Cheltenham announces changes to conditions for amateur heats at the Festival

Tue 24 Oct 2017

Officials at Cheltenham have announced a change to entry conditions for amateur riders taking part in the Kim Muir and the Foxhunter Chase at next year's Festival.

From 2018 onwards, the two prestigious amateur events will be restricted to riders holding a category B permit, bringing the races in line with the National Hunt Chase.

Simon Claisse, regional head of racing for Jockey Club Racecourses South West and clerk of the course at Cheltenham, said: "The Festival is the best four days of jump racing in the calendar and has grown into an event which receives worldwide attention. An important and historic dimension to the Festival is the provision of races for amateur riders alongside those for professionals. We are proud of this tradition, which goes all the way back to the foundation of jump racing."

He added: "This change to the entry conditions for amateur riders will ensure that all competitors have appropriate experience over fences to compete at this level and also by announcing this change now it gives jockeys enough time to qualify for their category B licence."

Amateur jockeys holding a category B permit require at least 15 completed rides under Rules, the majority of which must have come over obstacles, or at least 20 completed rides in point-to-points and/or under Rules.

Holders of an equivalent permit from a recognised overseas racing authority - including a category C permit issued in Ireland - will also be eligible to ride at the Festival.

Sarah Oliver, CEO of the Amateur Jockeys Association, said: "It is welcome news to the Amateur Jockeys Association concerning this change in race conditions for the St James's Place Foxhunter Chase and the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase.

"These showcase races are anticipated from one season to the next by the amateur fraternity and it is only right that the race conditions should reflect the prestige of them."

Under the new conditions, dual Olympic gold medal-winning cyclist Victoria Pendleton would not have been eligible to ride in the 2016 Foxhunter Chase.

Pendleton took on a controversial 'Switching Saddles' challenge promoted by Betfair in the hope that she could compete at the Festival and after several rides in point-to-points and hunter chases, she steered the Paul Nicholls-trained Pacha Du Polder to finish fifth at Prestbury Park.

Jamie Stier, chief regulatory officer for the British Horseracing Authority, said: "The Cheltenham Festival is the pinnacle of the jump season, and each year the interest and scrutiny on all of the races run at the meeting grows.

"The changes to entry conditions for amateur riders announced today have the full support of the BHA and will ensure that only the very best-qualified amateur jockeys take part in what are thorough tests for both horse and rider."

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