The British Horseracing Authority said on Thursday that it is “aware that public perception is an issue” when horses are scratched from races on a vet’s certificate but compete again soon afterwards, following the easy success of Royal Parks in a race at Haydock on Thursday afternoon less than 24 hours after the same horse was taken out of a race at Kempton Park as it was suffering from colic.
Royal Parks, whose trainer James Tate is a qualified vet, romped to a three-and-a-half-length success in the Longines Irish Champions Weekend Novice Stakes, having been scratched from a less valuable novice event at Kempton on Wednesday evening.
It was the second time in less than a week that a horse had run the day after being declared a non-runner with a vet’s certificate, as Milton Bradley’s Englishman ran second at Windsor on Sunday after being withdrawn from a race at Doncaster the previous evening, again as a result of colic.
When a trainer takes a horse out of a race under the self-certification system, it is barred from running for the next six days. However, there is no similar restriction on horses taken out of a race on an official vet’s certificate, though in these circumstances, a horse must be certified as fit to run by a racecourse vet before it can go to post.
Non-runners are a source of considerable frustration for punters, as the withdrawal of declared runners can trigger a Rule 4 deduction for backers of the eventual winner, reduce the number of places for each-way punters, shake up the market and change the way a race is likely to be run, for instance if a habitual front-runner is scratched. High rates of non-runners can also have a long-term impact on betting turnover, and so reduce the amount of money returning to the sport from bookmakers’ profits.
Joe Rendall, a BHA spokesman, said on Thursday that Royal Parks was passed fit to race by the track vet. “The stewards at Haydock were aware Royal Parks had been a non-runner the previous day,” Rendall said, “and the horse was examined and deemed fit to race by the veterinary officer on duty.
“It is not in its own right remarkable that a horse can exhibit symptoms of colic, which is abdominal pain, one day and then be fit the next day, and under the veterinary certificate system the horse’s condition is signed off by a qualified vet.
“We are however aware that public perception is an issue. The BHA are presently developing a range of proposals as part of a non-runner review following an extensive consultation process.”
The BHA’s wide-ranging review on the issue of non-runners was launched after Chester’s May meeting in 2016, when more than 10 per cent of the declared runners were non-runners. For the most part, these had been drawn in difficult, high-numbered stalls at one of the most draw-affected tracks in the country, prompting fears that the self-certificate system was being abused by some trainers.
Recent examples of horses running shortly after being withdrawn with vet’s certificates, meanwhile, have left backers puzzled that a horse can recover from a potentially serious illness like colic so rapidly.
Colic is a very broad term that simply means a horse is showing signs of abdominal pain, and its symptoms can disappear as swiftly as they often appear. The requirement for an examination by a racecourse vet before a recently withdrawn horse can run also allays welfare concerns. The outcome of the BHA’s long-running review of the overall issue, however, and its eventual proposals to reduce the number of non-runners, will be keenly awaited by punters.