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BHA braced for backlash as bloodstock sales review nears publication

Report into buying and selling practices due to be published in September

Nick Rust: 'I can't remember how many warnings I've had on this one'
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BHA chief executive Nick Rust is preparing for a backlash from the bloodstock industry and beyond as he revealed the controversial review of buying and selling practices is close to publication. 

Rust was speaking at a breeding seminar in Newmarket when announcing that the report's findings and recommendations have been approved by the BHA board and will go before a cross-industry group early next month ahead of expected publication in September. 

"I can't remember how many warnings I've had on this one," said Rust, in reference to the levels of opposition to a review announced as far back as October 2017 amid ethical concerns.

Read Lee Mottershead's special report on claims of malpractice in the sales ring

Rust hinted at the likelihood of challenges to the report, possibly of a legal nature, adding: "My hope is that leaders in the industry will accept the need for some change and that we will be able to develop an agreed action plan."

The BHA's interest in bloodstock sales has been far from universally well received. As senior a figure as Philip Freedman, chair of the Horsemen's Group, described the review at its launch as "a cause for concern".

Rust is aware of the potential for a robust response. He added: "One way or another, the report will be made public."

The BHA chief was addressing an audience at the TBA's annual seminar. He said the review report had been passed by the BHA board on July 3 and would now go through a "planning and briefing session," with a group known under the banner of the bloodstock industry forum, back at Flat racing's HQ on August 8.

Representatives of the TBA, Federation of Bloodstock Agents, sales companies, the National Trainers Federation, Racehorse Owners Association "and others" will be in attendance. They would be given a copy of the report's recommendations and executive summary before the meeting, Rust said.

Rust suggested publication of the report, with or without overall acceptance from outside the BHA, would take place in September.

The present code of practice was introduced in 2009. Following media discussion in the summer of 2017, the BHA board was asked to consider "what risks there were in the practices in buying and selling," Rust said, adding that the review, which began in July last year, had involved interviews with 60 individuals and organisations.

Back in October 2017 the BHA revealed that practices linked to the buying and selling of bloodstock were identified as worthy of examination as far back as 2014 and had prompted the "situational review", one it was thought at that point could have wider implications in terms of criminal activity.

In announcing the review, the BHA focused on the need "to ensure openness, transparency and fair dealing is at the heart of all we do or we may risk turning away existing and potential investors into the sport". 

In a separate presentation, Rust's BHA colleague, director of equine health and welfare David Sykes, revealed that the sport's new horse welfare board had held its first serious working session on Tuesday and set out its initial priorities. The board is made up of two independents – chairman Barry Johnson and former sports minister Tracey Crouch – and representatives of the BHA, including Sykes, the Horsemen's Group and the Racecourse Association.

The board’s opening task is to develop a new welfare strategy covering the whole racing industry. With that in mind, the initial priorities involved fatalities and the whip, Sykes outlined.

In response to a government minister's call for racing to work towards zero fatalities, he said: "That's just not possible, but the welfare board is initially assessing all risk factors, so that we can convince the minister that racing is doing everything it can to minimise them."

On the issue of the whip, he said: "We are not conducting a review but rather putting together an action plan, looking at every aspect from technical considerations to industry attitudes. We will come back to the welfare board in November, when we have finished gathering all the information in one place, so that as an industry we can make a decision on what we do."

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My hope is that leaders in the industry will accept the need for some change and that we will be able to develop an agreed action plan
E.W. Terms