The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has recommended cutting the maximum number of runners in races at Cheltenham from 24 to 20 to decrease the amount of fallers at the Festival.
This was part of a review into the annual meeting – one of the biggest events on the sports betting calendar – designed to increase the sport’s welfare and subsequently secure its future.
It followed a rigorous process of data evaluation, consultation and review of video evidence, led by a dedicated review group and with input from external experts including the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare, Cheltenham Festival Review, BHA, Equine Welfare, Cheltenham, Horse Welfare.
The key focuses for the review fell across six broad categories: the courses; the obstacles; participant factors; starts, safety factors and race tempo; programming and race conditions; and veterinary histories and protective measures. To read the full report, click here.
Brant Dunshea, Chief Regulatory Officer for the BHA, said: “The publication of this report represents the outcome of a substantial and significant project.
“The scale of research and evaluation carried out has allowed us to form a greater understanding of the variable factors that contribute to risk at the Festival, and to put in place tangible recommendations which we expect, collectively, to make racing at the Cheltenham Festival safer.
“Our thanks go to all involved, especially Cheltenham Racecourse and The Jockey Club who have always fully supported the need for a review and have actively engaged in the process.
“The publishing of this report does not by any means represent the end of our commitment to enhancing welfare standards, at Cheltenham racecourse and across all British racecourses.
“The report itself has found that non-track factors are likely to be contributing to risk at Cheltenham, and the same may be true across all of Jump racing. For this reason this project has become a springboard for wider research to better identify risk factors in Jump racing, above and beyond the continuous programme of innovation and improvement which has made the sport significantly safer in the last 20 years.”
Nick Rust, Chief Executive of the BHA, added: “British Racing must work together to reduce the risk of injuries occurring at The Festival and indeed Jump Racing as a whole. The recommendations of this review are designed to achieve this.
“I commend this review for the rigour and thoroughness of its approach. I also support the fact that its recommendations are intended to further raise the bar when it comes to welfare not only at Cheltenham, but across all of Jump racing.
“British racing has consistently and continuously improved its record on welfare outcomes over the last decade. However, Parliament has recently sent a clear message to our sport that we must raise our ambitions for welfare further. At the BHA, we share this view, and I am today calling on everyone in the sport to help us achieve even higher goals for welfare.
“The Cheltenham review helps demonstrate our sport’s commitment towards higher goals, but it is far from the end of our ambitions on this front. A cross-industry welfare Board is currently being formed, with the intention of delivering a new strategy for the sport.
“I hope that everyone involved in British racing will join us in working to further enhance our good track record, and ensuring the sport remains relevant, understood, accepted and embraced by the British public.”