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Sunday, 09 December, 2018

Ayr under fire as BHA warns track over communications

Ayr: the course lost its biggest Flat meeting in September
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Ayr has been warned by the BHA to improve the way it operates after track officials were left red-faced following the loss of September's three-day William Hill Ayr Gold Cup meeting to waterlogging.

Responding to a report from the Ayr racecourse executive into the circumstances surrounding the loss of the fixture, allied to feedback from the BHA's course inspectorate, the authority implored the track to provide quicker and better updates.

Owners, trainers and jockeys were caught out by the turn of events, and Nigel Payne, chairman of the Professional Jockeys Association, found the BHA's urgings less than satisfactory on Monday.

He said: “We are very disappointed that, in view of major inconveniences to connections, including of course our own members, the statement tells us very little more than was known at the time.

Nigel Payne: "The statement tells us very little more than was known at the time"

"We all were aware that information, issued by the racecourse, at best misleading, was communicated about the state of the course , and this led to unnecessary expense to the many connections who travelled and booked hotels, etc.

"As to the consequences, it does seem to appear that there is one rule for Racecourses and another for licensed personnel."

The course had declared itself "very confident" racing would pass an inspection on the Friday, the second day of its highest-profile Flat meeting, after the opening day was called off. But it was forced into an embarrassing abandonment on the Thursday evening, earning the ire of many in the sport.

That intensified the following morning when Saturday's Ayr Gold Cup card was lost, despite efforts – including getting a helicopter to hover over the sodden turf – to save it.

John Gallagher, who took Quench Dolly to Ayr from his yard not far from Chipping Norton in Gloucestershire, was among those unhappy with how events unfolded, notably with the track opening its doors and bars for the Saturday.

He said on Monday: "I think it's a bad show as the following day they opened the gates and had 3,000 people through the door. They're making their bit of money back but when it comes to the owners, they were left out of pocket.

John Gallagher: "We still had to pay our staff, there were four owners who were out of pocket on air fares and there was not even an apology"

"Something should be in place to help cover travel costs if something like that happens just to show good faith. We've owners who like going up there, but after this they're not sure about going up there next time.

"We still had to pay our staff, there were four owners who were out of pocket on air fares and there was not even an apology."

A statement on Monday from BHA director of integrity and regulatory operations Brant Dunshea left many questions unanswered, including how one particular patch of the home straight so badly affected by 15mm of rain overnight had not been identified before.

Dunshea blamed "exceptional circumstances" for the abandonment, including rainfall that was substantially above historical averages for late September.

He added: "This was coupled with an area of impervious indigenous clay-based soil and clay subsoil underneath the affected patch of ground, which had limited existing drainage.

Brant Dunshea: blamed "exceptional circumstances"

"The required remedial work on the affected area, which has been started proactively by Ayr, is already underway and will progress with the close co-operation and guidance of the BHA's course inspectorate."

The BHA declined to elaborate on suggestions made to Ayr about improving its communications. 

The statement said: "Despite a combination of unusual circumstances leading to the abandonments, some issues were identified in relation to the timeliness of data and information being logged as events unfolded.

"The BHA has made a number of recommendations to improve communications going forward ensuring all those impacted by any future abandonments, or the potential for abandonments, are informed in a as timely a manner as possible."

Ayr on Monday declined to comment on the BHA's statement.

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We've owners who like going up there, but after this they're not sure

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