Following an internal review into the British Horseracing Authority’s approach to race times, the governing body has confirmed that it will hold a four-week trial of non-standard race times which will take place in February 2020.

The trials, which will be held in collaboration with Horse Racing Ireland (HRI), will seek to explore the potential advantages that non-standard race times can bring to the sport across the UK and Ireland on afternoons when the volume of racing in Britain and Ireland is relatively high.

Non-standard race times refers to races not programmed on the standard 5-minute marks (e.g. 3:08pm).

Jason Morris, Director of Racing for Horse Racing Ireland commented: “All stakeholders in Ireland have been consulted, including HRI’s betting committee and programmes committee, and have agreed to a trial of non-standard race times in February.

“We are grateful to the Association of Irish Racecourses for their support and have accepted their request that the opening race time for all Irish meetings should continue to be scheduled as a standard time for promotional purposes.

“Irish race times are co-ordinated through SIS and involve close co-operation with Racing TV and we will collectively review the effectiveness of the trial working alongside our colleagues in the BHA.”

The proposed trials have received the backing of the Levy Board’s Betting Liaison Group, racecourses, the media rights companies (RMG, SIS and TRP), as well as broadcasters.

However, both racing bodies have specified that non-standard race times would only be trialled on days when there are four or more meetings being staged concurrently in Britain or Ireland. There are 11 days in February on which non-standard race times will be in use, consisting of five Saturdays and six weekdays.

Any fixtures being broadcast on terrestrial television in Britain or Ireland will continue to use standard race times, except any third ITV Racing meetings on a Saturday which would have non-standard race times for non-televised races.

Richard Wayman, Chief Operating Officer for the BHA, said: “Working closely with our colleagues in Ireland and other partners across the sport, we are always looking for ways to improve our scheduling of races to benefit racing’s customers. The impacts, both positive and negative, of non-standard race times will only be known once the initiative is trialled.

“The hope is that they allow for a more even spread of races without requiring longer intervals between races, and potentially fewer clashes or delays. However, we’ll be taking in feedback from all parties before deciding on whether to make the trial permanent.”

The BHA and HRI have identified a number of potential benefits of non-standard race times, which may include:

  • Improving the scheduling of race times through periods of congestion so that there would be fewer clashes and delayed races;
  • Reducing the number of 35-minute intervals and introduce a more even distribution of time between races;
  • Reducing on-the-day hold requests, thus enabling BHA and HRI officials to frame raceday timetables from an earlier stage.
  • Broadcasters would be able to draw up their running orders to the published off-times rather than having to request delays.
  • The risk of avoidable near-clashes – whereby one race is only held until seconds after the preceding race has concluded – should reduce as racecourses would be expected to adhere to the published off-time.
  • Off-course punters and the viewing public would be fully appraised of the scheduled off-time.

Insider Insight: The exploration of new race times can deepen betting engagement within horse racing, which will inevitably lead to the increased value of the sport, specifically as a product for media rights holders.

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