Non-standard race times to be trialled in February 2020

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA), in conjunction with Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) has today announced that a trial of non-standard race times will be held in February 2020.

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

The objective of the trial is to explore the potential benefits to the sport and its customers of adopting non-standard race times on those afternoons when the volume of racing in Britain and Ireland is relatively high. The trial has been proposed following an internal review of the BHA’s approach to race times, completed in the first half of 2019.

The trial has been discussed by the Levy Board’s Betting Liaison Group, which supports the four-week initiative. Numerous other parties including racecourses, the media rights companies (RMG, SIS and TRP), and broadcasters have welcomed this opportunity to trial and assess the concept of non-standard race times.

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.

Benefits of non-standard race times 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.

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.”

Jason Morris, Director of Racing for Horse Racing Ireland said:

“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.”

A full draft of race times for the proposed trial will be presented in due course.