BHA contingency plans to allow re-run of races
The BHA has brought in contingency plans for next week's Cheltenham Festival and the Randox Grand National meeting that would allow for a race to be re-run on another day in the event of it being disrupted and the horses stopped.
The rules of racing have also been modified so that a race need not become automatically void should the ‘stop-race’ flag to be deployed, allowing stewards more discretion to prevent occurrences like the void race at Chelmsford in February.
However one leading bookmaker was unhappy with the lack of consultation over the changes.
The ability to consider re-running a race during the two festivals rather than restarting it has been brought in due to "heightened welfare concerns", the BHA said.
Arrangements are in place at both meetings so that in the case of an incident, while racecourse stewards are deciding what course of action to take, the BHA and racecourse executive will be able to assist by giving immediate advice on if, when and where the race can be re-run.
BHA head of media Robin Mounsey said: "In the unlikely event that a race at Cheltenham or Aintree is interrupted and stop-race procedures are initiated, rather than restarting the race from pre-determined start points – as was previously the case – the BHA and the racecourse will now consider rescheduling and re-running the race on a different day.
"Aintree, Cheltenham and the BHA agree that rescheduling a race is likely to be the safest and fairest option and the one that best addresses any potential public concerns regarding the impact a restart might have on the welfare of the horses involved.
"However, any decision will be based on the particular circumstances. In the very rare circumstances that a race is restarted, BHA stewards have the discretion to restart the race from the most suitable place, rather than having to work to the previous prescribed, inflexible restarting points."
The BHA asked bookmakers to note the changes but added that any subsequent changes to their rules were at operators' own "discretion".
However, Coral PR director Simon Clare described as "bizarre" the decision to make changes to the rules surrounding some of the biggest betting races of the year without speaking to bookmakers first.
"Instead the BHA sent the ABB a note for "information only" detailing the rules changes that had already been made," he added.
Clare went on: "It is not at all clear what issue these rule changes have been designed to remedy, or the scenarios that the rule-changers envisage, but we have taken immediate steps to anticipate the potential impact of this rule change with a change to our own rules that means all bets placed on a race will stand if that race is re-started or re-scheduled, unless customers wish to cancel their bets."