Successful two-year-old novice programme extended to three-year-olds and up for 2018

07 Sep 2017 BHA Features
  • Novice programme for three-year-olds and older horses to be introduced from beginning of 2018
  • Move follows success of introduction of full programme of two-year-old novice races in 2016
  • Initiative aims to ensure race programme provides timely and fair opportunities for horse population

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has today announced the introduction of novice races for both three-year-old and older horses from 2018.

From the start of next year, the majority of three-year-old maiden races will be converted to novice events to provide greater opportunities for horses to develop within a programme of novice races by increasing the opportunities for horses that win races in the early stages of their careers. This will not affect the balance of open, auction and median auction contests.

It is an extension of the successful conversion of the two-year-old maiden programme which began last year.

The move will ensure more opportunities for horses to progress within the Novice programme and provide a programme that complements changes to handicapping rules that will remove the difficulty and uncertainty of handicapping lightly raced winners. This will mean that three-year-olds and older horses will now be required to run three times in order to receive a handicap mark unless they have run twice and won both races.

Due to the size of the weight-for-age allowances that three-year-olds receive in the first half of the year, there will also be early novice opportunities for horses aged four and up.

These will be programmed during the all-weather period and into the first few weeks of the Flat season in order to provide sufficient opportunities and avoid three-year-olds being required to race off very light weights.

Richard Wayman, Chief Operating Officer at the BHA, said: “We have been pleased with how the two-year-old novice programme has been received and, with these proposals having received unanimous support from the Racing Group, are confident it will be similarly effective for horses aged three and up.

“The changes are designed to make sure the race programme consistently services the needs of the entire horse population, supporting the career progression of lightly raced winners who will now have plenty of opportunities without having to run in handicaps. The revised criteria for being eligible for a handicap rating will mean that our handicappers will have more evidence to accurately assess horses who win on their first or second start, thereby reducing the risk of a lightly raced horse being significantly under or overrated.”

Trainer John Gosden said: “This is further progress in Race Planning as it gives further opportunities to horses that have broken their maiden in their first or second start and has been very successful in the two-year-old programme.

“This also mirrors the allowance system that exists in America and allows a trainer to develop a horse’s career more logically.”

Trainer Mark Johnston said: “The 2yo Novice programme has worked very well. It has provided more opportunities for winners which have not been allocated a handicap rating and is a small step in reducing the reliance on the handicaps. I see no reason why the same system should not work for older horses.”

Trainer William Haggas said: “Having been a supporter of the changes to the two year old Novice programme, which have proved to be a great success, I am delighted that he BHA has sanctioned these further changes into the three year old season.

“We must encourage all participants to perform to their best at all times and whereas, in the past, a horse winning on its first ever start has been limiting to its future prospects, this gives trainers, owners and handicappers a fairer chance.”

Trainer Ralph Beckett, also the Flat racing representative on the BHA’s Racing Group, said: “It has been necessary to roll out the novice programme into the three year old season as a result of previous changes made to the programme for two year olds.

“It should be stressed that this is a work in progress and that the BHA will monitor the impact of the changes closely, specifically with regard to the suitability of penalty structures.”

Notes to editors:

1. Membership of the BHA’s committees, including the Racing Group, can be found here.