The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has announced that, as of Jan. 19, 2018, racecards in the U.K. will be able to note when a horse is racing for the first time after having undergone a wind surgery.

This has been introduced with the needs of the sport’s betting customer as the focus and in the interests of openness and transparency. A Horseracing Bettors Forum (HBF) survey recently found that information on wind surgeries is the piece of information most requested by the betting public.

As well as enhanced data for betting customers—and the beneficial impact this will also have on the integrity of betting markets—this development will also allow the BHA to collect research data on the nature, frequency, and impact of wind surgeries on racehorses.

“Wind operations are routine surgical procedures which are designed to assist a horse with its breathing,” said David Sykes, BVSc, MRCVS, BHA director of equine health and welfare. “We have identified a list of five of the most relevant and frequent surgeries, which we are asking trainers to declare.

“We believe it is reasonable that the betting customers will take it as read that the trainer, owner, and their veterinarian will have performed the most appropriate surgery to address the issue with the specific horse.

“Assumptions on the impact of the surgery on the horse’s form should rest entirely with the betting customer,” he added. “It is understood that not all wind surgeries are successful, but some clearly are. Because of this, it is our view that the information should be in the public domain, and the betting customer should be given the opportunity to assess the value of the information.

“We are aware of the view that information about wind operations being made public may have an impact on bloodstock values. However, we place the importance of openness and transparency above this commercial interest. Moreover, the gathering of data from declared wind operations could be invaluable for equine welfare research and development in the future.”

Details on Wind Surgery Declarations

As of Jan. 19, 2018, racecards will have the ability to display “WS” identifying that a horse has had new wind surgery since last performance. This means that WS, when carried in racecards, will only appear for a horse’s first race start following wind surgery and not for subsequent race starts.

The types of wind surgery required to be declared are:

  • Tieback (prosthetic laryngoplasty);
  • Hobday (ventriculectomy/cordectomy);
  • Epiglottic surgery;
  • Tie-forward (dorsal displacement of soft palate surgery); and
  • Soft palate cautery.

Racecards carrying “WS” will not display the specific type of wind surgery.

The wind surgery declaration will only be required for horses which have previously raced, regardless of whether this was in Great Britain or elsewhere. The declaration will be required prior to declarations for the horse’s first race start after it has been subjected to wind surgery. Where a horse is subjected to wind surgery on multiple occasions the declaration will be required on each occasion.

The requirement to declare wind surgeries will apply equally to horses trained in Great Britain and horses trained overseas which are racing in Great Britain.

In instances when the surgeries are not declared, and of which the BHA becomes aware, there will be a framework within the Rules of Racing to enable the noncompliance to be addressed. Noncompliance can be detected through, for example, accessing horses’ veterinary records, or other information gathered through the BHA’s regulatory processes.

Other aspects of data declaration, such as mares in foal, are currently being considered by the BHA, and further updates will be provided on this front in the new year.