The majority of punters are unaware of what happens behind the scenes in the Sport of Kings. We are thrilled by the spectacular races before us without realising just how much effort goes into their organisation. We have the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and Jockey Club to thank for helping to regulate the sport so let’s look behind the curtain and find out more about both organisations.
British Horseracing Authority
The BHA is a fairly new organisation since it was only founded on 31 July 2007; it replaced the British Horseracing Board (BHB) as the governing authority for UK horse racing. The BHB itself had only been formed on 10 June 1993 and had taken on the responsibilities of the Jockey Club.
The BHB was created as an attempt to modernise the sport due to concerns that the aristocratic nature of Jockey Club membership was giving horse racing an outdated appearance.
The chief remit of the BHB was to promote and organise the sport in order to give it broader appeal. At that time, the Jockey Club maintained control of issues relating to the regulation of horse racing including discipline, integrity and the health of the horses.
However in 2007, the Horseracing Regulatory Authority (the Jockey Club’s regulatory division), merged with the BHB to create the BHA. From 31 July 2007, the BHB no longer existed and the Jockey Club had no further control over the sport’s regulatory matters.
What Does It Do?
The main aims of the BHA include leading the world in terms of raceday regulation, maintaining the highest standards for participants and the sport itself, promoting the sport & industry and always making sure the health and safety of the horse comes first. The BHA carries out a wide range of duties and we explore them below.
The BHA is responsible for planning the entire race calendar and needs to:
- Ensure there is a balance between Flat and Jump Races.
- Determine the maximum amount of race fixtures that can be held.
- Create suitable weekend and weekday fixtures.
- Distribute the fixtures across the UK’s racecourses.
- Determine the type of events held.
With so many courses holding meetings in the UK, things can get complicated. For example, a course could want to swap fixtures with another course or transfer them. The BHA’s Racing Department must oversee swaps and transfers to ensure the Fixture List’s best interests are taken on board.
So-called ‘BHA Fixtures’ can be bid on by racecourses with the highest bidder winning the fixture. The programme of races must be competitive, cater for horses of varying abilities and ensure there is enough off-course betting interest as a means of maximising the Betting Levy. Competitive races are ensured by taking into account factors such as size of horse population, size of the field and starting prices.
The BHA estimates that 60% of the races in the UK are handicap events. Handicapping is necessary in order to ensure the field is evenly matched; simply allowing the best horse to win every single time would quickly kill the sport.
The BHA handicaps horses through the use of a rating system where highly rated horses must carry more weight (in the form of lead weights) than lower ranked rivals. According to the BHA, a 1 point rating difference is equivalent to 1 pound. A horse with a 118 ranking must carry 12 pounds more than a horse with a 106 rating for example (not including allowances).
Most handicap events are restricted to horses with ratings in a specific range such as 0-70; this means the Official Rating (OR) determines the actual events a horse competes in. When a horse performs ‘above’ its ranking (winning races for example), its rating will increase; its rating drops if it performs ‘below’ its ranking.
Rules Compliance & Integrity
The BHA is dedicated to ensuring UK horse racing remains a clean sport. It achieves this by:
- Identifying any breaches in the Rules of Racing and punishing perpetrators.
- Inspecting training establishments.
- Looking for suspicious betting activity in real-time markets.
- Ensuring the integrity of the weighing room and stabling area remains intact on raceday.
- Setting and strictly enforcing standards of veterinary care.
- Regular tests to catch out anyone involved in doping.
The UK is considered to be one of the best regulated and ‘fairest’ countries in the world for horse racing.
The BHA’s Raceday Team are tasked with preventing misconduct during fixtures. There are BHA Stewards on the course to ensure the Rules of Racing are followed; this may include changing the result in the event of interference for example.
Veterinary Officers inspect horses before and after the event while Equine Welfare & Integrity Officers patrol the stable area to ensure fair play. Race betting is monitored for suspicious activity and the Clerk of the Scales is in charge of ensuring each horse is carrying the right weight before and after the race.
The 59 courses in the UK have their own unique features but the BHA must ensure the courses adhere to certain track and facility standards. The BHA:
- Takes care of the annual course re-licensing process.
- Monitors the design & construction of new courses.
- Checks out courses where there have been safety-related incidents.
- Regulates Point-to-Point racing.
- Oversees changes to jump race distance measurements.
