British Horseracing Authority chief executive Julie Harrington has expressed her delight at the positive response to this week’s new HorsePWR campaign relating to welfare in racing.

Encouraging feedback has flooded in from various sectors of the sport, with trainers, jockeys, breeders, owners and media representatives welcoming the initiative.

HorsePWR has its own dedicated website to provide information about the sport and the thoroughbred, the lives they lead and the high welfare and safety standards within racing.

In a statement on, Harrington said: “The response to our HorsePWR campaign is unprecedented for racing. For the industry to rally behind this cause with such full-throated support is immensely heartening.

“We deliberately took a bold and innovative approach to tackling welfare concerns fully aware that it carried a risk of a negative response in some quarters.

“But the way the sport has readily embraced this new concept shows just how much everyone in it recognises that perceptions around welfare are a critical issue for our future.

“It also shows that we recognise the need to be open, transparent and to tackle welfare concerns head-on.

“We should have confidence in what we do and understand that it is through education and information that we will build trust in the sport.

“We are extremely grateful to all the organisations and individuals who have supported the campaign.

“This is just the start and it is important to recognise that the impact campaigns have should never be judged on one day alone.

“We want to grow the campaign and use it to reach wider audiences. We also call on the sport to continue to promote and support the campaign as much as possible. It is in everyone’s best interest to do so.”

The website explores the areas that racing has committed to improve, such as the lives horses go on to have after racing, reducing risk on and off course and facts surrounding the whip.

British Horseracing Authority chief executive Julie Harrington has warned the dominance of Irish trainers at the Cheltenham Festival is “damaging” for the sport.

Irish handlers won 18 of the 27 races across the four days, with 12 of the 14 Grade One contests also going their way and Willie Mullins accounting for eight of those on his own among an overall tally of nine winners for the Closutton team – a total which also took him over 100 Festival winners.

Dan Skelton flew the flag for Britain by sending out four winners, including a memorable top-level double with Ryanair Chase victor Protektorat and Turners Novices’ Chase hero Grey Dawning on Thursday, with Ben Pauling, Paul Nicholls, Kim Bailey, Jeremy Scott and Fiona Needham also getting on the scoresheet.

While Harrington praised those achievements, she feels the Irish supremacy is “becoming more pronounced”.

She said: “I would like to offer my congratulations to every winner this week, and everyone connected with those horses. We again tip our hat to the Irish, and in particular Willie Mullins whose achievement in reaching 100+ Festival winners is truly remarkable.

“Congratulations also go to the British trainers who secured winners this week, in particular Dan Skelton for his impressive haul.

“I have no doubt that the men and women who train horses here in Britain are more than a match for their Irish counterparts. However, they need the ammunition and at present the balance of power and the best horses are going to our colleagues in Ireland, and in particular one yard.

“This is not a new issue. The direction of travel has been set for a number of years now. The sport has been alive to this and taken measures to seek to address it, through attempting to tackle funding issues associated with the sport, seeking increased investment, looking at the race programme, and more recently the delivery of the recommendations of the Quality Jump Racing Review.

“However, the Irish domination of the Grade One races this week has illustrated that the issue is becoming more pronounced and more damaging for the sport on both sides of the Irish sea.”

Following a nightmare Festival for the home side in 2021 which saw just five winners for British trainers, the BHA set up the review group which made a series of recommendations that were unveiled at the start of 2022, with further tweaks to the fixture list this term in an attempt to improve the upper tier of British National Hunt racing.

However, Harrington concedes more now needs to be done and at a faster pace to ensure no further ground is lost.

She said: “Put simply, the rate of decline of jump racing in Britain at the top end has outstripped the measures that have been put in place to tackle it. We must do more, more quickly, and in a more coordinated and decisive manner if we are going to restore British jump racing to the standing at which it belongs.

“Central to this is the delivery of the industry strategy. The strategy is all about growth. At the core of this is investment in the top echelons of our sport, with a view to incentivising the best horses to be bred, owned, trained and raced on these shores. An additional £3.8million in prize-money has already been earmarked for investment in 2024 across the top end of the sport in both codes.

“The strategy is also about much more than just investing in prize money. We need to grow our fanbase by encouraging new fans and retaining existing fans and owners, improve the experience of ownership and attending and viewing racing, and much more besides.

“To achieve this the sport must work together with urgency and clarity of purpose. The times of being reluctant to embrace change or new ideas, lack of transparency and focusing on narrow self-interest must be put firmly behind us.”

Talks are currently ongoing between the BHA and bookmakers on levy reform, which Harrington believes is another key factor in improving British fortunes in the future.

She concluded: “The very visible deterioration in British racing’s competitiveness with our international colleagues has also been at the heart of our discussions with the betting industry and DCMS around the levy, and our representations to Government around the risk of the damaging impact of affordability checks.

