Three-year extension for hurdle racing

Danny-OBrien Racing Victoria has given the green light for hurdle racing to continue for the next three years but the board has reserved its decision on the future of steeplechases.

The RVL board took into consideration a number of reports and submissions before announcing its decision on Thursday night.

It said that hurdle racing remained subject to meeting a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) relating to fatalities.

The KPI of not more than 0.65% of fatalities per starters will be measured as a rolling three-year average (including the 2010 season) at the end of the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

The hurdle racing fatality rate in 2010 was 0.41% and the steeplechase racing fatality rate was 0.58%.

The board has deferred a decision on the future of steeplechase racing to its next meeting pending further analysis of the performance of the 2010 program and the identification of any necessary measures to improve the program’s safety.

“There has been a substantial improvement in the safety and performance of jumps racing for the 2010 season with the fall and fatality rates dropping significantly from the year prior,” said Racing Victoria chief executive Rob Hines.

“The performance in hurdle races was particularly good with a dramatic improvement achieved due to a changed obstacle, revised conditions and a strong commitment to safety by jockeys and trainers.

“The board considered that the dramatic improvement achieved in hurdle racing justified a longer term commitment to provide certainty to owners investing in horses and for jockeys, trainers and workers who earn their livelihood from the sport.

“However, the performance of steeplechase racing has not been as satisfactory with a higher rate of incidents in these races. As a result the board has requested further analysis of the 2010 steeplechase program and the identification of any necessary measures to improve the program’s safety before giving further consideration to its future.”
Victorian racing minister Rob Hulls provided a lukewarm response to the RVL decision.
“RVL is an independent board free of political interference and, regardless of my views on this decision, I’m sure they will be more than willing to publicly explain what their decision means,” he said.
After jumps racing was banned last November following the deaths of 17 horses in the 2008 and 2009 seasons, RVL gave the sport a reprieve in January on several conditions – including new obstacles.

RVL spent $600,000 on 90 new jumps and two horses died in 2010, one over hurdles and one in a steeplechase.

The season ran over four-and-a-half months with meetings held at seven specialist jumps tracks – Sandown, Coleraine, Casterton, Hamilton, Moe, Pakenham and Warrnambool.

Animal welfare groups have condemned jumps racing with the RSPCA describing the sport as “despicable”