, including all changes to relevant Government regulations.