BHA trials to boost Novice Chase fields

The British Horseracing Authority has announced the introduction of three new £60,000 Novice Chases as part of a series of trials for 2012-13, designed to increase the average number of runners in novice chases and so safeguard the future of that kind of race.

Over the last five years the number of runners in novice chases has fallen by 18% from 6.1 to 5.5. The decrease in field size is greater in beginners’ chases (7.5 to 5.3), Maiden Chases (9.4 to 6.4) and novice handicap chases (9.0 to 7.2). More worrying still is the increase from 56 to 88 of the number of novice chases contested by only 2-4 horses.

In an attempt to arrest this trend the BHA has announced a number of trial measures to operate from 1 October until the end of the 2012/13 jumping season. There will be a reduction in the overall numbers of novice chase races of 20%, meaning they could disappear from some cards altogether. Secondly, horses will have to take part in a novice event before they can take part in a handicap chase.

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Ruth Quinn, director of racing at the BHA said, “We recognise and value the important role Novices’ Chases play in developing the sport’s stars of the future but it was becoming increasingly hard to support a growing number of uncompetitive races. It is our view that to take no action potentially puts the long term future of the Novice Chase programme at risk and firm measures are requires to arrest the decline.”

Those administrative changes will go some way to redressing the balance, but it’s the introduction of the three new races that catches the eye. They will be run over distances of 2 miles, 2miles 4 furlongs, and 3 miles in April next year. A qualifying condition will be that entrants must have run in two weight-for-age novice or beginners’ events.

The BHA and its partner in this venture, the Levy Board, have yet to decide where the three races will be run, but indicated that one factor is likely to be the amount of prize money courses have put into the novice chase programme throughout the season. Whilst the Levy Board is putting £30,000 into each race, the remainder will have to come from the course itself.

Speaking for the Racecourse Owners’ Association, chief executive Richard Wayman said, “The ROA recognises that, to protect the future of these essential races, action is required to ensure that they don’t start to disappear from the programme in an unmanaged or un-coordinated way. The importance of these races to providing young chasers with the opportunity to learn their trade cannot be overstated. There are good reasons to believe that this trial will lead to a healthier and better balanced Novice Chase programme.”

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