Wetherby races run over wrong distance for five years

WETHERBY Racecourse has been running races over the incorrect distances for the last five years - including the prestigious three miles one furlong Charlie Hall Chase.

Jonjo Sanderson, Chief Executive of Wetherby Racecourse.

Following a site visit to the A1 track on Monday, November 10 which included remeasuring the hurdle and chase courses, it was found that four of the active starts at the course were incorrectly positioned.

And most notably the Charlie Hall Chase distance of three miles and one furlong was found to be 3m 88 yards, 78 yards short of the minimum 3m 166 yards required for a jumps race to be officially classified as “3 miles about one furlong”.

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The start has now been moved 84 yards backwards so that it retains its official distance description.

Jamie Stier, BHA director of raceday operations and regulation, said: “It is unacceptable that the hurdle and chase courses at Wetherby have for some time been operating over incorrect distances in some instances.

“Accuracy of information is crucial to both punters and licensed persons and it is for this reason that back in October BHA made it a requirement for the effect of any running rail movements on race distances to be published alongside going reports.

“The result here is that races run over four of the 12 available distances at Wetherby over a five-year period have been incorrect. This is unacceptable.

“However, it is the view of BHA that the scale of the inaccuracy is not sufficient for any retrospective action to be required in terms of the results of any of the races in question.

“Similar to what was done for Flat tracks, a project is under way which has BHA working with the Racecourse Association to roll out a revised method of measuring course distances on jump tracks.

“This will ensure that measuring methodology for jump tracks will be brought into line with Flat tracks whereby measurements are taken six feet from the inside rail and all starts are professionally surveyed in to the nearest yard.

“In the case of Wetherby we do not think it is appropriate that any further action should be taken against the racecourse. In considering this position we are cognisant that, while technically under the rules it is the racecourse’s responsibility to ensure that distances are accurate, BHA were involved in the processes which gave rise to the issues at Wetherby.

“We acknowledge our responsibility for this, as well as our responsibility to ensure public confidence in this regard.”

Wetherby chief executive Jonjo Sanderson backed the BHA’s suggestion that the methodology for measuring tracks needs to be reviewed.

He said: “We are grateful to the BHA for their help in identify the discrepancies between the official distances programmed at the bet365 Charlie Hall meeting, and at previous race meetings, and the actual distances that were achieved during the two-day meeting.

“Having undertaken a great deal of analysis and data gathering following the race meeting on November 1, it was recalled that at the race meeting on Wednesday November 25, 2009, emergency track modifications were implemented prior to racing, at the request of the Professional Jockeys Association northern safety officer, due to issues with false/waterlogging ground in front of the Millennium Stand.

“These emergency modifications were implemented in collaboration between ourselves, the BHA Racecourse Inspectorate and the jockeys’ northern safety officer, which resulted in the separate hurdle and steeplechase bends at the eastern end of the racecourse (the ‘away’ bend) being reversed so that the horses were no longer required to cross over in front of the winning post, but instead, at the entrance into the back straight.

“Following the fixture on November 25, 2009, it was agreed by all parties that the revised layout was a great improvement on the previous configuration, which had been in place since October 2008, and that it should remain as the default track configuration.

“At the time the emergency modifications were implemented, it was not considered that the reversal of the two bends would impact on the official race distances and as such none of our starts were thought to be remeasured.

“Wetherby wishes to acknowledge its part in this unfortunate error and apologises to all parties affected by this since 2009. Furthermore, we are naturally extremely grateful that this discrepancy has been brought to our attention.

“In order to rectify this issue, the BHA and Wetherby have spent a great deal of time since the bet365 Charlie Hall meeting concluded re-measuring the hurdle and steeplechase tracks in order to ensure that, going forward, races are staged over their official distance, and we are grateful for the time the BHA Racecourse Inspectorate has committed to bring this to a satisfactory conclusion.

“We also support today’s suggestion by the BHA, that the methodology by which National Hunt racecourses are officially measured should be reviewed and, if necessary, updated, in order to avoid a repeat of an incident of this nature at some point in the future.”

The start revisions will take place immediately and be in place for this Saturday’s fixture, although only the new two-mile-four-and-a-half-furlong hurdles start will be used this weekend.