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Jewson Novices’ Chase is Added to Cheltenham Festival Card
07/10/10

Cheltenham Racecourse has announced that there will be a new race at The Festival in March 2011, taking the total number of races at the meeting to 27.

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The new event is the Grade 2 Jewson Novices’ Chase over two and a half miles, giving the leading novice chasers an additional middle distance opportunity between the Grade 1 Irish Independent Arkle Chase (run over two miles) and the Grade 1 RSA Chase (run over an extended three miles).

The new contest will be run as the first race on Thursday, March 17, with the race previously known as The Jewson Novices’ Handicap Chase, now being restricted to horses rated 0-140 and run over a distance two miles, four and a half furlongs on the opening day of The Festival on Tuesday, March 15 as the Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase.

Cheltenham’s Director of Racing, Simon Claisse, commented: “We have always maintained that we would extend the number of races at The Festival if the right contest could be identified which would not diminish the overall quality of the meeting, and would get the support of trainers, owners and breeders.

“A weight for age novices’ chase over two and a half miles has been at the top of the list for some time and we have agreed with the British Horseracing Authority that it will be introduced in 2011.

“An additional race at The Festival is good news for the industry. It gives another winning opportunity for jockeys, trainers, owners and stable staff; it gives our customers at Cheltenham better value and it is bound to produce more betting turnover, which means more Levy."

Bradley Moore, Marketing Services Director of Jewson, the UK’s leading supplier of sustainable timber and building materials, added: "We are delighted to be renewing our association with Cheltenham for a further three years by moving our backing to the Grade 2 Jewson Novices’ Chase at The Festival.

“We are proud that our support of the Novices’ Handicap Chase over the last few years has helped prove the case for this new Grade 2 race for two and a half mile novice chasers."

The Festival 2011 will take place on Tuesday to Friday, March 15 -18.

Edward Gillespie, Managing Director of Cheltenham Racecourse, opened the press conference by saying: “It is nine days until the start of our new season, five weeks and two days to the start of The Open and less than 23 weeks to The Festival.”

Admission prices are mostly unchanged for the third successive year at Cheltenham, with accompanied children aged under 18 admitted free.

Gillespie said: “The one accolade that we hope to hear from customers this season is that Cheltenham is great value. We are totally aware that customers have a choice.

“We have one less raceday this season, 16 rather than 17, with the April evening meeting going for one year, but the actual number of races is only down by two, thanks to one more race at The Festival, two more at the April meeting and an extra hunter chase in May.

“Admission prices have largely remained unchanged. That means you can get into Tattersalls and often Club for £22 and to the Best Mate Enclosure for £12 or less on all occasions outside The Festival. Just compare that with every other major sporting event.

“Prices for The Festival are unchanged except for the Best Mate Enclosure on the Friday which sells out the quickest and that is now £35 until December 6, not a bad price we feel for one of Britain’s top sporting events.

“Most encouragingly ticket sales for The Open in November are 10 per cent ahead of this point last year - to give you an idea of volume, we are talking about 6,500 tickets sold at the moment and we will have sold over 40,000 in advance before the meeting. Restaurant bookings are also showing the same trend which is also encouraging.

“The International meeting in December will see a concerted effort to get AP McCoy voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year and racing must not let this chance go begging.”

The 2010 Festival marks the centenary of the National Hunt Chase finding its permanent home at Cheltenham and with it the National Hunt Meeting.

Gillespie commented: “This is a big centenary as Festival centenaries don’t come around very often and we shall be getting in the mood with The Festival Preview in the Centaur on the Thursday prior and the centenary concert - the Magic of Motown - on the Friday. Tickets are £20 and on sale and in the words of the Four Tops, I’ll be there.

“That Saturday we launch a seven-week photography exhibition called Fine Form here and at the Somerville Gallery in Pitville. On the Monday, there is a Festival centenary golf day at Celtic Manor over the very same course as the Ryder Cup.

“On Tuesday, the first day of The Festival, it will be bowler hats off to those who started the meeting in 1911, the horses who have given The Festival such momentum and the owners and jockeys in whose footsteps the class of 2011 dare to tread.

“Subject to the rehearsal schedule, the staff of Cheltenham will be forming a centenary choir with their own female version of Gareth Malone.

