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Knives still out for BHA despite Brickell departure

BHA: details remain scant regarding Adam Brickell's departure
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There was a time that Adam Brickell was spoken of as a potential chief executive of the BHA.

That contingency is now a remote one following the news the governing body's head of integrity is set to leave the organisation next month.

Many have leapt to the conclusion that Brickell's departure is a direct consequence to the well-documented problems besetting the BHA in the case of trainer Jim Best, although both Brickell and chief executive Nick Rust have strenuously denied that is the case.

While Brickell is not leaving to take up another role, he did claim on Tuesday he had a couple of "interesting opportunities" to examine, although he also said he wanted to spend some time with his young family.

While the timing of Brickell's exit seems to tally with forthcoming events relating to the Best case, the origins of his departure stem from before it blew up.

After becoming the BHA's director of integrity, legal and risk in 2012 Brickell soon had to deal with the Mahmood Al Zarooni and Sungate cases, the handling of which brought the BHA much criticism.

The length of time it was taking for investigations into alleged corruption to come to a conclusion had become another source of criticism for the governing body, while the BHA's integrity department has come under particular scrutiny in the wake of the collapsed case involving former trainer Kate Walton.

Participants were also increasingly complaining about the BHA's regulation.

So when the BHA launched its integrity review last year there were already suggestions that Brickell's position was under threat.

Brickell and the BHA both received plenty of praise for the way that review was carried out but it seems to have set in train changes within the organisation that meant Brickell's role no longer existed, although details are scant at the moment.

However, despite this week's news, the sound of knives being sharpened for the BHA does not appear to have been silenced.

Betting in China a long way off

There was another milestone this week in the attempts to establish a horseracing industry in China when nearly 27,000 people attended the first meeting held under the auspices of the China Horse Club at Yiqi racecourse in Inner Mongolia.

Leading figures from the sport from around the world attended the meeting and made lots of encouraging noises about the sport's future in China.

However, the Chinese government has shown no signs of ending its hard line on gambling in the country and the prospect of racing with betting there still appears to be a distant prospect.

That certainly seemed to be the view of Hong Kong Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges when he addressed a round-table conference staged by the American Jockey Club this month.

"Racing with betting in China is still far away," he said, "and we give the advice they should not go this way because they have not [got] the integrity and systems in place really to do this."

Racing with betting in China of course means racing with legal betting.

There is plenty of appetite for a wager there, as shown by events during this summer's European football championships when Chinese police arrested more than 200 suspects in relation to gambling online on the tournament and seized or froze millions of pounds.

Racing has of course survived elsewhere without betting, as demonstrated by the prime example of Dubai.

However, the prospect of the empty gambling hall at Wuhan racecourse, shown recently on a Sky News report into Chinese horseracing, being filled with punters remains remote.

Blunt message for US

Engelbrecht-Bresges did not pull his punches with his hosts on the subject of medication reform, a topic never far from the top of the agenda in the United States.

He told the conference that the "cornerstone in everything we do" in Hong Kong was racing free of prohibited substances.

"Internationally, we've made some progress over the last years, especially, I think, in Asia and Europe," he added.

"Unfortunately the racing industry in the US is seen as being not a leader, and is lagging behind for various reasons.

"In the interest of the sport globally, I urge all of the stakeholders in the US to unite and implement what is necessary to safeguard our sport."

A stark message but not everybody is listening.

Tom's acts of kindness

The avalanche of tributes to Tom O'Ryan that have followed the sad news of his death reflect the huge regard with which he was held across the sport.

He was the first person from the Racing Post to congratulate me after I got a job at the newspaper, a small act of kindness and encouragement but it meant a lot to me at the time and still does.

It was also one of a legion of other such acts, ones that will be familiar to his many friends in the press room, weighing room and beyond.

The sound of knives being sharpened for the BHA does not appear to have been silenced