Tackling Race Clashes
Ruth Quinn, British Horseracing Authority (BHA) Director of International Racing and Racing Development, blogs about the work carried out to reduce race clashes over the past year:
Over the last 12 months particular focus has been given to the reduction of race clashes, with the ultimate objective of better presenting the sport, increasing betting turnover and impacting positively on the Levy. As a result, over a one-year period race clashes have been reduced by 30.36%.
To achieve this reduction a BHA member of staff oversees racing each day and co-ordinates any necessary race delays with Stewards, racecourses and broadcasters. This new approach to the co-ordination of race times commenced in November 2014, following the appointment of Nick Dartnall to the new role of Race Times Supervisor. This was a joint BHA and Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB) initiative following new, extensive analysis of the impact of race clashes on betting turnover.
The results below compare the volume of clashes under the new protocols with the previous year.
|November 2013 – October 2014||November 2014 – October 2015||% Change|
|No. of races||12681||12613||-1%|
|Race clashes (GB + IRE)||5.3%||3.7%||-30%|
|GB races subject to clashes||3.8%||2.4%||-38%|
A race is classified as a ‘clash’ when it overlaps with another race. If two races take place within 45 seconds of each other it is classified as a ‘near clash’.
HBLB estimates an average loss of £1,500 of Levy income each time the start of a British race clashes with another race. This figure rises to approximately £5,000 when such a clash involves a race on Channel 4.
Statistically, the race most affected, in betting terms, by a clash is the race which has its start impacted. As a result, considered efforts are made to reduce the number of Levy-contributing races whose starts are impacted by clashes in Great Britain. Over the aforementioned period, the number of Levy-contributing races which have had their starts impacted by clashes has reduced by 38.28%.
The reduction in clashes has been achieved through both an improved approach towards the scheduling of race times and live co-ordination on the day.
In the past 18 months efforts have been made to ensure better co-ordination with Horse Racing Ireland and SIS (the suppliers of racing images to betting shops and websites), to ensure race times complement both jurisdictions.
There are a number of scheduling restrictions and considerations, some of which benefit the industry in other areas, which necessitate the requirement for certain race times and ad-hoc delays. These include: sunset times; class, type and distance of race; broadcaster and racecourse requirements; consideration of important international races; and meetings and requests for British racing to be broadcast abroad, which generates income for racecourses. In addition to the positive financial impact delivered for the sport from avoiding clashes, better spacing of races in general will also help to encourage increased betting activity.
- Live race time delays
The BHA Race Times Supervisor contacts each racecourse before racing to discuss any potential delays in order to avoid clashes, taking account of the most up-to-date factors. Where a delay is inevitable the racecourse staff will be informed, so that the horses can be held in the paddock rather than circling at the start. Broadcasters are contacted to inform them of any agreed/potential delays and check if they have any requests of their own, for example for domestic races to avoid any international races they may also be televising.
Key points considered in delaying races
No race is held for longer than five minutes – this is a maximum timeframe, and one that is avoided if possible. When deciding whether to delay the start of a race, the following points are considered:
The primary concern when delaying any race is the welfare of the participants. As a result, the Stewards and Starting Team retain the authority to override any proposed delays from the Race Times Supervisor. When a delay is being considered, how long horses have been at the start prior to the off-time is also taken into account. No delay is ever agreed in circumstances where horses have started loading.
- Sufficient gap between races
It is understood that starting one race immediately after another has a similar negative impact as a direct clash. After discussions with bookmakers it was decided that, wherever feasible, a minimum of a 45 second gap would be established between races.
- Race Type
Certain race types need special consideration when a delay is being contemplated, for instance when the race involves inexperienced horses. The distance and class of race are also factors to be considered, particularly if delaying a race is going to cause a potential knock-on delay to a high-profile race.
- Racegoer and viewing experience
All delays are discussed between racecourse staff and raceday officials and communicated to broadcasters. This is to ensure racegoers and television viewers are kept up-to-date with proceedings. The aim is that, if all of these key points are considered, any delays that are actioned will be proportionate and reasonable changes to the day’s racing – so as not to unnecessarily disrupt the flow of the day at any racecourse – and viewers and racegoers will be kept fully informed.
One of the side-effects of delaying a race in order to avoid a clash is the potential knock-on effect on races taking place at other meetings on a given day, in terms of the risk of a delay generating further clashes later on, particularly on a busy Saturday, for example. This is another factor that the Race Times Supervisor will consider throughout the day and, while it will never be possible to make this system infallible, the net benefit can clearly be seen in the reduced number of clashes.
Going forward, the intention is to continue to use a qualitative approach to race times; continued collaboration between officials, racecourses and broadcasters will ensure that each delay is justified and minimal.
Thanks must be given to the racecourses, broadcasters and raceday officials, who help facilitate the reduction in race clashes. Over time, these protocols will continue to have a positive impact for punters, as well as increasing betting turnover for British Racing and Levy generation.