Owners' leader hits out over non-runner reforms package
Owners' leader Charlie Liverton has blasted the package of measures to tackle the issue of non-runners unveiled by the BHA, describing the recommendations as "unacceptable".
The Racehorse Owners Association chief executive said the steps ignored the "protection of the welfare" of the sport's horses and people, while he was also unhappy about the BHA's call for owners to pay the full riding fee to the jockey of a non-runner declared after 9am on the day of a race.
No response for nine months
Liverton stressed all stakeholders, including owners, wanted the number of non-runners to be kept to a minimum.
However, having given their views on the subject to the BHA, Liverton said the ROA had had no response until receiving the governing body's proposal nine months later, and that the BHA had therefore not "consulted widely", as it claimed.
He added: "Instead, the BHA has simply presented the proposal to the ROA – and presumably the other horseracing stakeholders – as a fait accompli, despite the fact the recommendations, if implemented, would fundamentally alter both the way non-runners are managed and the method of establishing jockeys' riding fees.
"The recommendations fundamentally change the rules of racing with respect to non-runners and riding fees in a way that is unacceptable to the ROA.
"The effect of non-runners impacts on owners more than any other of racing's stakeholders, and it is disappointing the BHA chose not to consult with the ROA following our constructive feedback."
The BHA said it would encourage the ROA and Professional Jockeys Association to agree that owners would pay a full riding fee to jockeys in the case of non-runners declared after 9am on the day of race, rather than 40 per cent as things stand, with that taking the place of an increase in riding fees in 2018.
However, Liverton said the recommendation would be "unsustainable for the majority", adding that while it was not owners who made the decision whether to run or not, "it is the owners who will be harshly punished under the new recommendations".
He continued: "By looking to penalise all owners with a riding fee increase it [the BHA] is in no way looking to tackle an issue that is not in fact widespread, rather than impacting on those who are consistent offenders.
'Jockeys at risk'
"The recommendations will, in fact, increase the number of horses who will be forced to run despite the ground conditions or the horses' own health reasons, which in turn has the potential to put jockeys at risk."
Commenting on the BHA submission that betting revenues from the introduction of 48-hour declarations had grown from £6 million to £16m, Liverton said: "This is positive news for the industry. However, it's also true that the introduction of 48-hour declarations has caused the increase in non-runners, and the implications were well noted at the time they were implemented.
"On the one hand, the BHA would like to increase betting revenues from national and international betting markets, but on the other it seeks to financially penalise owners when, in the best interests of the horses’ welfare, a non-runner is declared.
"Furthermore, the BHA is unable to provide any analysis to show what the financial impact of a non-runner is to British racing."
He concluded: "In the BHA’s haste to maximise betting industry revenues by imposing a set of conditions for non-runners, it has ignored one of its most important objects: the protection of the welfare of its horses and people."