Modifications to the new Flat Racing Structure announced by BHB today will increase flexibility and choice for owners and trainers, as well as enabling greater fine-tuning of the handicap programme during the year to suit the changing demands of the horse population.
The amendments, which will commence from the start of the Turf season in March, follow the review of the new Structure’s operation since its introduction on 1st September 2004. BHB had undertaken at that stage to carry out a thorough analysis at the end of the 2004 Turf season.
The BHB Board agreed the changes following their approval by the Race Planning Committee. They also have the support of the National Trainers Federation, with whose Flat Committee and Executive detailed discussions have taken place.
A 15lb weight range will be retained in the majority of handicaps, but the system will feature 5lb overlaps between rating bands. Accordingly, more rating bands will be included within each Class. This is expected to reduce overall the number of higher-rated horses being eliminated, although the central cause of eliminations – demand for opportunities to race outstripping supply in all but the summer months – will persist, due to the constraints of the current Fixture List.
Additionally, recognising that diverse challenges will be faced at different times of the year, the option to introduce ‘bands within bands’ will exist to cater for particular sections of the horse population at times of the year when demand to race is at its peak. Handicaps may be advertised for horses rated, for instance, 56-62 or 71-78.
The five-Class system will become a seven-Class system. The introduction of overlapping bands has necessitated the creation of an extra Class, while what was Class 1 has been divided into two smaller Classes, with Pattern and Listed races solely comprising Class 1.
BHB Racing Director Ruth Quinn said: “Our consultation during the review has demonstrated substantial support for the principles of the new Flat structure – contrary to many of the headlines in recent months.
“We knew when we launched the new system in September that certain aspects would have to be adjusted as things settled down. We expect that the revised structure, which increases our own race planning options and choices for owners and trainers, will be well received. The key word is flexibility.
“It is worth reiterating that the main reason for eliminations over the autumn and winter is that we are simply unable at present to stage sufficient races for the number of horses. That isn’t the fault of the new Flat system. Connections of lower-rated horses, particularly those 35 and under, should be aware that they can expect to face severe difficulty in getting a run until the Spring.”
Revised Race Classes
Class 1 Pattern & Listed races (including Listed handicaps of 96-110)
Class 2 Heritage Handicaps
Class 3 81-95
Class 4 71-85
Class 5 61-75
Class 6 51-65
Class 7 Regional Racing
* Class 6 will also incorporate some 46–55 races, as at times of high demand these horses constitute a significant proportion of eliminations. Equally, during June, July and August there is just one Regional fixture in 2005: in these months, it is likely that Class 6 will include horses rated 35–55, which will help to ensure competitive fields.