Gordon Elliott Slams Proposed Horse Racing Rule Changes
Horse racing trainer Gordon Elliott has strongly criticized reports suggesting that the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) could impose restrictions on the number of runners a trainer can enter in major handicaps in Britain. According to Elliott, such measures would be “very dangerous” and could have significant implications for prestigious events like the Randox Grand National at Aintree and the Cheltenham Festival.
The BHA is reportedly seeking opinions from stakeholders regarding a potential rule change that would limit trainers to declaring no more than four horses in Class 1 or Class 2 handicaps. If implemented, this new regulation would result in a considerable shift in how races are structured and contested.
Elliott, known for fielding multiple runners in prominent races both in Britain and Ireland, expressed his concerns about being constrained by limitations on horse entries. He pointed out historical instances where dominant trainers had substantial representation within race fields, emphasizing that little has changed over time.
“If you go back to the 1960s,” said Elliot after racing at Punchestown on Tuesday, “Tom Dreaper won seven Irish Grand Nationals in a row and he had 50 per cent of the field, although I know there weren’t big fields then.”
“In 1983,” he continued,”Michael Dickinson had the first five home in the Gold Cup and then 20 years later Martin Pipe had eight and nine of the field in two races at the Cheltenham Festival – things haven’t changed.”
Elliott’s recent notable feat was saddling 14 out of 20 horses in the Troytown Chase at Navan. He defended his decision, highlighting the low number of entries and the importance of supporting races for sponsors and stakeholders.
“There would only have been four runners in the Munster National if I didn’t run one in it, never mind eight,” he clarified. “And it would have been the same in the Troytown.”
He further explained that running multiple horses with different owners is crucial for maintaining support for events like the Galway Plate.
“In the Galway Plate, I ran six horses for six different owners. It’s very hard for me to have to tell someone that they can’t run,” Elliott shared.
Elliott acknowledged that not all purchased horses live up to initial expectations but believes restricting trainers’ opportunities could hinder progress and development within the sport.
“We buy them all thinking they are going to be Gold Cup horses but a lot of them end up being three-mile chasers,” he lamented.
The BHA spokesperson declined to comment on speculation surrounding private discussions about potential rule changes, stating that soliciting input from stakeholders is a routine practice conducted periodically by their organization.