“We have seen great progress in the last 18 months and a spirit of collaboration is clearly developing. I am confident that if the sport and its allies work together around this shared goal then it can flourish once again. Not just across four days in March, but across the whole year. Jump racing’s popularity in Britain is immense and its potential limitless.”

British Horseracing Authority chief executive Julie Harrington will not be pushing the panic button just yet should Ireland once again dominate at next week’s Cheltenham Festival.

Following a nightmare Festival for the home side in 2021 which saw just five winners for British trainers, the BHA set up the Quality Jump Racing Review Group, with a stated aim “to strengthen the performance of British jump racing at the top end of the pyramid”.

A series of recommendations was then unveiled at the start of 2022, with further tweaks to the fixture list this term in an attempt to improve the upper tier of British National Hunt racing.

Harrington says it is too early to really see those initiatives come to fruition, but with Triumph Hurdle favourite Sir Gino the only British-trained ante-post Grade One market leader throughout next week, with Willie Mullins holding a tremendously strong hand on all four days, the issue remains a high-profile one.

She said: “We’re well aware of the number of Irish favourites across all the days. It is early days and there’s interventions all the way through breeding in terms of incentives for British-bred, retaining your horse here in training, but we’re not naive.

“We know the decision of many owners to place their horses with what they would consider in-form trainers. When you speak to the top British-based trainers, they do understand it is often cyclical which is why the fact it’s early days, you do need to let some of the interventions play out a bit more.

“Is it something we continue to be concerned about and continue to have a watching brief on? Of course. It’s been well debated some of the interventions or potential interventions that we’ve consulted on, but we will continue to do so.”

Talks are currently ongoing between the BHA and bookmakers on levy reform and Greg Swift, director of communications and corporate affairs, believes the issue of competitiveness is ultimately linked to the levy.

“It’s a valid point. It brings us back to the need for levy reform,” he said.

“One of the cases that we have made to DCMS throughout the entire process around the need for levy reform is around the competitive issue and making sure that we have enough money flowing into the sport to maintain Britain’s competitiveness and our position at the top table.

“That is one of the things we will continue to press.”

The British Horseracing Authority has welcomed the “valuable contributions” made by several ministers in Monday’s parliamentary debate into affordability checks.

It was the first chance for MPs to properly interrogate proposals of the implementation of the supposedly “frictionless” checks after 100,000 people signed an e-petition to trigger the debate.

Matt Hancock, who has Newmarket within his constituency, Connor McGinn, whose St Helens North constituency includes Haydock, and Philip Davies were among MPs to lay out arguments against the checks during the debate at Westminster Hall, and the BHA’s chief executive Julie Harrington was encouraged by the discussions.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Harrington said: “Yesterday’s debate on the impact of affordability checks on British racing has shone a light on a hugely important issue for our sport.

“It was vital that MPs were given proper parliamentary time to thoroughly interrogate the government’s proposals and we were encouraged by the high turnout for a Westminster Hall debate.

“Many MPs made valuable contributions to the debate, and we are sure that Sports Minister Stuart Andrew will have listened with interest to the views expressed.

“From MPs of all parties and all sides of the debate, there was a clear recognition of the need for the government to protect and support British racing when reviewing gambling legislation.

“If our sport is to remain a healthy industry, supporting jobs in the rural economy and remaining competitive with our international rivals, we hope that government will heed this advice.

“We were encouraged by Minister Andrew ruling out the use of job titles and postcodes in the implementation of enhanced spending checks and confirming that these changes will at least be subject to a genuine pilot.

“We will continue to make the case into the heart of government that the impact of these checks both on our industry and racing bettors needs to be carefully considered and look forward to further discussions on this important issue for British racing with the Gambling Commission and DCMS.”

In Monday’s debate, Andrew said both the government and Gambling Commission had listened to the points raised, although the proposals will proceed, with a pilot of enhanced checks running for “a minimum of four months, during which time the commission will consider all issues that arise”.

Andrew also underlined the concerns about the possible impact of the checks on racing are being taken “extremely seriously”.

Julie Harrington, chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority, says a judgement on the success of Premier Racedays and Sunday evening racing should not be made overnight.

The first of 170 Premier Racedays planned for 2024 was staged at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, while Wolverhampton created a slice of history when becoming the first track to race in the UK on Sunday night.

While both schemes have come in for criticism in some quarters, Harrington is keen to assess all of the relevant data relating to the six trial Sunday evening fixtures and the two-year pilot of Premier Racedays before making any snap decisions.

“Premier Racedays were introduced this year to showcase the best our sport can offer to new and existing fans as part of a broader strategy to grow British racing,” she said in a statement on Tuesday.

“And while this concept will see a gradual roll-out, with innovations and enhancements to the customer experience delivered throughout the year, it has been heartening to see the positive initial response to Premier racing from the public, racecourses and participants.

“There were high-quality runners at Plumpton on Sunday, with races taking place in front of healthy and engaged crowds. And of course, the year began with a big crowd at Cheltenham enjoying quality racing at our first Premier fixture.

