- Challenger Series back for second season
- Six different series aimed at horses rated up to 135, each culminating in valuable £50,000 series final at Haydock on Easter Saturday
- Objective is to provide an incentive for jump horses who operate just below top echelons, and a boost for jump racing in the north
- Series to be supported by dedicated web page and twitter feed @ChallengerJumps, managed by RCA
- New Mares Chase series added for 2016/17
As the 2016/17 jump season begins to hot up, racing tomorrow at Worcester sees the return of the popular “Challenger Series”.
The Challenger Series was launched in the 2015/16 jumps season as a recommendation from the BHA’s jump racing review, and proved a successful and popular addition amongst trainers, owners and the racing public. Aimed at horses who operate at just below the top level, it comprises six separate series that allow horses rated up to 135 to qualify through a total of 85 races for a finals day at the Jockey Club’s Haydock Park Racecourse on Easter Saturday 2017.
Each of the six finals carries £50,000 in prize money, resulting in a £300,000 raceday, which provides a substantial incentive and boost not only for mid-tier owners and trainers, but also for jump racing in the north.
35 racecourses will host Challenger Series qualifiers across the jumps season, including racecourses operated by Jockey Club Racecourses (JCR), Arena Racing Company (ARC) and independent tracks.
The six series and corresponding £50,000 finals are:
- 3m Handicap Chase Series
- 2m 3f Handicap Chase Series
- 2m Handicap Hurdle Series
- 3m Handicap Hurdle Series
- 2m 3f Mares’ Handicap Hurdle Series
- 3m Mares’ Chase Series (new for 2016/17)
(Last years Stayers Hurdle Series Final champion Petethepear with winning connections)
The 2016 Finals day attracted 67 runners across the five finals races, producing a thrilling and competitive showpiece day of jump racing. One trainer who enjoyed a memorable day was Stuart Edmunds, whose Petethepear won the 3m Handicap Hurdle Series, netting the near £31,000 first-place prize money. He said of the series:
“It’s a great series to aim for with horses that fall just below the top handicaps with excellent prize money.
“There’s a really good variety of races across the series and the spread of racecourses makes it easy to find a suitable qualifier. Haydock Park put on an excellent show for Finals Day and hopefully we’ll be lucky again this season and find another winner.”
John Baker, Regional Director of the Jockey Club Racecourses North West, said:
“We were delighted to have hosted a successful first year Challenger Series Final at Haydock Park. While the Series is a great nationwide initiative, it has certainly been a major boost to jump racing in the north and quite rightly supporting an important level of our sport by giving more meaningful targets for the middle-tier jumps population. We look forward to making it even more of a success in 2017.”
This year the Challenger Series will also be supported by a dedicated web page and twitter feed which will provide all the news and information you need to follow the series. The social media presence will be operated by the Racecourse Association (RCA) and the web page can be found here: https://challengerseries.org/ and twitter users can follow the Challenger Series here: https://twitter.com/ChallengerJumps
Claire Sheppard, Racing Director for the RCA, said:
“The Challenger Series is a fantastic initiative that the RCA are delighted to support. Covering 35 racecourses this season, there are plenty of chances across the country for trainers to get their horses qualified for the Finals Day at Haydock Park.
“We are also excited to be providing ongoing support for the series through a dedicated web page and social media presence for this season, giving trainers, owners and racegoers a chance to follow the series and keep track of which horses have qualified.”
The Mares’ Chase (2.55pm at Worcester on 19 October) is the first qualifier to be run in the new Mares’ Chase Series, which was added to the Challenger Series for the 2016/17 season. The series was added after the National Trainers Federation (NTF)’s discussions with jumps trainers highlighted the need for such a Mares’ Chase Series. This also forms part of a longer-term and wider initiative across the sport to provide further incentives to keep jump mares in training.
Richard Wayman, Chief Operating Officer for the BHA, said:
“We were very encouraged with how the Challenger Series performed in its opening year. It created a genuine, valuable target for jumps horses who fall just short of the standard required to compete at the sport’s flagship festivals and is just the sort of initiative that will support the retention of racehorse owners.
“In time we hope that the finals day itself becomes a notable event in the jumping calendar. We got off to a good start on that front in 2016 with a memorable and enjoyable day of highly competitive jump racing.
“It is an agreed focus of the BHA and the industry as a whole that we need to do more to bolster jump racing at the grassroots and middle tiers. The Challenger Series provides a great incentive to keep jump horses in training at this level, in particular the mares who now have two series dedicated to them.”