18th July 2022

In May the BHA, at last, decided to lift the restrictions which, for two years, had prevented entry to the weighing room for anyone other than jockeys, racecourse personnel and BHA officials. It was one of the many over-the-top measures introduced to help minimise the potential spread of Covid-19 and help to ensure the continuation of racing during the pandemic. However, when lifting the restrictions, they couldn’t just return to the way it was before. Some bright spark had to come up with a ‘new normal’. The BHA announced that, “From Saturday 21 May, trainers or representatives with a horse declared to run will be permitted to enter the Weighing Room complex whenever there is a clear work purpose for doing so. Work-related reasons for entering the Weighing Room are likely to include collecting saddles, observing apprentices weighing out, and for Stewards Enquiries.”

I’m not at all sure what prompted this desire to explain what ‘work’ means for a trainer or, indeed, what non ‘work related’ reason a trainer might have for entering the weighing room but, inevitably, racecourses have interpreted this instruction in different ways and many, if not most, have a person posted on the door to challenge everyone, other than jockeys and officials, attempting to enter the weighing room.

Pre-pandemic, my usual routine on arrival at a racecourse was to go to the weighing room, collect a race card, and check the notices on the wall for non-runners (and the reasons e.g. ground, which may indicate a problem), going changes, etc.. Now, apart from the indignity of constantly having to explain my purpose for being there, there is no point as they have stopped posting these notices in the weighing room and I am not aware that they are posted anywhere else on course.

At Haydock, where, let’s face it, there tends to be a greater than average number of non-runners, I would always go immediately to the weighing room to check the situation but now the non-runners are no longer displayed and, being a Jockey Club course, it is impossible to obtain the relevant information over the internet. The jockey Club free wi-fi system is hopeless as you have to go through the whole log-in process every time you want access and they have blocked the Racing Post website which, for most of us, is the best and quickest source of information on form, non-runners, etc.. Chester is another track where non-runners are commonplace and there the wi-fi system is so bad, and mobile phone signal virtually non-existent, that we cannot obtain the necessary information and we cannot report to owners, who are not in attendance, after the race. When I am not present myself, I have no contact with my representative.

It would seem that the BHA have a hankering for the bad old days when the regulator, The Jockey Club, saw trainers as coming from a lower order akin to servants. It is time for all of us – trainers, stable staff, and all others who are working to put the race meeting on – to be afforded due respect and aided, rather than hindered, in trying to do our job. Trainers and their representatives should have unhindered access to the weighing room and all necessary information should be readily available therein, and there should be a dedicated, and efficient, wi-fi system for racing professionals on course.

Staff Area