DG Tips discusses the BHA
I would imagine the vast majority of people reading this blog know who the BHA (British Horse Racing Authority) are, however for those that don’t the BHA govern, regulate and represent British Horseracing. Their vision reads ‘together we will build a brighter future for our sport, our horses and our people’ and their five key values are integrity, accountability, credibility, responsive and progressive.
The BHA seems intent on being centre stage this season and that was never more apparent than just two weeks back. The Mangan/Derby debacle created a large amount of interest and most of that interest was distinctively negative. In fact if you scroll through any racing fan’s twitter feed you will certainly find it hard to locate much positivity surrounding the BHA. This blog will take into consideration whether or not such negativity is justified, while also analysing a few cases in order to assess where I personally feel they can improve.
In Nick Rust’s (Chief Executive) own words ‘it’s been a difficult year’ for the BHA and the negativity is somewhat understandable. Cases like Jim Best and the Matthew Lohn scandal paint a very tainted image of the BHA. For as long as one can remember horse racing has always been surrounded by a stigma of lies and deceit. A panel member providing information to the BHA and a possible decision bias isn’t exactly the best way to expel such stigmas. And it certainly doesn’t represent progression in my book. Moving forward, their treatment of Hughie Morrison is questionable and the way they handled the Derby/Mangan case really raised significant worries about both their ruling and licensing systems.
It is however, very easy to dwell on the negatives. Twitter trolls seem to have a lot to say in the racing world and it is almost always revolved around negative issues. In the same week as The Derby, the BHA released their annual report. The report listed a vast and varied amount of progression and yet twitter trolls seemed to suffer from a case of shut eye when it came to this report. For me the report spoke volumes about the direction the BHA want to take racing in. It’s a huge positive in a season of negatives and should not be overlooked.
I’ll list below the progress made for convenience:
1 – Significant progress towards achieving the reform of the Levy, which came into effect on 25 April 2017 and is anticipated to unlock £30-£40 million in additional income for the sport
2 – Raising more than £12 million of additional revenue through the Authorised Betting Partner scheme, which prevented the sport from making significant cuts to prize money and regulation which would have been the result of declining Levy yields
3 – Making considerable progress in implementing the recommendations of the Integrity Review and subsequent Quinlan Review, to improve operational delivery and increase the effectiveness of our integrity function and reduce the risk of potential conflicts.
4 – Developing a rolling, three-year business plan and budget to deliver our strategy to continue to improve the BHA’s performance in its core areas, and to contribute to the growth of the sport, working with our tripartite partners and other stakeholders.
5 – Improved financial performance with forecast deficit reduced by 50 per cent in 2016 and the 3 year business plan will lead to break-even over the medium-term.
6 – As part of this business plan, the BHA agreed fee increases for 2017-2019 with horsemen and the racecourses in order to deliver planned activity.
Clearly quite vast financial progress has been made however, where this money is going is another debate. Just this last week I witnessed a class 3 chase with just 2 runners offering prize money in the region of £14,000. On the same day I witnessed 4 class 5 flat races with field sizes ranging from between 15-20 runners and yet the prize money remained around £3,400. One of the BHA’s main objectives last year was to improve field sizes which to a large extent they have. It is however, the fairness of financial distribution that really worries me.
They seem intent on pumping money into the top level of this sport which, on face value does seem positive. Their distribution however lacks fairness and it is at a risk of losing the base platforms that make racing so great. A figure I found quite startling is that on average a £100.00 investment in a race horse returns the owner just £8.00. A minority of owners who operate at the high level reap the rewards but for the majority that figure is perhaps an over estimation. Their return in many cases is actually operating at a lower percentage. More horses in training, bigger field sizes and yet despite huge financial progress made the prize money is certainly lacking in key areas.
BHA Disciplinary Panel
A press release this week highlighted that the BHA has appointed a new disciplinary and licensing panel. A move made because of recent events but in truth the panel has needed an upgrade for some time. My main issue with the BHA has always been with their disciplinary panel, as a punter and a tipster their enquiry decision’s still confuse me. I am going to list below 4 cases, all involve trouble in running and yet the results of their enquiries all deliver differing outcomes.
Case 1: Simple Verse (12/09/2015)
Simple Verse in the 2015 St Leger hit headlines after the result was changed due to interference. Bondi Beach was named the winner, however after a court appeal the judge ruled that the result should be overturned and Simple Verse was awarded the race.
Case 2: Seeking Magic (20/05/2016)
Seeking Magic prevailed at Goodwood. He hung badly right in the final furlong hampering four horses. The race was awarded to Go Far who was actually one of the only horses not hampered by Seeking Magic. Huntsmans Close who would have won but for being hampered was placed in 2nd and Seeking Magic negated to 3rd.
Case 3: Kings Fete (17/06/2016)
Kings Fete finished 3rd at Royal Ascot. The result remained unchanged and Kinema was named the winner. Kinema hung right down the home straight hampering King’s Fete in the process.
Case 4: Banditry (22/09/2016)
Banditry finished 2nd at Doncaster. The result remained unchanged and Laurence was named the winner. Laurence veered right in the closing stages and hampered Banditry in running.
Comparing the Cases
I have chosen these four cases because we can pair them up and contrast. Cases 1 and 4 as the first pair, then cases 2 and 3 as the second pair.
Case 1 and 4 both involve horses running at Doncaster and both involve a horse veering right for a few strides before straightening up and prevailing by a neck. For me Simple Verse won the race rightfully and I was baffled when stewards changed the result. The courts on further assessment ruled that Simple Verse was the rightful winner and he was eventually awarded the race. The damage had been done however, and I guess the case could have clouded their judgment when it came to Banditry. When you look back at the races in question it is easy to see the similarities, however if any result should have been changed it should have been Banditry’s. Simple Verse has edged left by 1 yard, Bondi Beach wasn’t actually hampered at all much. In comparison, Laurence has edged right by 3 yards and Banditry has been badly hampered. If in case 1 they deemed the interference enough to change the result then it is clear that consistency should mean that the result should have gone to Banditry. In both cases their decision has been overruled by a higher force and in both cases there has been a serious mistake made.
Cases 2 and 3 involve a horse hanging right and hampering several horses in the process. Case 2 involved Seeking Magic who hung right in the closing stages at Goodwood. From the far left rail he ended up finishing the race on the far right rail, he hampered 3 horses in the process and was demoted to 3rd. Go Far was awarded the race in the steward’s room and in correlation to British rules (in my opinion we should take note of American rules and for such interference a horse could be thrown out) the decision they made was correct. Case 3 involved Kinema and King’s Fete at Royal Ascot and once again we see a horse hanging badly right causing interference to another horse. Starting on the wide outside Kinema continually hung down the camber to eventually finish the race on the inside rail. King’s Fete was hampered badly by Kinema and as a result could only finish 3rd. The stewards ruled that result remain the same and herein lies another case of inconsistency. Seeking Magic hampered Huntsmans Close at Goodwood. Huntman’s Close finished a 1 1/2l’s third to Seeking Magic due this interference and was promoted to 3rd. In a very similar situation King’s Fete is not treated with the same fairness. Such inconsistencies with results as shown really question the BHA’s ruling system, a new panel is a positive move but whether or not they create a consistent profile I guess only time will tell.
In summary there has been both positives and negatives this year for the BHA. They have made mistakes, they do lack consistency but there are positive signs there and we’d do well as a racing community to acknowledge such positives in the same way we acknowledge the negatives.