Cheltenham’s changes at The Festival and beyond

Wednesday, October 21, 2015 – In advance of the new season at Cheltenham, which commences with the first day of The Showcase on Friday, October 23, the racecourse has made a number of changes to race programmes and conditions during The Festival and the wider season.

The Festival

Following on from a successful renewal of The Festival earlier this year, which saw record crowds visit the racecourse over the four days, and with Channel 4’s support, the decision has been taken to have 40-minute intervals between all races during The Festival in March next year.

This is in order to provide more time for those involved with the horses, as well as racegoers. With attendances peaking at approximately 70,000 on Gold Cup Day, it is anticipated that a longer gap between races will assist in improving the customer experience.

There is currently a 40-minute interval around the Championship races each day and this will now be extended throughout the whole card, with racing still commencing at 1.30pm but finishing at 5.30pm.

Simon Claisse, South West Regional Head of Racing for Jockey Club Racecourses, explained: “We are pleased that we have been able to work with partners such as Channel 4 in order to be able to introduce a 40-minute gap between all races at The Festival. This will allow those that are involved in the preparation of horses more time to get them to the pre-parade ring and parade ring in sufficient time for racegoers to see them.

“The decision has also been taken to provide our racegoers with more time to use our facilities, including bars and toilets, between races. A full crowd here at Cheltenham, which is nearly 70,000 people, can see a lot of pressure being put on facilities and it is expected that an additional five minutes between races will have a significant impact on our customers’ experience.

“We would also like to thank the BHA and other courses that race over these four days for their help on this matter.”

Channel 4’s Cheltenham Festival coverage will continue to include a daily one-hour Morning Line followed by an extended four-hour afternoon live broadcast from 12:30 to 4:30pm.

The new £75,000 Grade Two Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, which takes place for the first time at The Festival in 2016 on the third day of the meeting, has been registered as the Dawn Run Novices’ Hurdle. Dawn Run, trained by Paddy Mullins and owned by Charmian Hill, captured the Champion Hurdle in 1984 and Cheltenham Gold Cup two years later, making her the only horse to complete the coveted double.

The racecourse, supported by the BHA and trainers, has also made changes to the conditions of the Pertemps Final, staged on the Thursday of The Festival over three miles. Seventeen qualifiers are staged across the season, in order to be able to enter the Final, and, from 2016 onwards, horses will only be eligible to enter the race if they have finished in the first six in any of the qualifiers.

Simon Claisse commented: “To ensure that we have the highest quality race possible, we have taken the decision that a horse must have finished in the first six in a qualifier to be able to run at The Festival. This will ensure that the race at The Festival and the qualifiers are as competitive as possible.”

The Season

There are three Glenfarclas Cross-Country races at Cheltenham during the season, hosted during The Open, The International and The Festival.

Simon Claisse explained: “We have also adjusted the conditions of the three Cross-Country chases run during the season.

“The race at The Festival has changed from a handicap to a conditions event and will be run off level weights. The race was introduced in 2005 and we have seen some magnificent renewals over the years, more recently with Balthazar King, who is being aimed at the race again next year, and it seems fitting that it should be a level weights race along with many others on the card over the four days.

“Historically, the November race had been a conditions event and the December race a handicap, but we have switched those two around.”

Away from The Festival, the Grade Two Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle has moved from The International in December to the New Year’s Day fixture, replacing the two and a half mile conditions hurdle.

Simon Claisse added: “There was a two and a half mile conditions hurdle on New Year’s Day that attracted the same profile of runners as the Relkeel Hurdle, staged three weeks before at The International.

“We have worked with the British Horseracing Authority to move the Grade Two Relkeel Hurdle to January 1, so that black-type opportunities for horses in that category fall at more regular intervals.”

The first meeting of the season at Cheltenham is The Showcase on Friday and Saturday, October 23 & 24.

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