Dan Kelly’s FFP – Week 7
Bittar has played a poor hand very well
Back in February 2008, Nic Coward, the first CEO of British Horseracing Authority, gave a speech at the British Horseracing Conference; within this he outlined his plan of action with regards to protecting the integrity of the sport:
• To carry out a Post Implementation Review of the Recommendations of the 2003 Security Review with a view to assessing how such measures have protected the integrity of racing.
• Identify areas for development to improve the Integrity Services Department’s role in protecting the integrity of racing.
• Review relevant Rules of Racing and penalties connected with integrity issues.
• Assess the role and procedures that racing and sports governing bodies should adopt when dealing with matters that may involve breaches of the criminal law as well as its own rules in relation to corruption connected with betting.
• To consider all of the above in the light of the City Of London proceedings.
Paul Bittar went about improving the Integrity Services Department’s role in protecting the integrity of racing by cutting off the heads of the biggest departments within the BHA. Out went Paul Scotney following review of the BHA Integrity operations and out went Professor Tim Morris, then Director of Equine Science and Welfare.
This produced “positive” results:
Mahmood Al Zarooni use of anabolic steroids.
Gerard Butler banned for five years for injecting horses with steroids.
The difference under Bittar’s stewardship was when coming across gaping holes within the Rules of Racing, and given the opportunity to close them on the back of “scandal”, he did so. Obviously proactive measures would have been more favourable, but at a time when racing stakeholders weren’t seeing eye to eye, further “scandals” were unfortunately needed to give the relevant parties a kick-start.
The “Newmarket Nine” have a lot to thank Nic Coward, Paul Scotney and Tim Morris and their lax stewardship for, something which Nicky Henderson and other Lambourn residents are well aware due to the minimal fallout following the James Main and Moonlit Path case.
Bittar’s changes within the integrity department have resulted in informants coming forward; Godolphin being the example, Bradley and Powell possibly another. Change in the rules that removed the opportunity for trainers to systematically dope horses when out of training, an increase in funding for testing and finally getting towards a drugs policy that remotely looks like “Zero Tolerance.” A far cry from when Scotney and Morris deemed a baseline test in a doping case unnecessary.
When dealing with other matters, his hands have been firmly tied behind his back. The power with regards to the fixture list had long left the BHA house when Bittar was given the keys, but a read of the 2015 Fixture List Consultancy Document will give everyone a clear understanding of what he and the BHA are trying to do; reduce the number of races being run. Whether those with the real power, Racecourses and Bookmakers will allow a return to healthy levels and ultimately field sizes is a matter that is outside his control.
When the “Invisible man”, Nic Coward left the BHA he hoped his legacy would be that of a leaner British Horseracing Authority he was left with a final task to complete a structural review. Bittar picked up the baton, and whereas Nic hoped for the legacy of a leaner BHA, Paul delivered.
In his statement on Monday, Bittar closed with; “The outlook for British Racing is significantly more positive now than it was at the close of 2011 and I firmly believe that the reputation of BHA has also improved. We have created a platform from which the sport can really grow and thrive.
“I’m focused on supporting Steve and the Board in ensuring that we achieve a lot before I finish. The back half of 2014 sees finalising of the 2015 Fixture List, Government consultations on the offshore Levy and Levy reform, finalising of more formal and collaborative structures with our shareholders, and the next stages of the industry’s growth strategy to name a few. I look forward to continuing to work effectively with the Executive, Board and Shareholders on these subjects over my final six months.”
Bittar has given the sport, and the shareholders, the foundations needed to heal the sport. Whether those left holding the baton will deliver is another matter.
Oh I do like that!
One interesting part of Richard Forristal’s review of Galway (http://www.independent.ie/sport/horse-racing/galway-races/a-good-galway-but-not-a-great-one-30481182.html) was this:
“Handicapping system set for major tweak
A couple of interesting sub-plots to emerge from the week in Galway involved a potential game-changing tweak to the handicapping system and a case of a potential flapper.
When Dermot Weld entered Timiyan for Monday’s 12-furlong handicap, the handicapper withdrew the mark of 77 that he had allotted it on the basis of three modest runs at up to nine furlongs.
While the rating was reinstated on objection from the trainers’ association and Timiyan duly improved significantly for the step-up in trip to sluice up, it subsequently emerged that the Turf Club still plans to implement a policy – probably next year – whereby a rating will not be allocated to horses that are deemed to have earned their marks over the ‘wrong’ trip.
Suffice to say it will be interesting how that unfolds.”
Hats off to the Turf Club for looking into such a policy and it is one I hope they do enforce. I’d be very interested to see if a similar policy is adopted by the BHA.
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Phote – Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP/Press Association Images
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