The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) today announced the results of the trial of changes to the Novices’ Chase programme and race conditions in 2012/13, and subsequent revisions to the Rules following consultation with trainers.
The principal alterations trialled in 2012/13 were that the number of weight-for-age Novices’, Beginners’ and Maiden Steeple Chases would be reduced by up to 20% and all horses going chasing would be required to have run in at least one weight-for-age Steeple Chase prior to running in a Handicap Chase.
The trial ran from 1st October 2012 until the conclusion of the 2012/13 season, with the objective of addressing the trend of declining field sizes in Novices’ Chases. The trial achieved this objective as Novices’ Chases produced an average field size of 6.8, compared to 5.6 for the same period the preceding year. In addition, races attracting fewer than six runners were down from 62% to 43%.
As part of the 2012/13 trial three additional £60,000 races were programmed, open to horses who ran in at least two weight-for-age Novices’ or Beginners’ Chases. These races performed well and will remain in the programme in 2013/14.
Ruth Quinn, Director of Racing for the BHA, said:
“Overall we were pleased with the results generated by the trial in terms of field sizes and the competitiveness of races in this category. The worrying trend towards increasingly smaller fields in previous years needed to be addressed and the trial was a positive first step in doing so.”
Throughout the trial the BHA were in communication with representatives of the National Trainers Federation (NTF) to discuss concerns raised by trainers. As a result of this ongoing dialogue, recommendations for further adjustments to the trial were agreed and presented to the Board of the BHA by the Jump Racing Committee on 5th June 2013. Those recommendations have now been approved.
The main recommendation is an amendment to the Rule that requires a horse to have one run over fences in a weight-for-age Chase before running in Handicaps. Under the revised rule a horse will now be required to have its first start over fences in a weight-for-age Steeple Chase or a Novice Chase of any description, including Handicaps.
Ruth Quinn added:
“The objective of the amendment to the Rules is to build on the increased field sizes which the trial produced while allowing more flexibility for trainers in placing their first-time runners over fences.
“We thank the NTF and the trainers with whom we had constructive dialogue throughout the trial. We hope that the result is a Novices’ Chase programme and conditions which will safeguard the future of these important races for years to come.”
In order to assist with the execution of this amendment, a significant portion of the existing Novices’ and Beginners’ Chases will be converted to Novices’ Handicap Chases.
Rupert Arnold, Chief Executive of the National Trainers Federation, said:
“Before the trial of the new Novices’ Chases system began last October, trainers forecast several problems caused by many horses being uncompetitive when forced to have their first run in weight for age races. The NTF coordinated extensive consultation between trainers and the BHA Racing Department throughout the trial and we are pleased that the changes announced now reflect trainers’ comments.”
In addition it was today announced that the Feltham Novices’ Steeple Chase, one of the highlights of the Novices’ Chase programme, will be permanently renamed “The Kauto Star Novices’ Steeple Chase”. The Boxing Day race was run under this name in 2012 to mark the retirement of the superstar who won a record five King George VI Chases at Kempton Park, and will now carry the name of the great Chaser in perpetuity.