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Racing body publishes review of Cheltenham Festival
"...this project has become a springboard for wider research to better identify risk factors in Jump racing."
Review aims to improve safety after horse deaths at 2018 event 

No single factor was definitively responsible for the deaths of six horses at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, according to a review by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA).

The racing body launched the review following the festival in March. It investigated all races run at the festival between 2007 and 2018, involving 5,451 runners and 308 fallers, in a bid to improve safety and welfare.

Non-track factors, such as veterinary, participant and race condition factors were found to be of equal or potentially greater significance than track-related factors. Taking input from the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare, the 67-page report makes 17 recommendations to address these issues, including enhanced veterinary checks and targeted alterations to race conditions.

Brant Dunshea, chief regulatory officer for the BHA, commented: “The report itself has found that non-track factors are likely to be contributing to risk at Cheltenham, and the same may be true across all of Jump racing.

“For this reason this project has become a springboard for wider research to better identify risk factors in Jump racing, above and beyond the continuous programme of innovation and improvement which has made the sport significantly safer in the last 20 years.”

Headline recommendations from the review include:
  • pre-race veterinary examinations should be increased, to include all runners in all races at the festival
  • reduce maximum field size in all two mile Chases from 24 to 20
  • remove all rider weight-claiming allowances in Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle
  • BHA will engage with participants to further identify factors that contribute to risk
  • the industry must support a major research project to develop a predictive model for identifying risk factors for all jump racing, including horse history and performance, rider and training factors.
BHA said it will continue to monitor faller and injury rates at Cheltenham and other racecourses. If any risks are identified, the racing body will work with the racecourse in question to consider any action that can be taken to further improve safety rates.

Nick Rust, chief executive of the BHA, added: “British Racing must work together to reduce the risk of injuries occurring at The Festival and indeed Jump Racing as a whole. The recommendations of this review are designed to achieve this.

“I commend this review for the rigour and thoroughness of its approach. I also support the fact that its recommendations are intended to further raise the bar when it comes to welfare not only at Cheltenham, but across all of Jump racing.”

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New road sign to protect small wildlife

News Story 1
 Transport secretary Chris Grayling has unveiled a new road sign to help cut traffic accidents and protect small wildlife, particularly hedgehogs.

Local authorities and animal welfare groups are being asked to identify accident and wildlife hotspots where the sign - which features a hedgehog - should be located.

Government figures show that more than 600 people were injured in road accidents involving animals in 2017, and four people were killed. These figures do not include accidents involving horses. The new sign will be used to warn motorists in areas where there are large concentrations of small wild animals, including squirrels, badgers, otters and hedgehogs.  

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NOAH members re-elect Jamie Brannan as chair

Jamie Brannan, senior Vice President of Zoetis, has been re-elected as chair of NOAH for 2019/20, during this year’s AGM, held in London.

Mr Brannan joined Zoetis and the NOAH board in 2016, becoming NOAH’s vice-chair in 2018 and replacing Gaynor Hillier as chair later that year.

He commented: “I am extremely pleased to have been elected by the NOAH membership and am proud to be able to represent our industry at such a critical time for the UK animal health industry. I look forward to driving forward our new NOAH Strategy and to working with our members, old and new, in the coming year.”