This week the British Horse Racing Authority issued guidance on potential new rules in the sport - which will now go for stakeholder consideration - to prevent further concentration in the sport.
While there have always been trainers and owners that dominated the sport through the centuries, the last number of decades have probably witnessed the emergence of "super trainers" that have hundreds of horses in training. The proposed rule change will seek to limit the number of horses any trainer can run in high-profile races.
The logic behind this is straightforward. Racing authorities are fearful of an erosion of competitive balance in the sport - at a training level at least - where an elite group of trainers dominates the sport.
In April this year I highlighted this in an Irish context. The piece presents data on Irish trainer prizemoney since 2014 and says:
"For the 16th year in a row W.P. Mullins will be crowned Champion Irish National Hunt Trainer. What a remarkable feat for the Carlow man who now holds legendary status in Irish racing circles. As Mullins receives his award, Cullentra based trainer Gordon Elliott will finish as runner-up for the 11th year in a row. Such is the dominance of these "big two" that many other trainers struggle to keep horses in training."
This fear must now be realised by authorities in Great Britain. In order to prevent this, limiting the entry any single trainer can make to four in elite handicaps may encourage owners to seek the services of other trainers, with a smaller number of horses.
For example, at the Cheltenham Festival in 2023 Gordon Elliott entered seven horses in the Coral Cup Handicap. This would not be permitted under the new rules and, in theory at least, the three unlucky owners not entered in the race might seek to transfer their horses elsewhere.
Elliott has already spoken of the dangers of introducing this new rule and the impact it could have on ownership rates and field sizes. Eddie O'Leary of Gigginstown Stud was more harsh in his criticism and noted that the rules would be unworkable. The owner suggested he would simply transfer the ownership of his horses the day before a race in order for them to run.
Should the BHA continue down this route, they need to think carefully about the potential impact of any capping on trainers and the potential unintended consequences. Sometimes, it's best to do nothing.