2018 Cheltenham Festival Review

The BHA on Wednesday released their final review of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, with just months until the 2019 renewal there are some big changes that are worth noting that will impact this years four day extravaganza.

Race Track factors

1/ The racecourse executive must continue to adhere to recommendations made in the 2006 report whereby, in drier conditions, irrigation policies should ensure the festival begins on ground slower than good (which is slower than the General Instruction for jumps racing, which is good ground, and no firmer than good to firm). This continuing stipulation applies to all Cheltenham courses (Old, New and Cross-country). Going reports at the festival will be monitored in line with this requirement.

2/ JCR should continue to trial the use of the one-fit padded hurdle, the Southampton University hurdle design (supported by the RSPCA), along with other safety-driven initiatives. Further collaborative industry research and development into alternative obstacle design and materials that may reduce risk factors will continue and Cheltenham and JCR (and all other jumps courses) are required to continue to engage positively with this.

3/ Cheltenham and JCR to monitor and consider the outcomes of Exeter University’s Horse Vision project, with a view to trialling obstacle colouring at their schooling grounds and subsequently at a JCR racecourse, should trials prove successful. Cheltenham, JCR (and all other jumps courses), along with relevant stakeholders to make any recommended changes to obstacle colouring arising from these trials. The BHA will continue to expedite trials on training grounds and racecourses during 2018 and early 2019.

4 Cheltenham racecourse and the BHA must continue to monitor faller rates by individual obstacle, in order to identify emerging risk areas, taking remedial action where possible. For example, fence nine on the Old course will be monitored closely and changes to this fence will be required if there is no immediate improvement in faller/fatality rates.

Veterinary factors

5 Trainers of all horses competing at the festival must have completed a medication declaration form, returned to the BHA equine health and welfare department, ten days before the day of the race in which the horse is entered to run. Submission of the completed form is the responsibility of the trainer concerned. This form will outline medication that the horse has received in the previous 35 days, and any medication with a long-term effect that the horse has received in the previous six months. This process should also be introduced at other racecourses, prioritising those with the highest faller/fatality rates.

6 Pre-race examinations will be increased to include all runners in all races at the festival. This inspection will also include and require presentation and review of a second medication declaration form outlining any medications or treatments administered in the previous ten days. Cheltenham to provide trot-up areas in which these examinations can take place. The BHA will enforce rule (B) 6.1.9, using this rule to withdraw horses deemed unsuitable to race, based on the results of these examinations. Stewards will investigate such incidents and take further action as required.

7 Results of post-mortem examination of any fatalities will continue to be reviewed, alongside medication records for the 45 days prior to the day of the race, to identify common risk factors and inform future medication rules and policies.

8 Cheltenham to ensure adequate provision and most effective placement of cooling facilities, including equine cooling fans.

Participant and experiential factors

9 The industry must support a major research project to develop a predictive model for identifying risk factors for all jump racing, inclusive of non-course factors, such as horse history and performance, rider and training factors. Any risks arising from this significant work must be addressed and mitigated appropriately. A timeline and project plan to be developed as soon as possible, enabling this work to begin in early 2019.

10 The BHA will undertake analysis of faller rates by trainer and jockey for Cheltenham and all jump racing. Individual trainers and/or jockeys who have an incidence of fallers significantly higher than the historical average will be required to engage constructively with the BHA to consider the drivers of, and actions to improve, high incidence rates. Findings from this analysis may result in future changes to licence and/or race entry conditions.

11 Enhanced welfare risk management education to be integrated into compulsory training modules for riders and trainers, implemented, e.g. via the racing schools and through supporting educational materials.

12 Compulsory daily briefing of riders during the festival to include increased focus on their responsibilities towards equine welfare.

13 Compulsory course walks with a jockey coach to be introduced for all riders who have not ridden the Cheltenham course since the beginning of the previous jumps season.

14 The welfare of the horse is a primary responsibility of all riders. Rules relating to pulling up fatigued runners must be appropriately scrutinised and enforced, to encourage positive and responsible behaviour. Increased focus on this area to be included in improved training and assessment linked to the introduction of the new stewarding model.

Race conditions and programming factors

15 Race conditions of the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle must be altered to remove all rider weight claiming allowances, thereby incentivising connections to secure the services of the most experienced jockeys.

Other race factors

16 The safety factor for all two-mile steeplechases should be reduced from 24 runners to a maximum of 20 on both Old and New courses.

17 Cheltenham racecourse to work with the BHA and their media rights representatives, to develop precise race time sectionals to assess correlation between race pace and risk via predictive modelling.

(Credit BHA and Racing Post)

(We are taking any responsibility for this content)