“The 170 Premier Racedays planned for 2024 reflect a significant investment by the sport. These are fixtures proposed by the racecourses which meet strict criteria, including around prize-money and race quality. We should be encouraged that so many racecourses want to invest in and stage these Premier events.

“We will also see more promotional work and, we hope, an HBLB-funded national campaign to support the work already being done by GBR and the racecourses.

“Ultimately, the objective is to encourage more, better-quality horses to be bred, trained, owned and raced in Britain. The sport has agreed that putting on high-quality, valuable racing is the way to achieve this.

“We must accept that this will not happen overnight. But we have made a start on creating and developing an attractive product to secure a long-term future for the sport by encouraging greater engagement with it. Time and experience will help us determine the optimum number of Premier Racedays with regards to racecourses and the horse population.”

She added: “This is the start of a two-year pilot and so we should resist the temptation to make snap judgements on its success based on limited experience. Throughout the pilot we will learn what does and does not work, how we can best package and promote Premier Racedays and ultimately achieve growth that will benefit all levels of the sport.

“Alongside Premier Racedays we also started the trial of Sunday evening racing at Wolverhampton. This saw good prize-money on offer to healthy field sizes meaning competitive racing was taking place in a window we believe affords us an opportunity to grow engagement with the sport.

“Clearly there are a range of views regarding this pilot and we respect those opinions. For this reason, the financial performance of these fixtures will be far from the only measure of their viability; we will continue to seek the views of all those involved in servicing such meetings and this feedback will form a core part of the ultimate assessment of the pilot.”

The British Horseracing Authority is working to substantiate warnings that the government’s proposed affordability checks will drive bettors to an unlicensed black market.

The review to the Gambling Act has focused on problem gamblers and thus the concept of financial checks for those regularly betting, whether to a damaging extent or not, has been under discussion during the white paper stage.

As racing is inherently linked to the gambling industry these limitations are likely to have damaging consequences for the sport, and grave concerns have been aired by a number of leading figures over the potential fallout.

One projected consequence is that the horse racing bettor will turn to unlicensed and unregulated gambling firms if betting via established operators becomes unavailable to them. A number of owners have already spoken out over what they say are obtrusive checks, saying they will walk away or dramatically cut their interests.

The BHA is highlighting this to the government and the Gambling Commission as the nature of the reviewed Gambling Act takes shape, with a significant survey undertaken to illustrate the risk.

Julie Harrington, chief executive of the BHA, addressed the matter on a press call about the 2024 fixture list, saying: “There’s is a huge amount of uncertainty created by the the review of the Gambling Act and the white paper. If the financial risked-based checks are frictionless, as we we hope they will be but everybody is rightly concerned, I think being in control of our destiny and in control of what we can is important in this environment.

“There is a huge amount of work that has gone on globally and a lot of work already published in the public domain by the Asian Racing Foundation about the factual existence of a black market and the sort of volumes that are going through. It’s well-funded academic research and of course we’ve shared that with colleagues at the Gambling Commission.

“We do believe that there are punters going to the black market, there is research that shows it. We’ve done our own surveys with punters, it’s really good to gather evidence to show both the government and the Gambling Commission about our own customers, our regular, engaged racing fans who read racing publications, what are they telling us? How many of them are telling us they have been approached by operators? How many of them are saying they’ve followed up on that approach?

“What we’ve been doing is work behind the scenes to make sure that can be substantiated. Anecdotally, we have worked with a lot of owners and they have allowed us to share their case studies of being approached by operators – whether that’s grey market, they’re not UK-licensed operators, or black market – offering them terms to get a bet on.

“For us to give named major owners to the Gambling Commission as evidence to say ‘don’t just take our word for it, here are people who are being directly approached and enticed to get a bet on’.”

Harrington also stressed the importance of making sure the government acknowledged a distinction between skill-based betting, such as on sport, and on games of chance in casinos or the virtual equivalent.

In addition to that, Harrington spoke of the need for an understanding of the reality of the affordability checks – which the government insists will be “frictionless” and “unobtrusive” for the vast majority – as bookmakers may currently be overzealous in their restrictions out of undue caution.

“Within the white paper the government does acknowledge the difference between a horse racing bettor and a casino bettor. This is absolutely different in that it’s a game of skill versus chance, speed of play, all of those measures,” she said.

“We just tell them, tell them and tell them again, the difference, the potential impact. We know they’re listening, we know in every speech that is made, the Select Committee hearings, all the right things are said in terms of ‘we don’t want to damage horse racing, this is an important cultural asset’.

“What we need is interventions and as the Gambling Commission brings the consultation to a close, we need the frictionless financial risk-based checks to be out there and being tested.

“Rather than at the moment, there is the suspicion that operators are acting in a more draconian fashion ahead of those measures, because until they’ve got visibility of them and they’re being tested they are going to do that because they are scared of a heavy fine.”

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