Coneygree trainer Bradstock gives new checks system thumbs-up
Incidents such as the one that led to subsequent Gold Cup winner Coneygree being withdrawn at the start before his chasing debut at Plumpton almost three years ago should be a thing of the past.
New raceday procedures and protocol regarding the way horses are checked at racecourses – the old ‘poor movers list’ – is to be replaced shortly by the launch of a new system titled the ‘suitability to race examination’.
Currently horses are checked over by a BHA veterinary officer at the racecourse stables and at the start of races but under the new STR system, which has been given the thumbs up by the NTF (National Trainers Federation), they would be the subject of a prior examination.
Under the new system horses identified as having abnormal movements will be checked over at a trainer’s yard by a BHA veterinary officer and the findings then logged on a system so that the results can be used on racedays as a guide for the on-duty racecourse veterinary staff
Coneygree's enforced withdrawal enraged trainer Mark Bradstock and the horse went on to make a successful debut over fences at Newbury just 11 days later en route to winning the Gold Cup three and a half months later.
Bradstock’s wife Sara was quick to sing the praises of the new system on Thursday, saying: "It is definitely a sensible step forward and I understand the trialling of the new protocol has been going on for a while.
"As a horse lover I do not want to see horses running if they are at risk to themselves and there are easily plenty more pluses than minuses regarding this new system.”
The BHA’s director of health and welfare, David Sykes said: "The way in which the BHA checks certain horses are fit to race is set to change and the new method is called a 'suitability to race examination'.
"It has been used informally over the last three months to assess the practicalities and gain responses from trainers. As a result of positive feedback these examinations will be rolled out on a permanent basis across all affected horses.
“The reason for instigating this examination is to allow trainers and owners, their stable vets, and BHA vets to be confident that horses that arrive at the races with a history of idiosyncratic gaits will be able to race. It removes the problem of withdrawing horses on raceday once they have arrived at that racecourse because they are deemed at trot up to be lame.
"It also allows the BHA vets to have confidence these horses have gaits that do not represent ongoing issues which could increase a risk of injury. This is a significant welfare initiative and, although it will never completely stop raceday injuries, it should give both the industry and the general public confidence that welfare is the prime focus of the racing industry.”
NTF president Rupert Arnold echoed those sentiments, saying: "This is something the BHA has consulted the NTF on and it has been trialled with a few trainers already and they are satisfied it’s a reasonable way of moving to a new system.
"The old 'poor movers list' had its flaws and this will be a far more robust system of making sure that the welfare of horses is paramount.”