Beckett supports new 2YO programme
Trainer Ralph Beckett believes changes to the two-year-old programme announced by the British Horseracing Authority on Monday will "give opportunities for all."
Ralph Beckett: Backs new 2YO programme
The BHA has outlined a number of enhancements for 2017 and beyond which build upon a successful trial in 2016 which saw the significant majority (80 per cent) of maiden races converted to novice contests between the start of the Flat turf season and the beginning of July.
The trial aimed to address concerns that juveniles who win in the early part of the campaign, before the introduction of nursery handicaps, have very few opportunities to develop after their early season success.
Following a review by the Racing Group, significant support from many trainers and encouraging data, the BHA has approved a proposal that the trial should now be rolled out for the full Flat season.
The data suggests novice and maiden races were made more competitive as a result of the trial and average field sizes in novice races rose from 5.08 to 7.84.
As a result, a further 442 maiden races (82 per cent of maiden races) from July to the end of the season have been converted to novice contests.
Beckett said: "The extension of this trial to cover the whole two-year-old programme is an obvious step based on its success in 2016.
"The Nursery handicapping changes should make it transparent for all involved, enable the handicappers to assess horses accurately, and hence benefit horsemen, whilst the increased number of Auction races is based on statistical analysis in order to make best use of the horse population, and give opportunities for all."
Richard Wayman, chief operating officer for the BHA, added: "We were very encouraged by the success of the trial in 2016 and the feedback we received from many horsemen. That feedback included a clear consensus that, as part of a wider package of measures, the trial would be even more effective if it was extended to the full year.
"The conversion of maiden races to novices provided more opportunities for two-year-olds and improved field sizes without any impact on the competitiveness of races. We are delighted that these proposals received unanimous support from the Racing Group. We will continue to closely monitor the impact of the extension of the trial in 2017, and to consult with horsemen."
The extension of the novice race programme has also allowed the BHA to make changes to the criteria by which two-year-old horses will qualify for a handicap mark.
Under the changes, two-year-olds will now need to run at least three times in a Flat race, or win twice, before being allocated a handicap mark and the ability to run in a nursery handicap.
Further changes include that two-year-old handicap ratings will be published prior to the beginning of the programme of nursery handicaps in July and the current Rule that prevents a once-raced winner rated 81 or above, or a twice-raced winner rated 86 or above from running in a handicap has also been removed.
Wayman said: "The extension of the novice programme means that lightly-raced winners will now have plenty of opportunities without having to run in handicaps, and the revised qualifying criteria will mean that handicappers would have more evidence to accurately assess and rate two-year-olds, thereby reducing the risk of a lightly raced horse being significantly under or overrated.
"There will also be greater transparency by publishing handicap ratings before the first nurseries are staged at the beginning of July."
The BHA has planned an increase of 50 per cent in the share of auction races within the two-year-old novice and maiden programme. This is due to concerns raised by trainers that the lack of opportunities was forcing them to run horses in open company where they were struggling to compete. This will be achieved by converting some existing open maiden and open novice, as well as median auction races, into auction races.
Finally, the package of improvements will include introducing an auction cap in median auction races and, as part of a rebalancing of the programme, increasing opportunities at seven furlongs and eight furlongs in the autumn with a corresponding reduction in races over sprint distances.
Wayman concluded: "The significant package of changes we have published today represent another step in the longer-term project to overhaul and improve the two-year-old programme. There is more work to be done but we will continue to make improvements where they are supported by evidence and the views of our participants."