HRI will put human and animal welfare at top of priority list
Meanwhile, Gordon Elliott has kept open the prospect of a tilt at Saturday’s Betfair Chase
A general view as runners leave the stalls at Leopardstown Racecourse. Photo: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Horse Racing Ireland is set to unveil a five year strategic plan that will put human and animal welfare at the top of its list of priorities.
Boosted in last month’s budget by an extra €3.2 million that takes its allocation under the Horse & Greyhound Fund to €67.2 million next year, racing’s ruling body will shortly release its overall strategy for 2019 to 2023.
The new strategic plan has been approved by the HRI board and submitted to the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine. It is expected to be launched before the end of the year.
“There are a number of priorities. The whole area of human welfare is one. That includes staffing, the availability of staff within the industry, and the welfare of people at all levels. It’s financial, and also about both their physical and mental welfare. They’re all big issues now,” HRI’s chief executive Brian Kavanagh said on Monday.
“Then there’s the whole area of horse welfare, the whole question of funding and funding systems, it’s about participation in the industry, investment in it and the interest and appeal of racing.
“The thinking is get the horses and people aspect of it right, follow that with funding, and the product is something you can then sell and promote,” he added.
Despite current uncertainty over Brexit, the budget decision by Minister for Finance Pascal Donohue to increase betting tax from one per cent to two per cent was good news for HRI.
It had been calling for such a move for some years, arguing it would help to prevent government having to top up the Horse & Greyhound Fund and allow more long term strategic planning.
However, Kavanagh also said on Monday that HRI is still waiting on a decision by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection about a potential derogation for racing on implementation of new employment law.
At the start of the year there were warnings from the trainers’ association that some of its members would be put out of business after a tweak to the Industrial Relations Act redefined agriculture as raising animals or crops for human consumption.
It means racing yards don’t quality as agricultural workplaces anymore with general working time legislation now applying to stable staff. It’s a step many within racing have described as unworkable given a shortage of skilled personnel.
“We’ve made the case with regard to staff in the industry so that’s a matter for the department to look at,” Kavanagh said.
In other news, no Irish trained horse has ever won Haydock’s Betfair Chase but Gordon Elliott has kept open the possibility of a tilt at Saturday’s big race by leaving in three Gigginstown Stud-owned horses.
The trio of Don Poli, Shattered Love and Outlander remain in the race after Monday’s forfeit stage although they look to have a mountain to climb if travelling to Haydock.
Last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup 1-2, Native River and Might Bite, are set to clash again while last year’s wide-margin winner Bristol De Mai is also in the mix among nine entries overall.
Native River got the better of an epic Gold Cup duel with Might Bite last March but the latter won subsequently at Aintree. Might Bite is 12-1 to pick up a £1 million bonus this season by landing Saturday’s Haydock race, the King George at Kempton and the Gold Cup. Native River is 33-1 to do it.
Native River’s trainer Colin Tizzard is also set to be represented on Saturday by the former King George winner Thistlecrack. Tizzard’s son and assistant, Joe, gave an upbeat bulletin on Native River on Monday.
“With Native River it has always been the plan to go straight to Haydock,” he said. “He has been back in since the middle of July and hasn’t missed a day. Touch wood he is a very sound horse and is really good.
“We could have probably run him again after the Gold Cup. He came out of it really well. But he just jarred himself up a bit the year before and we didn’t want to take any risks again. So we turned him out and now we have had a proper preparation this year. I can’t wait to run him.
“Native River handles Newbury well and I think Haydock has a nice galloping straight so you can wind it up from a long way out. I don’t think the course will be a problem. He has been pretty good around a lot of tracks.
“He managed to win a Hennessy, a Welsh National and around Aintree so we’re not worried about it at all.”