- Sandown Listed Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle upgraded to Grade 2, alongside new Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle being added to The Cheltenham Festival
- Long term plans to add Mares’ Chase to The Festival, to be supported by programme of Pattern/Listed Chases for mares
- Objectives to boost numbers of mares in training by providing valuable and comprehensive programme of opportunities
Following the announcement that a Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle has been added to The Cheltenham Festival, the BHA has today outlined further enhancements to the mares’ programme, both in the short and longer term. The enhancements have the objective of providing further incentives for owners and trainers to own mares and keep them in training.
In the short term the addition of a Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle to The Festival programme provides a further, substantial incentive for talented mares to be brought into training over Jumps. This race joins the OLBG David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle, which was recently upgraded to Grade 1 status, in ensuring that The Festival provides valuable and prestigious opportunities for mares.
In addition to this new race at The Festival, the Weatherbys Jane Seymour Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (Listed), which is run at Sandown in February over 2 miles about 4 furlongs, has been upgraded to Grade 2 status. The result of this is that there are now nine Pattern or Listed Mares’ Novices Hurdles over the course of the season.
In the longer term the BHA are working with Cheltenham to explore the possibility of a Mares’ Chase being added to The Festival in the coming years, to be supported by a programme of Pattern and Listed Steeple Chases for mares. To pave the way for this, invitations have been sent to racecourses for applications for two new Listed Mares’ Chases to be run in November and February, joining the existing Mares’ Chase that was added to the programme last season at Doncaster in December (whilst Doncaster’s meeting was unfortunately abandoned, the mares’ chase was successfully rescheduled at Doncaster in January).
Should the addition of a Mares’ Chase at The Festival occur it is intended that a further three Pattern/Listed races will be added to the Mares’ Chase programme. This will have the effect of ensuring that an aspirational and valuable programme of races will exist for mares over fences, and as such a genuine incentive to keep talented mares in training.
Ruth Quinn, Director of International Racing and Racing Development for the BHA, said:
“The developments outlined today are a further step in developing a comprehensive, valuable and aspirational programme of races for mares across Novice Hurdle, Hurdle and Chase codes. It is hoped that this will help to encourage a meaningful change in behaviour with the long-term objective of bolstering the numbers of Jumping mares in training.
“Mares still represent a significant, relatively untapped, opportunity in terms of boosting the Jumping horse population. There are many reasons why providing incentives to put Jumping-bred mares into training and running them would provide a major fillip for the sport, aside from simply helping field sizes. These include the meaningful assistance it could provide for breeders, the continued growth of a competitive market for such horses at the sales, and the provision of greater incentive to test them on the racecourse, allowing their ability to race and to jump to develop properly before having them retired to the paddocks.
“People love to see talented mares competing over Jumps and whilst we have done much in recent years to pave the way for this to increasingly happen, there’s more to be done. We certainly have an ambition to, over time, produce the optimal mares’ Black Type programme in Britain.
“The addition of two new Listed events over fences this season will form part of a stepped approach to the implementation of the mares’ Black Type Steeple Chase programme, with at least three more to be added in the coming years, ideally alongside the inclusion of such a race at The Festival.”
The Racing Department recently invited all owners and trainers of mares that ran in a Mares’ Pattern or Listed Hurdle race during the season to participate in a short online questionnaire regarding the implementation of a Black Type Mares’ Steeple Chase programme.
The results of that questionnaire included 68% of owners/trainers saying that they would definitely send their horse Chasing if there was a similar Pattern/Listed programme (akin to Hurdles) for mares over fences and 89% saying that they would reconsider retiring a mare if a Pattern/Listed Chase programme existed.
Trainer Alan King said:
“These developments to the mares programme can only be for the good of the sport. We’ve always supported the mares races but a better Black Type programme of Mares Chases in particular will provide a real incentive to keep good horses in training.
“The programme may take a little bit of time to develop, it’s not going to happen overnight, but in the long run this should prove to be a worthwhile investment for the sport.”
Attempts have also been made to improve the balance of mares’ opportunities below Pattern/Listed level to incentivise the flow of mares into training. To this end a Rule has also been introduced in 2015 requiring racecourses to run a minimum of one mares’ race for every three days Jump racing.
Notes for Editors:
- Initiatives undertaken so far to enhance the mares programme:
- 2003 – Introduction of three Class 2, £30,000 Open Mares’ Handicap Hurdles at Wincanton, Kempton and Ayr, match funded by the BHA Development Fund.
- 2007 – Introduction of three WFA Listed Hurdles at Wetherby, Kempton and Sandown and three Grade 2’s at Ascot, Doncaster and Cheltenham (David Nicholson).
- 2012 – Introduction of seven Listed Mares’ Novices’ Hurdles, across the age and distance categories.
- 2013 – Introduction of two additional Mares’ National Hunt Flat races in the autumn, to complement the existing races at Sandown and Aintree in the spring.
- 2014 – Further Grade 2 Hurdle added at Warwick in February.
- 2015 – The first (non-novices’) Listed Mares’ WFA Steeple Chase introduced at Doncaster in December.
- 2015 – David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle promoted to Grade 1
- 2015 – Rules Committee approved a new Rule for Jump Racing requiring racecourses to run a minimum of 1 Mares’ race for every three days racing.
- 2015 – Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle added to Cheltenham Festival, Sandown Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle upgraded to Grade 2 and two new Mares’ Listed Chases to be added to the race programme