New chief executive has a huge in-tray, as Covid ravages racing’s finances, but the sport could help itself by stopping blunders
Back in the days before the Grand National fences had their fangs filed down a bit, the famously foolhardy Duke Of Alburquerque once rode in the race with a freshly broken collar bone, having recently had 16 screws removed from a leg. The heedless, devil-may-care spirit with which he approached the starting tape that day hopefully now imbues Julie Harrington, who will start work this week as chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority, tasked, among other things, with helping to right the sport’s finances before they keel over entirely.
Covid-19 has been sapping racing’s capital reserves at a rate of about £2m a month and the immediate future is no less perilous than it was for the Duke as Nereo carted him towards Becher’s Brook. The return of crowds, above a token few thousand, seems a long way off and talk of racecourse closures has been in the air for months, while easy movement of horses between Britain, France and Ireland can no longer be taken for granted, thanks to the combined threat of the virus and Brexit.