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Cheltenham Festival Changes for 2020

Thom Malone
Thom Malone

12:39 12 Aug 2019


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The unsightly end to the 2019 National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival will not be repeated when new rules come into force in 2020.

The race traditionally known as the "four-miler" will now be run over just three miles and six furlongs, or specifically three miles five furlongs and 201 yards. There will also be fewer obstacles jumped, 23 rather than the 25 previously.

The changes come into force on the back of The Jockey Club and BHA analysing a decade's worth of data as well as seeking input from experts and participants.

The changes will come into place in 2020 Cheltenham Festival and will be revised after a three - year period to monitor their effectiveness.

Tough Watch

The 2019 renewal of the National Hunt Chase was a grim spectacle in the closing stages with Le Breuil leading home just four finishers. The favourite, Ballyward, suffered a fatal fall. Three jockeys were also given bans after the race.

As well as changes to the race there will be restrictions on both the horses and riders eligible to participate. Horses will need to attain a minimum rating of 120. This is also the case in all of the other graded novice chases at the Cheltenham Festival.

Horses must also have run in at least two chases, with at least one of them being in the current season. The potential runners must also have finished in the first four over two miles and an extended seven furlongs. This stipulation would have ruled out last year's second-place finisher Discorama. Paul Nolan's horse actually fell when running over three miles in the run-up last year's Festival.

The riders will be further restricted too. All jockeys must have ridden at least 20 times on the track, this is excluding point-to-points. The riders also have to have had at least five winners over fences. This criterion would have excluded the fourth-placed jockey from 2019, Damien Skehan. He has only ridden two chase winners in the last five years.

Dream

Derek O'Connor has won the race twice previously, most recently on Edwulf. The Champion amateur said: "The National Hunt chase is one of the races you dream about winning when you become an amateur jockey. The changes that have been made may mean some riders have to get more experience than they would have previously. That's no bad thing and overall the new requirements look pretty fair".

As well as changes to the National Hunt Chase, a Mares' Chase will also be introduced in the 2021 Festival. However, there will still be 28 races at Cheltenham and instead, a race will be removed to make way for the mares' chase. It is as yet unconfirmed which race will be culled.

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