An Al Duncan musing

Wind Ops to be declared in racecards from 19th January 2018

Well, I'll be blowed!

It's one of those defining moments in British Horseracing history. I mean, the impact of this rule change will have reverberations throughout racing, and in particular the breeding industry - and there are some mighty big players out there.
I'll give my thoughts on this further down, but first the contents of an email received this evening (21st November 2017)  from the BHA. The highlighted sections are my own.

Dear Owner,
We are writing to advise of a new Rule of Racing which will introduced in Great Britain, effective from 19 January 2018, which will require
trainers to declare when wind surgery has occurred on a horse in their yard. The declaration of wind surgery will be required for horses which have previously raced and must be made prior to their first run after a wind surgery.
We are implementing this change to the rules because it’s important that we are open and transparent with customers of our sport, particularly bettors, about information which may influence their betting behavior. The provision of data is becoming more and more important in modern betting marketplaces, and if racing is to remain an attractive betting product then it is essential that we keep up to speed with our competitors in terms of the data we are providing to our customers. The implementation of the rule will also help to ensure our high standards of integrity are upheld in betting markets, and
will allow us to collect research data on the nature, frequency and impact of wind surgeries on racehorses.
The stakeholders of British racing were consulted during the process of implementing this rule, which is already mandatory in some other major racing jurisdictions.
We are aware that there is a view that this could have an effect on the bloodstock value of some horses, however, we believe that this is outweighed by the need for the sport to be open and transparent.

The rule : For races run on or after 19 January 2018, the declaration of wind surgery is required for horses which have previously raced and must be made prior to their first run after wind surgery.
The types of wind surgery required to be declared are –

• Tie back (prosthetic laryngoplasty)
• Hobday (ventriculectomy/cordectomy)
• Epiglottic surgery
• Tie forward (dorsal displacement soft palate surgery)
• Soft palate cautery

Racecards Racecards will be enhanced to include WS to indicate wind surgery has occurred since a horse’s last run.  

Kind regards,
Chief Regulatory Officer
British Horseracing Authority

I'll take the highlighted sections one by one, and share my thoughts.

It was during the summer, at one of our weekly lunches, that Ian Aitken and I broached the subject of Declaration of Wind Operations with The Trainer. It was a lengthy, fairly heated (in that good natured way possible between friends) debate with Ian & I stating the advantage of declaration from a punting perspective - precisely the main reason (there were only two in the statement) put forward by the BHA.
Now, Wind Operations, priced in the £800 - £2,000 range, have a 60% success rate when applied to thoroughbred racehorses. Clearly, no matter the level of ability that a horse may possess, if it cannot breathe when coming under pressure, it will not be able to perform to an optimal level. There are an increasing number of National Hunt trainers who give their horses a wind op as a matter of course (pick any one from 5 types from the above). Paul Nicholls springs to mind. The workload of racing secretaries has certainly increased..................

Whether this will be the boon to punters that it may appear is open to question. As recently as last week, I watched an interview with a trainer who stated - correctly - that it can take 2 or 3 runs for a wind operation to have an impact on a horse (that being when the horse realises that the previously experienced breathing blockage is not going to occur).

I'm a racehorse owner, breeder and ROA member and I would hope that one of these categories is considered as a stakeholder of British racing. I was not aware that consultation over the implementation of this rule was underway - far less that my view was sought. Neither was The Trainer aware. Nor The Jockey.
So, a rather unique definition by the BHA of the word 'consulted'.

Horseracing is full of opinions, and none more so than those which have a bearing on the very foundations of the sport - the Bloodstock Industry.
Sires, and several NH Sires standing in Ireland cover over 200 mares per season, can blow hot and cold in terms of popularity of progeny. It only takes the odd rumour (passing on poor temperament, wind issues, crib biting, etc.) around the Sales Ring for a sire's stock to fall.
In time, horses that have undergone a wind operation will not be attractive to breeders no matter how high class a performer they have been on the track - and this applies to both sexes.  And equally their offspring in the sales ring.
It's common knowledge that the big auction houses deliberately steer away from publishing any medical or surgical details of sires and dams of stock under the hammer, and their reaction to this news is awaited with interest. Unless, these Sales Companies were consulted.....

The declaration of WS against a horse's name will only appear on the first occasion that a horse runs subsequently. However, given the ease of access and accumulation of this new data, and the subsequent analysis and use of the results in the purchasing of horses (nobody goes to the sales thinking 'I want to buy a horse that may have a wind problem'), the impact upon Bloodstock Industry is seismic.

The fall-out of the introduction of this rule - so far just for racing in Great Britain - will continue for months, I reckon..............

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