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Amendments Made to Horse Racing – Cobalt and Shoes

21 April 2016

UK - The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has announced the details of two amendments to the Rules of Racing which came into effect from 2 April 2016.

Implementation of a raceday cobalt threshold

Since 2014, international racing regulatory efforts have been focused to establish a raceday threshold for cobalt in horses. The BHA has contributed to these efforts via population data, administration studies and scientific expertise.

This threshold has now been agreed and the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities has adopted a raceday urinary threshold for cobalt of 0.1 micrograms (= 100 nanograms) total cobalt per millilitre in urine. On the back of the work carried out by the BHA which supports this threshold level, this will be implemented within the Rules of British Racing as of 2 April 2016.

Whilst cobalt is an essential trace element and is naturally present in the horse, it may also have the potential to enhance performance when present at concentrations that exceed normal physiological parameters. However, it is also possible that exposure to significantly increased levels of cobalt may have welfare implications for the horse.

This threshold has been determined to permit the use of supplements that contain low levels of cobalt (such as Vitamin B12). However, as these supplements would not be considered normal feed and water, they must not be administered on raceday in accordance with the usual Rules of Racing.

Jenny Hall, Chief Veterinary Officer for the BHA, said: “The current available evidence shows that British Racing does not have an issue with the use of cobalt as a doping substance. A series of surveys carried out over recent years showed no indication that there is a culture of the substance being used in an inappropriate manner.

“However, it is important that British Racing remains at the forefront of all matters relating to integrity and welfare. While we would previously have had facility under our Rules to bring charges against anyone found to be misusing the substance, the implementation of this threshold provides a formal framework for such charges, should they be detected via testing.”

Amendment to the Rules of Racing in relation to Shoes 

The BHA have also amended the Rules of Racing so that from 2 April 2016 it will be a mandatory requirement that all horses competing in Flat Turf races enter the parade ring to race fully shod, unless permission is otherwise granted by the BHA prior to the 48 hour declaration time to race.

This is the result of an analysis of 12 months of race data which showed that there is an increased risk of a horse slipping if partially shod when racing under Flat Turf conditions.

The issue was raised with the BHA by the Professional Jockeys Association (PJA) and the BHA worked closely with the PJA, as well as the National Trainers Federation (NTF), and the Racecourse Association (RCA) before implementing the change. 

The BHA acknowledges that there can be legitimate reasons as to why trainers might wish to race a horse partially shod in Flat Turf races. Trainers may therefore apply for a dispensation, which must be supported in writing by a suitably qualified professional such as a veterinarian.

Paul Struthers, Chief Executive of the PJA, said: "The wellbeing of horse and jockey are paramount to us. This Rule change will reduce the risk of slipping up, thus improving safety for both horse and rider, and will allow Flat Jockeys to ride with a greater degree of confidence at all times. Trainers of those horses with a genuine veterinary reason to be unshod can apply for dispensation or race on the All-Weather, where grip is far greater. We welcome that in those rare cases where horses are unshod it must be declared.

"We have agreed with the BHA that the situation regarding Jump horses will continue to be monitored, in line with our members' wishes." 

“The PJA are delighted to have agreed this vital improvement to horse and jockey safety. If the new ruling helps prevent one horse and jockey from slipping up and potentially falling the rule change will have succeeded.” 

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