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BHA rule change: declaring non-runners in races from the starting stalls

A change to the Rules of Racing will see BHA Stewards able to declare a non-runner in any race beginning from starting stalls if they believe that a horse has been denied a fair start.

Under the existing Rules, a horse can only be declared a non-runner if it has been prevented from starting due to a faulty action of the starting stalls or if it is riderless at the off.

But from 1 May 2024, the powers of the Stewards will be extended to include situations where a horse has been prevented from starting on equal terms and its chances in a race have been materially affected as a consequence.

The change – which aligns Britain with the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) model rule and the approach applied by other major racing nations – follows engagement with and feedback from industry stakeholders, including participants and the betting industry, and approval by the BHA Board.

Use of the updated Rule will be at the discretion of the BHA Stewards and may include instances where a stalls malfunction causes some stalls to open more slowly than others, as was the case in the 2023 Epsom Dash.

It could also cover scenarios where there is a problem with equipment fitted at the start, or a stalls handler is still attempting to assist a horse and jockey when the starting mechanism is triggered.

The updated Rule can also be applied in circumstances where a horse has obtained an unfair advantage at the start, for example if a runner forces the gates open prematurely before the Starter has triggered the starting mechanism. However, a horse will not be declared a non-runner if it merely accelerates the gates once the Starter has operated the starting mechanism.

Any consideration by the Stewards will always precede the ‘weighed in’ signal, with participants, racegoers and the betting public alerted that an incident at the start of the race is being reviewed.

BHA Chief Regulatory Officer, Brant Dunshea, said: 

“This amendment to the Rules will enable British racing to become signatories to the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities model rule on non-runners and therefore see us align with other major racing nations.

“It seeks to provide greater clarity and consistency for all involved and provides a regulatory solution in scenarios where it is deemed that a horse has been denied a fair start due to a situation beyond its own control or that of its rider, not previously covered by the rules.

“While we don’t expect this Rule to be required very often, we hope that extending the Stewards’ power in this area – something we have discussed at length with industry stakeholders prior to implementation – is a positive development for participants and bettors.”