Is What The BHA Doing With Animal Welfare Right?

Is What The BHA Doing With Animal Welfare Right?

Rarely do you see much of a dispute between football fans and the sport's governing body - the FA, after decisions they have made over common topics.

The same can be said in the world's of rugby, tennis and cricket.

In horse racing however, it is a currently commonplace for the British Horseracing Authority to put forward a decision, which is then slaughtered by the racing public, due to the lack of common sense adopted to the given situation.

This comes as a result of Declan Lavery successfully winning his appeal against the ten-day ban he received after riding Jerrysback for trainer Philip Hobbs in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last Tuesday.

The rider - who was given the ban for 'continuing in the race when it appeared to be contrary to the horse’s welfare', had his case heard at BHA headquarters in London on Thursday afternoon, where the disciplinary panel quashed their original findings and statements.

(Credit: Racing Post) He said: "I'm very relieved and didn't think I'd done anything wrong.

The stewards' inquiry notice read: “An inquiry was held to consider whether Mr DG Lavery, the rider of Jerrysback which finished third; beaten 47 and a half lengths, had continued in the race when it appeared to be contrary to the horse’s welfare after tired jumping errors at the final two fences.

"The rider was interviewed and recordings of the incident were viewed. Lavery was suspended for ten days, which has now been revoked, and his deposit returned."

The decision to ban Lavery in the first place was strongly criticised by the leading names in racing, while many others have also spoken out about the bans, the National Hunt Chase in general, and the BHA's handling of welfare matters.

So are the BHA taking things too far?

In reflection, the sport's governing body has the right to protect the welfare and safety of every horse in training - that is their primary job.

The way they handled the equine flu saga was praised by many in the game, after their quick reaction to the series of events from Donald McCain's yard led to the shutdown of racing for a few days whilst solutions were put in place.

The situation could have escalated far worse until the BHA's intervention, with many suggesting it was on over reaction. Due to their precautionary measures, we only lost racing for about a week, instead of gambling with the outcome and potentially losing it for even further.

But they were put to shame once again after the series of events after the National Hunt Chase.

Sir AP McCoy spoke of his disgust over the BHA's judgment.

The 20-times Champion Jockey said: “I’m embarrassed for the British Horseracing Authority.

“Talk about bringing racing into disrepute. The horse that finished third, Jerrysback, he [Declan Lavery] got 10 days for that … I never thought at any stage that he did the wrong thing.

“Are you going to explain to the punters that backed Jerrysback, or the owner, some poor owner would like to come to Cheltenham and get a horse that can walk into the winner’s enclosure and finish third or fourth and you’re going to take that away from them?

"It’s actually a disgrace. You get any person with experience of jump racing, whether it be a trainer, an owner or a jockey that will defend that decision … I guarantee you won’t find one senior person that will.”

McCoy spoke in favour of many arguing that the chance to be placed and collect some valuable prize money was a good reason for any jockey to continue, and emphasised to all spectators that the horse had completed the course thoroughly unharmed.

Meanwhile, Champion trainer Nicky Henderson - who saddled the well-fancied Ok Corral in that race, branded the measures set out by the sport's governing body were 'disgraceful'.

It appears the BHA have much work to do to get the fans of the sport back on their side and under their wing.