Drone spotted flying during racing at Leicester
Devices are being used to give in-running punters an unfair advantage
A drone returns to a disused building down the back straight of the course after the Humberstone Handicap Hurdle at Leicester Racecourse on Tuesday. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Officials at Leicester voiced their frustration as the subject of drones on racecourses came into focus again on Tuesday.
It is believed images from drones are being used to give in-running punters an unfair advantage on betting exchanges as the streamed pictures may be a few seconds ahead of TV channels.
There was a reported sighting at Haydock on Saturday, but while officials at Ayr were on standby 24 hours later, no drone use was recorded at the Scottish track.
That was not the case at Leicester, where racecourse chairman Nick Lees said: “I’ve seen it twice today. They are flying it from an old factory on the other side of the racecourse on the roof. They launch it from there.
“He’s done it before, when we’ve been in touch with the Civil Aviation Authority and the police.
“In the past he once tried to use a Cherry Picker, but he was stopped. There are CAA rules, but this chap responsible says he isn’t breaking any rules.”
Leading jockey Tom Scudamore, who rode a winner on the card, did not see the drone himself – but did suggest the devices could potentially impact on the safety of people arriving at tracks by air.
Scudamore said: “There is a lot of aviation going on around racecourses, with people arriving and leaving by helicopter or aeroplane, and that is obviously a concern if there are drones flying around.
“I know there there is some use of them [drones] on television, but then it is correctly operated and they know about any helicopters or aeroplanes that are arriving at the track.
“I didn’t notice it today and I was also riding at Haydock last Saturday, where I believe there was a drone.
“There were some concerns about a drone at Newmarket a couple of years ago and a few younger horses were getting spooked, but in that instance the drone was flying low and obviously closer to the horses.
“If unlicensed people are able to fly these drones over the racecourse when there helicopters and aeroplanes coming in and out, that has to be a worry.”
The Racecourse Association works on behalf of all 59 British tracks and has already begun to address the subject, but says the issue is not easy to resolve.
Caroline Davies, RCA racecourse services director, said in a statement last week: “The RCA takes a proactive lead providing guidance to racecourses around drone usage.
“This involves best practice from the Civil Aviation Authority and other relevant authorities as well as taking into account how other venues have handled similar situations.
“Given the recent emphasis on drone safety, racecourses are revisiting their risk assessments. The safety and enjoyment of all racegoers is of the utmost priority.
“Whilst frustrating, if the operator is not breaking the law there is limited further action that can be taken at this time.”