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festival hits ceiling

Field sizes for a number of key events at the Cheltenham Festival this year are to be reduced following a review with the British Horseracing Authority's senior inspector.

The maximum field size for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle and the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle will be 22 runners from 24 runners, likewise the JCB Triumph Hurdle.


One of the week's most competitive contests is the Coral Cup and that will have a ceiling of 26 runners from 28, as will the Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle. The Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle will now be 22 runners from 24 runners.

The changes have been made to improve bypassing arrangements.

In other changes, the prize-money for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle and Ryanair Chase will rise to £300,000, an increase of £25,000 for each race.

The changes made to the three-mile handicap chase starts on both the Old Course and the New Course, to improve the starts and used to date this season, will also apply at the Festival. Meanwhile, the 3lb allowance for riders riding for their own stable and the 7lb allowance for riders who have not ridden a winner will be removed from the race conditions in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle race.

BHA racing operations manager Stuart Middleton said: "Removing the additional 3lb allowance removes any temptation to gamble on inexperience for what is the highest profile conditional jockeys event of the year, unless trainers are comfortable that it is the right booking for the horse.


"We do not have an issue with trainers using their own riders and understand the desire to keep successful partnerships intact, but other trainers who might prefer to book the best available rider should not be discouraged from doing so, as was previously the case with these allowances.

"The same sentiments apply to the booking of riders who have not ridden a winner."