The British Horseracing Board has announced that greater flexibility will be introduced into the entry qualification criteria for Flat handicap races, providing more opportunities to run for those horses that are currently being eliminated from Class 1, 2, 3 and 4 races.
For races closing on or after Monday, October 11th until at least the end of 2004, all Handicaps in Class 1 to 4, except Heritage handicaps and Nursery Handicaps, will be open to horses rated up to 7lb above the original advertised maximum rating of the race. The excess in any rating will be added to the maximum weight stated in the conditions of the race. Therefore, for example, a Class 2 handicap advertised as being for horses rated 71 to 85 will also be open to horses rated 86 to 92.
BHB Racing Director Ruth Quinn said today:
“The fundamental reason that we are seeing a significant number of horses balloted out of Flat races is exactly the same as in almost every autumn – insufficient opportunities for the number of horses wanting to run. But, that said, the situation has improved on last year at a time when the sport has expanded and is performing well.
“The total number of runners in Flat handicaps increased by 11% in September 2004 compared to 2003, from 3,111 to 3,451, and the number of eliminations from handicaps fell by 15% from 1,189 to 1,011. Yet we had one fewer Flat handicap race (237 compared to 238) and the number of horses in training rose by 8%.
“The new Flat system introduced on 1st September this year promotes meritocracy and hasn’t become a bad idea after five weeks of operation. The Racing Review Committee spent nearly a year developing and consulting on the concept and we have spent almost as long again converting the previous race programme.
“We have always said that we will be flexible and open to making adjustments. We are monitoring the effect of the new system on an ongoing basis and there will be an initial full review at the end of the turf Flat season, which will take into account the views of all interested parties. The structure as a whole will inevitably evolve as time progresses.”