Wetherby Racecourse: Charlie Hall Chase ran over wrong distance for five years

A.P.McCoy ( right) riding Benefficient leads at the half way point in the sixth race 'The Bet 365' Charlie Hall Steeple Chase at Wetherby.  (BR1001/05o)  2 November 2013. Picture Bruce Rollinson
A.P.McCoy ( right) riding Benefficient leads at the half way point in the sixth race 'The Bet 365' Charlie Hall Steeple Chase at Wetherby. (BR1001/05o) 2 November 2013. Picture Bruce Rollinson

The Charlie Hall Chase, Wetherby Racecourse’s richest race, has been run over the wrong distance for the last five years.

An investigation has found the Grade Two race was contested over a distance 78 yards short of the minimum 3m 166yards required for a Jumps race to be officially classified three miles and ‘about’ one furlong.

The Phillip Hobbs’ trained Menorah won this year’s renewal ahead of Jonjo O’Neill’s Taquin Du Seuil on November 1.

The incorrect race distances were exposed by Timeform racing analysts Daniel Barber and Simon Rowlands and the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) found four out of ten race distances were incorrect.

The start posts have since been moved forward 125 yards by the course.

Wetherby chief executive Jonjo Sanderson said: “Wetherby wishes to acknowledge its part in this unfortunate error and apologises to all parties affected by this since 2009.

“We are naturally extremely grateful that this discrepancy has been brought to our attention.

“The BHA and Wetherby have spent a great deal of time since the bet365 Charlie Hall meeting concluded re-measuring the hurdle and steeplechase tracks in order to ensure that, going forward, races are staged over their Official distance, and we are grateful for the time the BHA Racecourse Inspectorate has committed to bring this to a satisfactory conclusion.

“We also support today’s suggestion by the BHA, that the methodology by which National Hunt racecourses are officially measured should be reviewed and, if necessary, updated, in order to avoid a repeat of an incident of this nature at some point in the future.”

The 1m 5f bumper course will also now become 1m 4 1/2f while the 2m 4f hurdle course will now become 2m 4 1/2f.

The revisions are to take place immediately and will be in place for this Saturday’s fixture though only the new ‘2 miles 4 1/2f’ Hurdle start will be used this weekend.

The BHA said no races will be made void and Wetherby will not be penalised as the margin of error was relatively small in all cases.

Jamie Stier, BHA director of raceday operations and regulation, said: “It is unacceptable that the hurdle and chase courses at Wetherby have for some time been operating over incorrect distances in some instances.

“Accuracy of information is crucial to both punters and licensed persons and it is for this reason that back in October BHA made it a requirement for the effect of any running rail movements on race distances to be published alongside going reports.”

Waterlogging had caused issues at the course during a race meeting in November, 2009.

Emergency track modifications were made at the course at the Professional Jockey Association northern safety officer’s request.

It has now emerged the course changes at the eastern end of the racecourse reduced the distance in steeplechase races.

Sanderson said: “These emergency modifications were implemented in collaboration between ourselves, the BHA Racecourse Inspectorate and the Jockeys’ northern safety officer, which resulted in the separate Hurdle and Steeplechase bends at the eastern end of the racecourse (the ‘away’ bend) being reversed so that the horses were no longer required to cross over in front of the Winning Post, but instead, at the entrance into the back straight.

“It was agreed by all parties that the revised layout was a great improvement on the previous configuration.

“At the time the emergency modifications were implemented, it was not considered that the reversal of the two bends would impact on the Official race distances and as such none of our starts were thought to be re-measured.”