Minella Rocco: won the National Hunt Chase last season
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
By David Baxter 2:52PM 4 AUG 2016
NEXT season’s National Hunt Chase winner at the Cheltenham Festival will land a Grade 2 prize, as the race has been upgraded in status by the BHA jumps pattern committee.
Formerly a Listed contest, the four-mile marathon for amateur riders was won last season by the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Minella Rocco, and its resurgence in popularity has contributed to the rise in class.
Four races have been upgraded by the committee, with Sandown’s end of season finale meeting in April receiving a boost with the bet365 Select Hurdle also now a Grade 2 having been a Listed race.
Double delight for Cheltenham
As well as the National Hunt Chase, the Neptune Investment Managent Novices’ Hurdle on New Year’s Day at Cheltenham was also identified as a new Pattern contest.
It will assume Listed status for next season, along with Perth’s Future Champions Novice Hurdle.
BHA director of international racing and racing development Ruth Quinn said: “The four races being upgraded not only qualified on ratings but were each felt to add a worthwhile dimension to the programme of Pattern and Listed races.
“I am particularly pleased to see both the Select Hurdle and the National Hunt Chase being upgraded into the Pattern. The Select was created as part of the aim to develop a fitting conclusion to the jump season and is growing in stature, whilst the National Hunt Chase is a race that has enjoyed somewhat of a renaissance in more recent history.
“It’s clearly a race for the hardiest of novices, but it attracts a strong field with some quality horses who have gone on to further success.”
Perth team ‘ecstatic’ at news
There was great pleasure from the staff at Perth that their efforts have been rewarded, and clerk of the course Harriet Graham said: “The team here at Perth racecourse are ecstatic to receive an upgrade, it is a great reflection of the work being done to ensure the racecourse is the best it can be.
“The race takes place during the Perth festival, our premier fixture, which is so well supported by trainers from England, Wales, Ireland and of course Scotland.”