With equine welfare becoming an increasingly hot potato, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) are rarely going to have a quiet day at the office.
But a number of sanctions they have dished out in recent weeks and months have been met with fury by the sport’s key figures, and now the BHA has come under fire after a trio of leading trainers launched an assault on the organisation for their handling of the sport.
AP McCoy, working as an ITV pundit at the Cheltenham Festival, had earlier delivered astonishing tirade against the BHA live on air, and even an MP has been moved to step in to cool the animosity that threatens to tear the sport in two.
Anti-Aussie Sentiment Threatening Racing’s Immediate Future
McCoy, the 20-time Champion Jockey, was particularly vocal in his criticism of BHA chief Brent Dunshea, who is Australian.
That came after the organisation banned three amateur jockeys for 37 days after alleging that they ‘continued in the race when it appeared to be contrary to the horse’s welfare’, referring to the National Hunt Chase on the opening day of the 2019 Festival.
And it’s fair to say that McCoy was a little aggrieved by the ruling. Live on ITV, he said:
“I have never seen as bad a decision in 25 years coming to Cheltenham.
“I’m embarrassed for the BHA,” the 20-time jump champion told ITV Racing. “Talk about bringing racing into disrepute.
“Brant Dunshea from the BHA is Australian. I don’t know what experience he has of jump racing. They don’t have jump racing in Australia. And they’re letting people like that make the decisions.”
Cheltenham Winning Trainers Have Their Say
While Brent Dunshea was the target of McCoy’s ire, it was Nick Rust, the BHA’s chief executive, who felt the force of a latter jointly penned by Mick Channon, Henrietta Knight and Charles Egerton, who have all trained Cheltenham Festival winners.
In the letter, the trio labelled Rust ‘patronising’ and ‘clearly not qualified’ for his role, and urged those in the industry to call for action.
“Nick Rust’s patronising interview on Luck on Sunday confirms the urgency for the horsemen to start exercising their influence in the selection process of the new BHA chairman to avoid yet another disastrous period,” the trainers wrote.
“The incumbent CEO is clearly not qualified to be involved in this process, as he demonstrated by his absurd analogy on Sunday comparing racing with blood sports.”
They listed a catalogue of complaints, which include:
- An ‘inability’ to grasp relevant welfare issues
- The expansion of an underfunded fixture list
- Inadequate staffing
- Moving fixtures from the core season to the summer
- A ‘plethora’ of mares only races
- Racing on ‘false watered ground’
- Licensing trainers with ‘unsustainable businesses’
The letter also raised the issue of Australians being appointed to high profile racing positions in the UK and Ireland.
“It is also rather surprising that after a series of highly questionable appointments, we are still hiring people from the Antipodes, a region where they have successfully placated the ‘angry brigade’ and regulated jumping to near-on non-existence.
“Have we not got the necessary expertise nearer to home who have experience of National Hunt racing?”