BHA humbug! Stewards ask why permission was not sought for Santa parade
In a week of regulatory controversy for racing and its governing body, the BHA became embroiled in more difficulty on Saturday when Lingfield's stewards inquired into why the track had failed to seek permission for an appearance by Father Christmas.
While Lingfield's festive parade has become a popular annual event, the venue's clerk of the course, George Hill, was called in to see the stewards after Father Christmas and two elves stopped off at the all-weather meeting just two days before their busiest day of the year.
The official report noted: "The stewards held an inquiry into why the clerk of the course failed to notify the racecourse department at the head office of the BHA that the racecourse intended to include a festive parade at this meeting.
"The stewards interviewed the clerk of the course, who stated that, due to an oversight, he had failed to seek permission. They forwarded his comments to the head office of the BHA for consideration."
In an unusual twist to this Christmas tale, the Lingfield panel was advised by an individual whose name suggested he ought to have been on Santa's side, stipendiary steward Sam Angell.
The parade, which involved just a horse, two ponies and riders, took place an hour before racing on a small strip of the track used primarily at jumps meetings for horses to go to post.
Neither Father Christmas' mount, former jockey Gemma Gracey-Davison's show horse 'Robbie', nor the ponies were seen anywhere near the racecourse stables.
Coral's Simon Clare, whose 12-year-old daughter Eloise was one of the elves, said: "It's a lovely thing Andy [Irvine, partner of local trainer Zoe Davison] and the kids do every year, and it always goes down well with families, who all come running down to the rails to get close to Father Christmas.
"I'm not sure why the bureaucrats need to get involved when there are so many more pressing concerns at the BHA at present. It's a bit heavy handed and not exactly in the spirit of Christmas."
While Ebenezer Scrooge himself would have struggled to find fault with the parade, Lingfield's stewards may have been in a 'bah humbug' mood – or, alternatively, a 'BHA humbug' mood.
As for the BAH itself, sorry BHA, they later tweeted: "Re: Lingfield santa – biosecurity always an issue. That’s why it matters if other animals are on the course.
"The animal didn’t get near racehorses. No harm done. But bear that in mind, Rudolph."
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