“Wednesday will be Ladies’ Day with awards for high fashion and contributions to jump racing because Thursday is March 17 which means St Patrick’s Day - the last time this will fall in Festival week for a few years.

“More rewards for the most Irish-dressed and we hope that the St Patrick’s Day Derby can be an even bigger fundraiser for Cancer Research UK than the race for women amateurs this March which raised over £150,000.

“The St Patrick’s Day Derby, over one mile and five furlongs, will be open to male and female amateur riders and could prove every bit as competitive as the six races that precede it.

“Then there is totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup day on the Friday. How can fate come up with anything as dramatic as Kauto Star, Denman and Imperial Commander? The suspicion that fate will intervene once again has already caused a sell-out of the 300-seat Panoramic Restaurant, not only on totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup day but on all four days which is way ahead of schedule. At around £600 a head plus wines, our customers identify that as great value.

“Hospitality sales are generally ahead and we hope they stay that way as The Festival does its best to maximise the commercial return to Jockey Club Racecourses.”

Stan James is the new sponsor of the Champion Hurdle on the opening day of The Festival. The Stan James Champion Hurdle will be worth £320,000 - the same as last year - and in addition Stan James is also sponsoring three major races in the build-up to The Festival, the StanJames.com International Hurdle at Cheltenham, the StanJames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle and the StanJames.com Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock Park.

Gillespie explained: “This will create a clear brand association of one sponsor with the road to the Stan James Champion Hurdle. The level of Stan James’ investment is the greatest that we have ever managed to secure into sponsorship for Jump racing and we shall be doing all we can to make sure it is the model for best-value sponsorship for the future.”

Prize money offered at Cheltenham this season totals £5.41 million, six per cent lower than last season because of major Levy Board cuts of £500,000 with some of this offset by the racecourse and sponsors putting more into the prize money pool. Average prize money per race throughout the season is £50,000.

Prize money at The Festival in 2011 comes to £3.38 million, a decrease of £100,000, with an average per race of £125,000.

The main championship races at The Festival will have the value same as last season, with the Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase, as well as the Stan James Champion Hurdle, being worth £320,000, the Ladbrokes World Hurdle £260,000 and the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup £475,000.

The second last fence on the Old Course at Cheltenham has been moved into the straight.

Claisse explained: “We moved fence 14, the second last, on the Old Course as the fence continued to have a significantly high and unacceptable faller rate.

“We keep details of all the fallers at all the fences and, while measures we took to try and improve things at the fence in the past delivered a marginal improvement, the faller rate tended to revert back to where we were before.

“What seems to have happened is a lot of horses jumped the fence perfectly well and either took half a stride and stumbled or took a whole stride and then stumbled. We could not allow this to continue to happen as a horse was seven times more likely to fall at the second last than at any other fence on the Old Course.

“We looked again at moving this fence around the corner into the straight and have done so. We have now have two tracks, the Old and New Courses, which look very similar in terms of where the fences are. The other advantage is that we bring the fence much closer to the spectators.

“We asked Nigel Twiston-Davies some time ago to send horses down for a schooling session over the new obstacle. So at 6am on Monday morning I came down and found it foggy but we decided to crack on.

“They jumped the plain fence and ditch on the back straight and came down the hill over the third last. They were going very fast and seven horses came around the corner - Paddy Brennan, Carl Llewellyn, David England, Sam Waley-Cohen and Sam Twiston-Davies were among those riding - and the bend rode beautifully and they jumped the fence.

“We were happy but Nigel’s gang wanted to do it again. So they went back up the hill to the third last and one of the senior jockeys who is now retired said they went off with their tails on fire.

“We could hear them coming and the first horse hit the fence pretty hard and fell and brought down two others. So we had three jockeys and horses on the deck - fortunately they all got up and were fine and they made some positive remarks about what we had done.”

Brennan said: “The ground has never been better and the new fence could not be in a better place. You will still get fallers as it is the second last but they won’t be so severe.”

Sam Waley-Cohen said: “The fence is beautifully presented and I look forward to coming down to it on Long Run.”

Carl Llewellyn said: “I think the fence will be a great improvement - it rides nicely off the bend with plenty of room between the two fences. It will be safer all round.”

Watering is going on for Cheltenham’s first meeting of the season, The Showcase on Friday and Saturday, October 15 & 16 - the going is currently good, good to firm in places and Claisse aims to have it slightly on the easy side of good by the first day.

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