What Is The British Horseracing Authority (BHA)

bha screenshot showing text building a brighter future for our sport our horses and our people

If you’re a fan of horse racing, then you’ll know the basics on the British Horseracing Authority (BHA).  Of course, the whole setup surrounds horse racing and nothing else. It operates as the regulator behind the entire industry in the United Kingdom.

Horse racing itself has been around for many millennia, dating back to 4500 BC. At this time, horses were first domesticated by nomadic tribesmen in Central Asia. Yet horse racing as a sport, such as it is today, came about in the 12th century. The foundations for it were built in England, with a large portion of Arab horses being imported over the next centuries.

It was the town of Newark that became the first location in the country to hold an official horse racing match with betting, and that was in the 17th century. Soon enough, horse racing (and people betting on the races) became much more of a tradition and spread to other corners of the world. Throughout the years since, the concept behind horse racing has not changed. Yet back then, a Jockey Club was formed, which was responsible for regulation of the sport.

It was in 1752 that the Jockey Club was officially founded, and this private community was responsible for the regulations surrounding horse racing. It remained in action until 1993, when a barrage of public criticism and legal challenges forced it to split its responsibilities. Many said it wasn’t right that an organisation such as this oversaw such a vast industry. Some even suggested that the regulations and fixtures were simply serving private interests.

The Birth of the British Horseracing Board and the British Horseracing Authority

bha valuesBecause of those concerns from people, the British Horseracing Board (BHB) became the new independent governing body for the sport in 1993. It took a big part of the responsibilities away from The Jockey Club, with its primary mission being the boost the popularity of horse racing, promote it, and make it safer for all involved. It also said it wanted to eliminate corruption and ensure that punters feel safe when they wager on races.

The BHB continued operating in this way until 2007, when a merger occurred between it and Horseracing Regulatory Authority (HRA), which served as the regulatory division of The Jockey Club. It was from this merger that the British Horseracing Authority was born. Launching in July of 2007, it has a set of stated objectives, which are:

“…provide the most compelling and attractive racing in the world; be seen as the world leader in race day regulation; ensure the highest standards for the sport and participants, on and way from the racecourse; promote the best for the racehorse; and represent and promote the sport and the industry.”

The BHA is also a member of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, and its current chairman is Joe Saumarez Smith. He ascended to the role in June of 2022 following the departure of Annemarie Phelps from the position.

Functions of the BHA

The BHA has several responsibilities and functions to take care of as overseer of the horse racing scene. This includes:

  • Race Planning
  • Licensing and Registering Racing Participants
  • Disciplinary Procedures
  • Protecting the Integrity of the Sport
  • Setting and Enforcing Standards of Medical Care for Jockeys and Other Participants
  • Setting and Enforcing Common Standards for British Racecourses
  • Compilation of the Fixture List
  • Setting and Enforcing the Rules and Orders of Racing
  • Research and Improvements in Equine Science and Welfare
  • Regulating Point to Point (Steeplechase) Racing in the UK

It also has an Integrity Services Department, which performs a variety of duties, too. This includes identifying breaches of the Rules of Racing, and deterring such in future, conducting investigations into breaches of those rules, inspections of training venues, and the monitoring of real-time betting markets for any suspicious betting behaviour.

To put it simply, the BHA is there to keep racing fair and clean, aiming to maintain the integrity of the sport. It also looks to deliver competitive and compelling racing, secure long-term funding for the sport, expand it, and ensure the health and welfare of equines.