Monday 19 October 2015

Two-year-old racing set to change with novices stakes the norm

As reported on the Sporting Life
In a move designed to provide an improved programme and incentive for winners to run more often, around 90 per cent of maiden races in the first half of the season will be converted to novice contests on a trial basis.
The change is a result of extensive consultation with trainers and agreement of a clear need to address a long-held concern that two-year-olds who win in the early part of the season, prior to the introduction of nursery handicaps, have very few opportunities to assist them along the path of development.
Those opportunities that do currently exist tend to attract very small, uncompetitive fields, with an average of 4.83 runners per race over the last two seasons and an average starting price for the favourite of 10-11.
Ruth Quinn, director of international racing and racing development, said: "The BHA has been in consultation with trainers on this matter over the course of a few years and several different proposals have been raised during this time, but one thing that was generally consistent was an acknowledgement of the need to act to address this issue.
"We should have a system in place that encourages progression, and as things stand that development programme for two-year-olds in the first half of the season is not working.
"The idea of taking this significant step to convert a proportion of maiden races to novices effectively replicates the approach to the novice hurdle programme, where winners, maidens and unraced horses compete against each other on a regular basis.
"We accept that this is a major change and therefore potentially a brave move. However, only by making such a significant change does the BHA feel that it can offer a meaningful improvement to the programme for winning horses, whilst also reducing the number of small-field races at a time when this is such an important issue for the sport.
"The changes we make will be on a trial basis at first and we will monitor the success of the trial before committing to anything in the longer term.
"It is anticipated that early season novice races will largely be contested by debutants (akin to existing maiden races), but it is hoped that the amended programme would act as an encouragement for the majority of two-year-old winners to run again.
"A penalty structure will be put in place which avoids deterring debutantes or as-yet-unsuccessful horses from running against winners, which they previously would have avoided if they had been able to compete in maiden races.
"The BHA will monitor this penalty structure closely in the early part of the trial and will be ready to adjust race conditions where necessary if evidence indicates that any specific advantage is being given to either winners or to maiden horses in these new events."