The BHA has set certain criteria which must be adhered to for anyone looking to apply for a license; this includes trainers, owners, jockeys, agents, equine pools, valets and amateur riders. If you fail to continually meet the criteria, the BHA has the authority to strip you of your license.
The BHA monitors the progress of injured jockeys to ensure they don’t return to racing before they are medically ready to do so. It also:
- Oversees raceday medical care.
- Carries out drug testing of jockeys.
- Evaluates a jockey’s protective equipment.
- Issues medical standards of a jockey’s fitness to ride.
- Provides assistance when it comes to jockey physiotherapy.
- Recruitment & Training: The BHA is responsible for developing, coordinating and maintaining programmes of education, training, recruitment and retention within the industry.
- Industry Leadership: The BHA must take the lead and ensure the industry remains in good health. Racing in the UK is worth around £3.45 billion to the national economy and employs around 85,000 people. As well as setting the standards of racing, the BHA must help drive the industry forward commercially.
- Communications: The BHA’s Communications and External Affairs Department is tasked with handling the organisation’s media and public enquiries. It also represents the BHA in the UK Parliament.
The Jockey Club
The Jockey Club is UK horse racing’s biggest commercial organisation with estimated annual revenue of around £150 million. As it is governed by Royal Charter, all profits are reinvested into the sport.
The exact date of its formation is unknown but the Club’s historic records suggest it was 1750. It was created as a high society social club by a group of gentlemen with a shared passion for horse racing. A coffee house in Newmarket was built as a meeting spot for the club in 1752 but it soon purchased the freehold which became known as Jockey Club Rooms.
It created rules to make sure races at Newmarket were run fairly and these rules were adopted all over the country. Over time, the Jockey Club assumed the responsibility of being the regulator of UK horse racing.
The Club formed Racecourse Holdings Trust in 1964 (now called Jockey Club Racecourses) and purchased Cheltenham racecourse. A host of other courses were soon purchased by the Club.
The BHB was formed in 1993 as a means of helping the sport to evolve by helping it become more commercially successful. The Jockey Club formed the Horserace Regulatory Authority (HRA) in order to improve regulation of the sport in 2006. The BHA took over the mantle of regulation the following year but the Jockey Club still has huge influence in UK racing as you will see below.
What Does It Do Today?
Today, the Jockey Club operates under a modern corporate structure and is now the leader when it comes to investment and innovation in UK racing. Let’s take a look at its interests:
Jockey Club Racecourses
The purchase of Cheltenham racecourse in 1964 marked the beginning of this branch of the Jockey Club and it now owns 15 courses including Aintree, Epsom Downs, Exeter and Haydock Park.
Together, these courses make up around 25% of all UK racing each year and 33% of all racecourse attendance in Britain. The Club has distributed over £377 million in prize money in the last decade and invested around £19 million in prize money in 2014 alone. Moreover, it has invested £150 million back into the sport in the last 8 years.
Jockey Club Estates
This is its property and land management company which manages and administrates 550 acres of land in Lambourn and around 4,500 acres in Newmarket. Its vast portfolio features more than 90 properties including the Jockey Club Rooms.
The goal of Jockey Club Estates is to develop its training grounds, grow its portfolio and protect the values and heritage of the Club.
The National Stud
This is the Club’s thoroughbred breeding location and consists of 500 acres in Newmarket which was transferred from the UK Government in 2008. The Stud can hold 8 Stallions and 200 Mares and welcomes an estimated 20,000 tourists a year. It also works to aid young people interested in a career in the thoroughbred breeding industry.
The Jockey Club set up this charity as a way to give back to the community with a special emphasis on the elderly and those entering racing. An estimated £1.5 million is needed per annum in order for the charity to continue its work.
The Jockey Club is the largest shareholder in Racecourse Media Group; a media company that includes TV station Racing UK, betting shop TV service TurfTV and online service RacingUK.com.
Jockey Club Rooms
This is a member’s only location which means there are certain times when the general public are not allowed enter. However, it also caters to non-members in the form of:
- Luxury Weddings
- Business Conferences
- Afternoon Tea & Sunday Lunches
- Overnight Accommodation
Simply put, the BHA is the one and only regulator of horse racing in the UK and is in complete control when it comes to fixtures, licensing, discipline, handicapping, medical care and raceday compliance.
In contrast, the Jockey Club no longer has regulatory power but it is still a major player in the racing scene as it owns 15 racecourses, breeds thoroughbreds and contributes millions of pounds in prize money each year.