The BHA has slashed the number of novice, beginners' and maiden chases by 20 per cent for the up and coming jumps season in an effort to increase field sizes and keep races competitive.
To counter to effect of a drop in the number of races, the BHA has also created three end-of-season novice handicap chases with a minimum of £60,000 prize-money open to horses that have run in at least two weight-for-age novice chases during the season.
Furthermore, from October 1 until the end of the 2012-13 jumps season, all novice chasers will have had to have run in a weight-for-age novice chase before contesting a handicap chase.
Ruth Quinn (pictured), the BHA's Director of Racing, said that racing's governing body had been worried about small novice chase fields for some time and that it had become increasingly difficult to support small, uncompetitive races.
She said: "Figures show a decline of 18 per cent in field sizes since the 2007-08 season for all novice chases, and an increase of 50 per cent in the number of races attracting only four runners or fewer.
"The findings highlighted the need for more radical action than our previously implemented modifications. It is our view that to take no action potentially puts the long term future of the novice chase programme at risk and firm measures are required to arrest the decline."
"To reduce the number of races in the programme was an obvious step. However, in isolation this was not deemed sufficient. Too many horses are running in their first chase in a handicap, which is having a detrimental impact on the weight-for-age novice chase programme, so we have decided to trial it being mandatory that horses make their chasing debut in a weight-for-age race."
She added: "We hope that the three new, valuable finals in April will serve as a worthwhile incentive for connections of horses to run in at least two weight-for-age novice chases, as well as providing further exciting and competitive end-of-season races for the punter."
Richard Wayman, Chief Executive of the Racehorse Owners Association, backed the move by the BHA and said: "The ROA recognises that, to protect the future of these essential races, action is required to ensure that they don't start to disappear from the programme in an unmanaged or un-coordinated way.
"The importance of these races in providing young chasers with the opportunity to learn their trade cannot be overstated and we believe that, particularly by pruning those races that are not well supported and by creating a small number of valuable opportunities in the spring, there are good reasons to believe that this trial will lead to a healthier and better balanced novice chase programme."
15 August 2012