Four current or recent members of the NTF’s National Hunt Committee were part of a working group that has made recommendations announced today on the Novice Chase system.
A detailed data analysis was carried out, supported by a questionnaire for Jump trainers and the exploration of a variety of proposals. Thanks to all trainers who responded to the questions. It is essential for the future health of the sport that the race programme provides incentives for trainers and owners to send horses of all abilities Chasing.
The recommendations, which were approved by the sport’s cross-industry Racing Group and the BHA Board and will be implemented from 1 October 2017, are as follows:
- No handicap rating increase in weight-for-age Novices’ Chases of Class 2 and below other than for the winner. This will only apply to horses that have already run four times over obstacles (either hurdles or fences.)
The working party felt that perception can be as important as reality and to encourage more horses to run in weight-for-age Novices’ Chases, trainers’ preconceptions of the handicappers’ reaction needs to be addressed. This has been shown to be effective in flat conditions races.
- An increase in the number of weight-for-age Novices’ Chases, to be balanced by a decrease in number of Novices’ handicap Chases. A maximum increase of 25% on the current programme of 200 weight-for-age Chases was proposed
- Programming of six ‘confined’ races during the autumn for horses which have not won more than one race over hurdles. This proposal is aimed at providing a pathway for the later-maturing type destined for Chasing.
Analysis of the horse population revealed a pool of 948 horses went chasing who would have fulfilled these criteria in 2016/17
- Rating band for the Listed Novices’ Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival to be increased to 0-145 (from 0-140).
This race has become a key seasonal target for many Novice Chasers, resulting in the cut off for elimination this year being 137. Increasing the banding to 0-145 was considered a more sensible cut off for the handicap and key to the success of the new system, with horses rated 146 and above capable of holding their own in Graded company.
- Valuable Novices’ Handicap Chase Series Final to be programmed in the spring. Racecourses to be given the opportunity to apply to stage the £100,000 Final, which will be supported by the BHA Development Fund. Horses must run in at least two weight-for-age Novices’ or Beginners’ Chase during the season in order to enter the Final.
Trainers involved directly on the working group were Nick Alexander, Philip Hobbs, Emma Lavelle and Dan Skelton.