Essential changes made by BHB to the Novices’ Chase structure and race programme are succeeding in their aims of increasing field sizes and competitiveness.
The revisions to these vital races – which were experiencing difficulties in remaining competitive and were increasingly under threat as a result – have led to average field sizes in every Class of Weight-For-Age (WFA) event increasing on last season.
The races have also been characterised by a greater level of competitiveness, with each Class of race seeing more horses of similar ability racing against one another with regularity.
There is also further evidence to contradict the commonly-expressed belief that horses running in higher-grade Novices’ Chases have their ratings raised by a greater amount than if competing in lower-grade events. As indicated in the attached statistics, 86% of runners in Class A-C WFA Novices’ Chases had their rating subsequently decreased or left unaltered.
The interim review carried out by BHB’s Racing Department covers races from 1st October 2004, the date on which the changes came into effect, to 10th January 2005. Its other findings demonstrate:
• A dramatic reduction in the number of races with 4 or fewer runners – just 17 WFA Novices’ Chases, representing 17% of the total – compared with 96 (50.3%) in the same period in 2003/04 and 70 (38.3%) in 2002/03
• 48 WFA Novices’ Chases (30.2% of the total) with 8 or more runners, significantly up from 31 (16.2%) and 36 (19.7%) in the last two seasons.
• An average starting price of the favourite of 6/4, compared to Evens and 6/5 in the last two seasons
The revised system was formulated by BHB in consultation with senior National Trainers Federation representatives and were approved by a series of industry-wide panels. They were regarded by all parties as necessary for the ultimate benefit of Novices’ Chases. Horses are now required to move up in grade once their effectiveness over fences is proven, as opposed to running up a sequence in lower grade races.
BHB Racing Director Ruth Quinn said: “We knew that not everyone would welcome the new system with open arms. But changes had to happen so that a comprehensive race programme could have a chance of remaining in place. If we had gone on as before, more and more races would have disappeared as racecourses would have had no appetite to stage them.
“It is also pleasing to see, once again, that many trainers’ fears that their horses will be disproportionately raised by the handicappers in higher-grade races are not borne out by the evidence.”
Average field sizes of Novices’ WFA Steeple Chases (from 1st October to 10th January):
A & B Class C Class D & E Beginners’ Class D & E Novices’
2004-05 5.89 6.24 7.42 6.3
2003-04 5.17 4.61 6.25 5.14
2002-03 5.87 5.64 6.8 6.4
Number of Novices’ WFA Steeple Chases with 4 or less runners:
2004-05 27 17.0%
2003-04 96 50.3%
2002-03 70 38.3%
Number of Novices’ WFA Steeple Chases with 8 or more runners:
2004-05 48 30.2%
2003-04 31 16.2%
2002-03 36 19.7%