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Racing Foundation voices frustration at slow rate of progress after record year

It took four years for markings on hurdles and fences to change to white from orange
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The chief executive of the Racing Foundation has called on British racing to drive through improvements more quickly as the charity marked a record year for funding to the industry in 2021.

Rob Hezel voiced frustration at slow progress and warned the sport does not operate in a vacuum and needed to maintain its social licence.

The Racing Foundation was established ten years ago to oversee the distribution of funds to charitable causes within the racing and thoroughbred industry following the sale of the Tote.

It delivered more than £7 million in funding to the industry in 2021 – the largest sum it has handed out in a single year - bringing the total to £30m since 2012.

Hezel said: "Despite the progress made in 2021 and a bumper year for giving, it hasn’t been without its frustrations."

The length of time it took for markings on fences and hurdles to be changed to white from orange was cited as an example of those frustrations.

Racing Foundation chief executive Rob Hezel: called for more dynamism on the part of the industry

Hezel said: "We are encouraged by the capability and approach of the Horse Welfare Board's new programme team, who are taking a fresh approach to delivering improvement in the industry.

"One of the first projects to be delivered was changing the colour of take-off and height markers across all British racecourses from orange to white. This improves the fence's visibility for horses and will lead to a better level of equine safety.

"The equine vision study that underpinned it was funded by the Racing Foundation and carried out by the University of Exeter in 2017. It's great to see research leading to improvement, yet the time it took for this change to happen – four years in this case – is frustrating. Racing does not operate in a vacuum."

Hezel said the sport needed to respond more quickly "to drive improvement in order to maintain the sport's social licence and ensure its sustainability".

He added: "As we await the results of the BHA restructure, the Racing Foundation hopes for the creation of a cohesive industry approach – one that can adapt and respond promptly to deliver improvement in all aspects of racing.

"The Racing Foundation will continue to challenge, collaborate and support our industry partners to protect the economic, social and environmental health of the sport and its future."

Of the £7m given by the Racing Foundation in 2021, £3m went to the Levy Board to cover its charitable commitments, freeing up funds to support the industry with an increased prize-money package.

Of the remainder, £400,000 was provided in Covid emergency funds to assist racing charities, while other grants included support for the Riding a Dream Academy, which offers scholarships and residential courses for young people from underrepresented communities, and National Racehorse Week.

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The time it took for this change to happen – four years in this case – is frustrating. Racing does not operate in a vacuum
E.W. Terms