The changing shape of the National Hunt calendar

In just a couple of weeks’ time we will know the racing calendar for 2013. The names of Folkestone and Hereford won’t be included, and we’ve already noted the changes to the make up of the novice chase programme. Now there’s news of two further changes to the structure of the National Hunt programme.

Worries that pressures in the breeding industry brought on by the economic downturn will in time lead to fewer mares across the racing and breeding population are behind the British Horseracing Authority’s decision to increase the number of races restricted to mares. There has been a fall in the number of mares running of more than 5% during the last three seasons, from 6,012 to 5,679.

The new races will primarily be handicap hurdles, with the total number of mares only races increasing by a quarter between October and the end of the season. Additionally, a package of six new Listed novice hurdles between December and February will likely attract a decent level of interest. The Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association will sponsor one of these with the Levy Board supporting the other five.

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Robert Waley-Cohen, Chairman of the TBA’s National Hunt Committee, said, "It is important for the whole industry that mares are proven on the racecourse before breeding from them so it is a great step forward to have these new opportunities. I particularly welcome the 6 new Listed novice hurdles, as until the TBA sponsored one in April there were no non-handicap Listed opportunities for fillies only. Having these races will boost the value of fillies and give them greater opportunities to earn black type.”

In a further move, Jockey Club Racecourses has teamed up with Irish feed supplier Red Mills to stage a series of 13 bumper races across its courses, starting at Market Rasen at the end of this month, and concluding at Aintree next May. Trainers of the first four home in each race will score 7, 5, 3, and one points, with the series winner picking up £2,000 worth of Red Mills products.

Speaking about the partnership, Paul Fisher, group-managing director of JCR told the Racing Post, “Connolly’s Red Mills has supported a number of our racecourses over the years, so I’m delighted it has decided to extend its sponsorship across 13 bumper races. This partnership provides another boost to the grassroots of our sport.” Joe Connolly, managing director of Red Mills, said that the agreement was further evidence of their determination to support the racing industry.”

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