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British Horseracing Authority

Gardiner-Hill New Head of Handicapping for BHA

Takes over for Phil Smith, who is retiring in May after 22 years of service.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) announced that Dominic Gardiner-Hill has been appointed as the governing body's new head of handicapping.

Gardiner-Hill, 53, has been Deputy Head of Handicapping for the BHA for 11 years and is approaching 25 years of service with the regulator, having joined the then-BHB in July 1993. Prior to that Dominic was a Jumps Handicapper for the Racing Post for six years. He is also the current second-longest serving members of the Longines World's Best Racehorse Rankings Committee

Gardiner-Hill takes over the role from Phil Smith, who will retire from the BHA after 22 years of service in May.

"I am absolutely delighted to have been given the chance to do one of the biggest jobs in world handicapping and lead such a talented and dedicated team. I have big boots to fill but it's a challenge I am going to relish," Gardiner-Hill said. "With advances in technology and various recommendations from the recent review to be considered the future is an exciting one for handicapping team and I'm looking forward to leading them into that future.

"I'd like to pay tribute to Phil who has been not only a fine Head of Handicapping but has also become a close friend during our time working together. I will miss his calm manner and wise advice and wish him all the very best for his well-earned retirement."

Phil Smith said he was pleased with Gardiner-Hill's appointment because he has the respect of the team and also BHA stakeholders.

"He is approachable, honest, caring, accurate and thorough, all of the qualities that should be valued in modern handicapping," Smith said. "Abroad he is seen as a major player in International conferences where his logical and well thought-out explanations as well as his diplomacy have helped British-trained horses receive appropriate end of year ratings in the Longines World Rankings. He has been my deputy for over 11 years and his advice and wise counsel have been invaluable when we have had big decisions to make."

Richard Wayman, Chief Operating Officer for the BHA, who led the recruitment process said: "Dominic thoroughly deserves this opportunity after building a reputation over many years as one of the world's very best handicappers. He has the respect of his colleagues both within Britain and internationally, and, although it is going to be tough to fill the shoes of Phil Smith, in Dominic we are fortunate to have a successor with the perfect credentials. 

"Dominic has impressed me with his ambitious plans that will introduce broader aims for handicapping consistent with the sport's wider objectives for growth, as well as further strengthening our team and the way it operates. He is also committed to developing a rigorous data-driven approach to setting handicapping policy."     

An important aspect of Gardiner-Hill's role will be leading the implementation of recommendations from an internal handicapping review, which was led by respected racing journalist and broadcaster Lydia Hislop.

The report, which was approved by the Board in 2017, has made recommendations in a number of areas including in relation to the aims of handicapping, handicapping methodology and more general operational matters. The recommendations include that more should be done to explain and publish handicapping methodologies and become more open and transparent; carrying out more statistically rigorous analysis of handicapping data; enhanced communication with trainers including an improved process for trainers to appeal against handicapping decisions to an independent panel; and increasing the synergy between the BHA's handicapping, stewarding and integrity departments.   

The recommendations are currently being developed ahead of a consultation process with racing's stakeholders, which will take place during the remainder of 2018.

Lydia Hislop said: "BHA handicapping must be predicated on objective and rigorously scientific data-interrogation to ensure its policies are optimal in achieving a fair outcome, as far as possible, for all participants within a competitive racing environment.

"These recommendations also seek to ensure the official handicapping process is more understandable and accessible—not only for the practical benefit of trainers and owners but also to better inform, educate and engage the wider sporting and betting public.

"Furthermore, British racing's participants must have confidence that any queries or concerns they might have with the handicapping process are dealt with efficiently and substantially, via a transparently fair process."