BHA looking into drafting non-runner rule changes

By Sports Desk November 22, 2023

Changes to the rules on declaring horses as non-runners could be introduced in 2024, with year’s Epsom Dash used as an example of where stewards could have more discretion.

Four runners in the richly-endowed five-furlong sprint were impeded as their stalls opened fractionally later than the rest of the field, including that of the 6-1 favourite Live In The Moment.

The raceday stewards allowed the result to stand after concluding the four horses’ chances were not “materially impacted” by the issue, but the British Horseracing Authority has subsequently reassessed how non-runners are determined in such circumstances, as well as consulting with various parties.

On a BHA briefing call on Wednesday, director of integrity and regulatory operations Brant Dunshea explained: “We are working through a process of drafting some amendments to the rules that would enable the stewards slightly broader powers to declare a non-runner.

“In the event of the Dash for example, it would empower the stewards under those circumstances to declare the four horses that were unable to start on equal terms with the other runners as non-runners and ensure those who had bet on those runners could receive a refund.

“There is no perfect solution to this, nobody is happy with every decision all of the time, but on balance, shifting closer to the way the international model is framed is the best way of trying to deal with what are complex issues.

“What we are looking to include in the draft amendments are ensuring that where a horse is prevented from starting on equal terms with all other runners, the stewards have the powers to declare such a horse a non-runner and whilst not limiting it to only a very narrow, specific set of circumstances, we wish to include reference in the rule to where a horse’s chances are materially affected.

“We are in the drafting phase, we will write back to all those we engage with and seek their views on where we are heading and look to present any potentials changes to the rules to the BHA rules committee in the early part of next year with a view to implementing any reforms in the summer Flat season.”

The BHA also announced an imminent fourth survey for trainers and stable staff to give their views on improving recruitment, skills and retention of staff, following previous consultation in 2016, 2018 and 2021.

Commissioned by the newly-formed Industry People Board, the survey aims to provides robust data to measure progress of initiatives and identify new issues for employees and employers working on training yards, with the results playing a part in defining the strategy of the newly-formed group, which is leading the development of racing’s long-term plan for its workforce.

Neil Hayward is chairman of the IPB and he underlined ongoing work in relation to Dr Eleanor Boden’s 2021 Racing Foundation conference talk entitled ‘Where did all the girls go?’, which detailed what it said were incidences of unacceptable behaviour towards women in the sport.

A code of conduct was introduced by the BHA in September 2022, but Hayward is anticipating further developments in that area.

He said: “It was the sort of report that once seen could not be unseen and the conclusion I reached was that it needed a really firm steer from the Industry People Board and action.

“I took that report with Eleanor to the BHA board in the summer and since then Lucy (Attwood of the IPB) and team and Greg (Swift, BHA’s director of communications and public affairs) and team have been working on the launch of an industry-wide commitment and action plan and I’m expecting that to be discussed and agreed and launched sometime very soon, if not at the December 13 IPB it will be around or just after Christmas.

“I can only reassure you that actually I see this as being at the heart of one of the things we have to do to improve how our sport actually is at the grassroots level.

“We want people to be good employers, we want to provide them with support on being the best employers they can be and we want this to be a safe place to work for young people and all people in our sport.

“I know there’s a lot of work going on in the safeguarding space that is wrapped up into this too to create an integrated, joined up BHA-wide approach.”

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    Nicholls also runs Swift Hawk, another who made a winning start for the stable – but the ground may have turned against him.

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