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All 48-hours at Cheltenham

Cheltenham ScenicPunters will this season be able to start studying the final fields for all races at the Cheltenham Festival sooner than ever before after the BHA announced 48-hour declarations will apply throughout the sport's biggest fixture.

While 48-hour declarations had already been in place for the festival's non-novice Grade 1 contests, plus a number of major Saturday jumps prizes, trainers will now need to confirm running plans two days before all Cheltenham races in March.

In an attempt to avoid uncertainty and confusion, horses canin future bedeclared only for a single festival race, whether subsequently a non-runner or not, unless eliminated from their chosen target or declared as a reserve.

That will apply to every contest, except the major championship prizes, namely the Stan James Champion Hurdle, OLBG David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle, Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, Ryanair Chase, Sunbets Stayers’ Hurdle and Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.

However, the BHA will monitor the extent to which horses are doubly declared in those six crown jewels and keep the concession to trainers and owners under annual review.

In addition, all handicap races at the meeting will have two reserve slots, which are to have a deadline of 1pm the previous day.

BHA chief operating officer Richard Wayman said: "We've taken on board feedback from racing fans, the betting public and the media, and we’re pleased to introduce 48-hour declarations for all races at the festival, which we believe will have a positive impact on the promotion of the event and be welcomed by the sport’s various customer groups.

"We appreciate that, in some circumstances, this could create an extra challenge for trainers, but we want to ensure the sport is in a position where it can make the very most of what are such an important four days in the British racing calendar."

Welcoming the changes, Cheltenham boss Ian Renton said: "This is a progressive move by the BHA, which we believe makes sense on a number of levels.

"We've been part of the ongoing discussions, and after listening to the views of everyone regard this as a sensible decision which will enhance the Cheltenham Festival experience for racegoers and provide assistance to the media."

The move to 48-hour declarations - which are already used across all Flat races - was supported by the BHA's Racing Group and came in response to calls for change from the media and the Horseracing Bettors' Forum, whose chair, Simon Rowlands, said the body had received "a fair amount of correspondence from the public around the time of the last two Cheltenham Festivals, suggesting declarations be made 48 hours, or even longer, in advance".

Rowlands added: "All roads over jumps in the winter lead to Cheltenham in March, and this initiative should help to ensure that racing can promote the occasion itself more effectively, to the benefit of the betting public and the wider sport."

12 September 2017

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