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McCoy and Henderson slam BHA over Oliver fine for waving arms at his horse

Nicky Henderson and Sir Anthony McCoy have strongly criticised the BHA after trainer Henry Oliver was fined for waving his arms at his horse before the start at Uttoxeter on Saturday
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Sir Anthony McCoy and Nicky Henderson on Sunday led a storm of protest sparked by the decision of stewards at Uttoxeter to fine trainer Henry Oliver £140 for waving his arms at chaser Burrenbridge Hotel before a race to encourage it to start.

The 20-time champion jockey tweeted his disgust at the fine for misconduct, labelling it "embarrassing rubbish".

A statement by the BHA justifying the decision stoked the controversy by affirming that "we do not force horses to race and . . . they do so of their own free will", a stance that five-time champion trainer Henderson said left him "in despair".

Burrenbridge Hotel planted himself near a fence approaching the start of a 2m4f handicap chase on Saturday, with Oliver going out on to the track to help give his horse every chance of lining up in the race, in which the eight-year-old eventually pulled up.

Oliver was found guilty of misconduct "in that he had encouraged Burrenbridge Hotel, which had been reluctant to line up, by waving his arms behind the gelding", according to the stewards' report. 

McCoy tweeted: "And for such stupidity I'm going to block @BHAStewards in case I end up reading again such embarrassing rubbish. How can our sport have such appalling decision makers in charge?"

Nicky Henderson: made a comparison to the start of Flat races
Henderson said: "If they are talking about giving horses free will about starting then what about at the stalls on the Flat, when ten burly and brilliant men shove, heave and lift horses into the stalls when the horse says no?

"The BHA is baffling at the moment, coming out with more and more bizarre instructions. I despair.

"First there was the instruction on wearing hind shoes, which should be left to the trainer to decide what is best for the horse.

"How are punters going to feel about horses being allowed to decide whether to start or not?"

An inquiry was held at Uttoxeter, with the trainer interviewed and shown a recording of the incident.

Oliver, who also owns the horse, said: "Burrenbridge Hotel has been here a while and probably needs a change of scenery. The Skelton horse who won the novice hurdle wouldn't walk out the paddock so they were waving their arms at that too.

"Our horse planted near the start so I went down there to tell Sam [Twiston-Davies] to get off him and the horse will go forward as that's how he is at home.

"I hadn't asked for permission but with the race times pushed back our horse had planted with the delay, so I was just trying to give him every chance of running his race.

"As we were away from the start I raised my arms to get him away from the fence, where he had stopped, and when the starters got behind him I stayed away.

"As far as I'm concerned I was a furlong away from the start. I understand they don't want people doing that, which is fine, but I was just trying to give my horse every chance of running his race."

Oliver added: "It's a bit disappointing that the stewards didn't just say something to me rather than try to make an example of me, but that's their choice.

"The same steward had me in for a horse at Bangor recently and told me I was running it over the wrong trip, so I don't know why the stewards don't train the horses themselves." 

Social media reaction

Amy Murphy (@almracing)
Unbelievable!! What has happened to our sport, first you can't throw a flick of sand, then water and now waving your arms! Have people lost their minds . . . is it just £70 if you wave just one arm? Poor Henry Oliver.

Matt Sheppard (@Shep84Matt)
What a load of crap. The game is going downhill fast!

David Redvers (@dredvers)
Sometimes a quiet word can suffice and a penalty can be awarded if the offence is repeated. Sometimes enforcing the letter of the law can make the enforcer look an ass.

Stuart Williams (@WilliamsStuart)
If that's the case you should write a rule that trainers and reps are not allowed to be at the start at all.

Brett Doyle (@BrettDoyle1)
How long before a horse has to walk in the starting gate on its own accord?

Brendan Powell (@bpowell13)
Surely leading a horse in at the start, which is allowed, is encouraging a horse to start?

Oliver, who enjoyed his 14th winner of the campaign earlier on the card with hat-trick scorer The Crazed Moon, has yet to decide whether he will appeal against the fine.

He said: "I haven't really thought about whether to appeal – £140 isn't going to make a lot of difference to my life but it just seems a bit petty really.

"I don't think it helps racing's cause by making attention out of things like this, rather than having a quiet word and giving me a warning.

"The starters were fantastic and I told the stewards that I wouldn't have got in their way as that's their job.

"It's quite frustrating as everyone puts so many hours into their horses to get them to the races. Everyone is trying to do the best by their horses."

Henry Oliver: fined £140 for waving his arms at Burrenbridge Hotel prior to the start of the 2m4f handicap chase at Uttoxeter

Schedule 5 on starting procedures in the rules of racing states no trainer or their representative is allowed at the start without the permission of the starter, and under no circumstances will the trainer or representative be allowed to encourage their horse physically, verbally or using any other means to leave the stalls or jump off in a race.

The BHA said in a statement on Sunday: "Trainers are not permitted to encourage their horses to start, and that rule is there for a good reason.

"We set a lot of store in our sport behind the fact that we do not force horses to race and that they do so of their own free will. Moreover, in the interests of a fair, even start, individual horses should not have the attentions of a trainer or representative to get them on their way. For these reasons only the jockeys and starters are permitted to effect or influence the start.

"Once the rule has been breached then a penalty will follow, otherwise the rule is not enforceable. However, we have an appeal system and Mr Oliver is able to appeal his penalty should he wish." 

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How can our sport have such appalling decision makers in charge?
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