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Stories from the racing world

BHA introduces ‘hybrid’ races


his month sees the first of a series of new ‘hybrid’ races. Known as optional claiming handicaps, the events have been devised in a bid to diversify the race programme and create opportunities for horses in contests that are not based solely on handicap ratings. It is hoped the races will help stimulate trade in a group of higher-rated horses who do not appeal to foreign purchasers or as potential jumpers - the ‘twilight zone’ horses who find winning opportunities hard to come by. The ten-race trial begins at Yarmouth on July 18 and is pitched at horses rated in the 80s and 90s. They will be run over distances ranging from six furlongs to a mile, and worth £30,000. When entering a horse in an optional claiming handicap, trainers can ‘buy’ a handicap rating up to 7lb lower than its published rating, but, in doing so, make that horse available to claim for a predetermined price in line with the reduced rating chosen. Claiming prices for the trial were derived from analysis of auction prices in Britain and Ireland in 2016-17 of all horses fitting relevant stamina and age profiles. Feedback from trainers with an interest in buying and selling such horses was also incorporated in the development of these values. Graeme Smith, the BHA handicapper

Yarmouth will stage the first optional claiming handicap on July 18

involved in framing the race conditions, said: “Optional claiming handicaps are an entirely new concept for British racing and cater for a portion of the horse population trainers believe is often limited to running in standard handicaps. “These races can contribute to a more diverse range of winning opportunities and also act as a means of realising the value from a section of the horse population that can be difficult to sell. “The trade-off between competing from an advantageous rating and risking a claim creates an extra dimension compared with standard handicaps.” Smith added: “Feedback from trainers has already highlighted a difference of opinion on whether horses running from reduced marks

or progressive horses running off their official rating could hold sway. “That tension should make for competitive races, serving a specific purpose for trainers and providing punters with a different type of challenge to solve.” Optional claiming handicaps in 2018 July 18 Yarmouth 6f July 20 Pontefract 1m August 11 Chelmsford 6f August 24 Chelmsford 1m September 7 Haydock 6f September 14 Sandown 7f September 26 Goodwood 1m October 8 Kempton 1m October 23 Newcastle 6f October 27 Doncaster 7f

Support meningitis research and win a superb prize Those behind the Jessica Bethell Foundation are raising funds and awareness for meningitis research at Ascot on King George day this month – and you can contribute by purchasing a raffle ticket with fabulous prizes on offer. Ascot have kindly given the charity a gazebo for Saturday, July 28 when ITV Racing’s Matt Chapman will draw the raffle. Tickets cost £10, for the chance to win the following prizes: • 1st prize: Four tickets to the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup and lunch at the Caviar House & Prunier at Ascot • 2nd prize: Two VIP tickets to see ELO at The O2 Arena • 3rd prize: Two tickets to a Chelsea football match – great seats in the directors’ box at Stamford Bridge, including silver service lunch and wines/drinks as guests of Alan Spence • 4th prize: Wembley stadium tour for two • 5th prize: Magnum of Pol Roger Champagne • 6th prize: A beautifully handmade couture millinery hat The Jessica Bethell Foundation was established following her death from meningitis in October 2012 aged 24. She was the daughter and assistant of trainer James and his wife Sally. Working alongside the foundation, Racing Welfare


You could win tickets to the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup at Ascot

purchased Hill House in Middleham, which will be named Jessica’s House in her memory. This will be developed into supported accommodation for young people and facilities to aid all working in the racing industry. • For raffle tickets visit or telephone 01969 640360, or email Hannah at


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