Trainers offer guarded support over new non-runner measures
Representatives of trainers have given guarded support to the package of measures brought in by the BHA to tackle the issue of non-runners, while jockeys maintain the governing body could have gone further.
The news was greeted more enthusiastically by the two sides of the betting battle in Ladbrokes Coral and the Horseracing Bettors' Forum.
The National Trainers Federation said its policy was that the rules on non-runners should be "proportionate and targeted" and that the outcome of its discussions with the BHA was a package "aligned with our policy".
Chief executive Rupert Arnold added: "Trainers want to have runners. They withdraw horses only if it's in the horse's and the owner's best interests.
"We support the two-day stand down following a vet's certificate, and publishing each trainer's percentage will encourage trainers to think hard about declaring non-runners.
"This and the other rule changes should have the desired effect of reducing the number of non-runners without risking horse welfare or unreasonably restricting trainers from acting in the owners' interests."
Asked how trainers would react to on-the-day inquiries involving a horse who had previously been withdrawn on similar ground, Arnold said they had already begun on an informal basis.
He continued: "I think trainers may initially have difficulty with this element because they know going descriptions do not always match what they find when they arrive at the track.
"GoingStick and verbal descriptions not only vary across racecourses but can also vary from meeting to meeting at the same course. So a verbal going description cannot be taken as black and white.
"But the proposals are designed to increase transparency and public confidence, and that outweighs any initial difficulty."
The Professional Jockeys Association, which has long lobbied for reform of the system, said it was "broadly supportive" of the new measures.
PJA executive director (racing) Dale Gibson said: "The combination of improvements should hopefully bring about a cultural and meaningful change when declaring a runner; in light of recent examples, highlighting the need for a tighter rule, therefore concentrating the minds of connections at declaration time."
However, he added: "We firmly believe that in future stronger measures should be mandated with respect to the excessive rate of non-runners owing to ground, especially when there is either no advertised going change or a marginal one.
"These numerous instances are frustrating for participants and the betting public when the horse subsequently runs next time under the exact same going description."
PJA chairman Nigel Payne also felt more could be done on the issue of self-certificates.
He said: "Self-certification was brought in entirely as an appeasement to the trainers for 48-hour declarations, which is fair enough.
"However, it was not brought in to withdraw a horse who was drawn high at Chester or Wolverhampton."
The Horseracing Bettors Forum also felt more could have been done on the issue of self-certificates, but the body said it welcomed the initiatives.
Its statement added: "The proposals seek to strike a sensible balance between competing interests, and crucially take into account the effect of non-runners on betting markets and the attractiveness of the sport more widely.
"HBF raised the issue with the BHA shortly after HBF was created nearly two years ago, since when it has received a steady stream of correspondence on the matter. It is pleased action will now be taken."
Simon Clare of Ladbrokes Coral said the announcement would be "enthusiastically welcomed" by betting operators and punters alike, and described it as a "welcome signal of intent" by the BHA.
He said: "Tackling the frequency of non-runners and their debilitating impact on the appeal of racing as a betting product is absolutely essential for the sport if it wants to compete effectively with other betting products and maximise its revenues from betting."
Clare said non-runners caused dissatisfaction through rule 4 deductions and changes to each-way terms.
He added: "What business would be happy to deliver such major and costly customer dissatisfaction so frequently? Only a business that is happy to decline in popularity.
"And that is why today's BHA announcement of initiatives to clamp down on non-runners should be applauded and supported across the board."