BHA perform U-turn over £140 Peter Hedger fine for water incident

By Geoffrey Riddle@Louchepunter
Mon 3 Sep 2018

The British Horseracing Authority have decided to return the £140 fine they took off trainer Peter Hedger after one of his staff threw water at Pretty Jewel to encourage her to go the start at Epsom last week.

Following an internal review of the incident at BHA head office, the fine has been replaced by a caution.

The regulatory authority have also underlined their desire that under no circumstances should any substance be thrown at a racehorse to encourage it to do something.

In a statement Paul Barton, the head of stewarding, said: “The reason for this is that it was felt inappropriate to levy the fine upon the trainer for the actions of his representative, over which he could not have been expected to have any control in this specific incident. This is the same course of action as was taken in a similar situation, which occurred at Worcester racecourse last year.

“It remains the case that we do not want to see anything being thrown at horses to encourage them to go to the start or load in the stalls. It is not possible to know how a horse will react to anything being thrown at it. This is why a caution has been imposed, rather than removing the offence entirely.”

While it must be applauded that Hedger gets his money back, it is questionable whether the BHA have made the right call.

Horses are encouraged to race faster through the use of the whip. Following their efforts, they are then regularly covered in buckets of water to keep them cool both on the Flat in summer and over Jumps in winter.

At courses such as Aintree, Ascot and Goodwood the BHA regularly trumpet the fine facilities whereby horses can walk through vaporised mists.

All of these, not to mention a phalanx of racegoers armed with camera phones, pose a similar risk to racehorses in that it is not possible to know a thoroughbred’s reaction to those stimuli. Legislating for only a portion of them seems ridiculous. Added to that, if Hedger cannot be held responsible for the actions of his staff, then what are licence holders accountable for?

After Royal Ascot Barton wrote a blog to explain the BHA’s reaction to a stalls handler throwing water at Invincible Army in order to get the horse in to the stalls.

Within that blog he admitted that the BHA needs to take a hard look at how it goes about these enquiries (or inquiries to most of us) and challenge itself to speak in language that the layman would understand.

He wrote: “Perhaps sometimes the wording of those stewards notices could be slightly more gentle, in order to make absolutely clear that no rebuke is intended and we will take this on board and look to improve the style in which these type of incidents are reported.

“It can be challenging at major festival meetings, such as the Aintree Grand National Meeting and Royal Ascot, to always hit the right tone when wording notices, particularly because we are looking to get the notice out as quickly as possible.”

The Invincible Army fiasco highlighted there was a minor problem, and something should have been done at the BHA on the back of Barton’s blog. If rules had been put in place then, and not only just now, perhaps Hedger may not have had to endure the BHA’s regrettable reaction to the Pretty Jewel Incident.

With starting stalls not opening properly at Southwell on the same day attracting no action, the BHA appear to be struggling to deal with the important matters that affect our sport and are instead concentrating on the smaller issues with their heads in the sand.

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