The horse racing industry has never been in a stronger position as it is in the modern era.
Changes have been made to the courses throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland to ensure that equine safety is paramount, while advancements in the training has led to a growing number of those looking to get involved in the sport.
However, like any other sport, there are still challenges ahead that racing must overcome.
Ireland’s dominance at Cheltenham
A very topical challenge that the United Kingdom will be looking to overcome over the next 12 months is the Irish dominance that we witnessed on British soil last year. Ireland have long been the winning nation when it comes to the Cheltenham Festival, but last year’s dominance was just further evidence that their advantage is extending rather than being cut.
Irish-trained horses won 23 of the 28 races at the Festival in 2021, and when you take into account that the top four in the Grand National were also Irish-trained, British trainers have a huge bridge to close.
One of the main reasons for that dominance could be down to the fact that the average prize money per race is far higher in Ireland, with that average standing at over £10,000, while the British average of £6,000. The fact that the best constantly take on the best in Ireland leaves them in a strong position when it comes to Cheltenham.
Still, the introduction of a new mini-festival, similar to Leopardstown, has been introduced, it will be interesting to see whether this has an effect when it comes to winners at the festival in 2022.
Life after racing
There have been a couple of scandals to rock the racing world this season. Gordon Elliott’s sickening image that surfaced earlier in the year saw him banned, while the airing of the BBC Panorama documentary ‘The Dark Side of Horse Racing’ also asked uncomfortable questions. Once again, Elliott was implemented in the findings, with many ex-racehorses killed in abattoirs.
It made for uncomfortable viewing for all race fans, but the BHA have immediately responded to the findings. New rulings were made official in October, which means that all racehorses trained and run in Britain must be signed out of the human food chain. Further charity work conducted by Retraining of Racehorses also ensures that there are further avenues for runners that are retired, as they are re-trained for second careers.
Making racing more inclusive
Few sports have had more success with the growing number of female role models than horse racing. Jockeys such as Hollie Doyle, Rachel Blackmore, and Bryony Frost have all won Group 1 races over the past 12 months, and highlight that there is a clear path for young girls to follow to get into the sport.
Nonetheless, the number of BAME role models in the sport is still not as large as many would have hoped.
The BHA announced in 2017 that they are working hard to become more diverse, and the success story of Khadijah Mellah in 2019 only shows that the racing world is open to new stars. Mellah made global headlines when she became the first British Muslim woman to ride and win a race, and the success of a documentary that followed her only continues to inspire the next generation.
The Riding A Dream Academy is only further evidence of that, as new jockeys to the sport between 14 and 18 are encouraged to pursue their dream of racing despite being from underprivileged areas in the United Kingdom.
Luckily, in what concerns betting in horse racing it has become a hobby that is available to everyone. Before you had to visit a local venue to place your bet, but now you can bet on races worldwide on online websites and apps. Also, the data and odds for each race are available online at the distance of a click.
For example, you can visit TwinSpires and immediately learn about the Breeders Cup results, while 30 years ago you had to visit a museum or a library to find that data.