The British Horseracing Authority has begun a consultation exercise that could lead to a major restructuring of racing’s programme for two-year-olds. The drive behind the idea is to increase the number of races maiden winners can take part in.
Last season 713 juvenile maiden races took place. That number could fall by as much as 80%, reducing the number of races restricted to maidens to around 140 if the proposals are brought in. Put simply, it would be a programme with similarities to novice hurdles and chases. Most juvenile races would be open to past winners, who would run with a penalty against their maiden counterparts. There were just 39 novice two-year-old races run last year, open to horses that had not won more than twice.
Trainer Richard Fahey, who always has a large number of first season horses in his yard at Malton, gave the idea a cautious welcome. He told the Racing Post, “This is one of those things you can’t be sure how it would affect you until it happens. We won a novice the other day with a horse first time out at Newcastle. It’s often hard to find a race for a maiden winner, and was especially so last season when we had eight or nine two-year-olds winning early on. It will all depend on the penalty structure but I could see it working. I can’t see it being a bad thing.”
The BHA will be particularly interested to hear what trainers think is the right level of penalty. They have to find a position that will encourage entries from both winners and maidens and unraced horses. There is the risk of small fields if the terms of the new races are seen to favour previous winners, and if they look to benefit maidens, then the whole idea will fall flat on its face.
Discussions are at a very early stage at the moment, as both the BHA and the National Trainers’ Federation acknowledged. With no definite proposals on the table, there’s an open invitation to all elements of the racing industry to have their say.