Launch of new “Challenger Series” boosts mid-tier Jump racing

8th October 2015

• Five new Jumps Series for mid-tier Jump horses each culminating in £50,000 finals
• Finals day worth approximately £265,000 to be held at Haydock Park on Easter Saturday, live on Channel 4
• Initiative arose from Jump Racing Review and provides boost to owners and trainers of mid-tier Jump horses and Northern Jump Racing
• Challenger Series is an expansion of Jockey Club Racecourses’ popular Grassroots Series 

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and Jockey Club Racecourses (JCR) have today announced a significant boost for mid-tier Jump Racing with the launch of five new Series of races, known as the “Challenger Series”. 

The Challenger Series is an expansion of the successful and popular Grassroots Jump Series which was launched in 2011/12 and run exclusively to date by Jockey Club Racecourses. From November 2015 the series will be expanded significantly and staged across all of the British Jumps courses which are racing between November and March. 

The Challenger Series will comprise five separate Series that allow horses rated up to 135 to qualify through a total of 75 races for a finals day at The Jockey Club’s Haydock Park Racecourse on Easter Saturday. The Finals Day will carry prize money of around £265,000 in total. 

The five 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

There are 15 Qualifiers for each Series, which will be a combination of Class 3 and Class 4 handicaps, with the first race being programmed for 2 November at Kempton Park. Horses qualify for the Final by finishing in the first eight places in a Series Qualifier.

An additional bonus fund of £50,000 will also be available on Challenger Series Finals Day for any horse who wins a Qualifier and then goes on to win the Series Final within the same distance category. The £50,000 will be shared between any horses who achieve this feat on the day.

In year one, four of the Final races will feature live on Channel 4 Racing and the fixture will lead the broadcast that day.

The Challenger Series proposal was raised and recommended by the ongoing Jump Racing Review which was initiated by the BHA and includes cross-industry representation. The Review itself is now nearing completion with proposals shortly going before the BHA Board with recommendations to be published in due course.

Paul Fisher, Group Managing Director of Jockey Club Racecourses, said:

“Challenger Series is designed to support a very important level of our sport. We've been delighted by the response to the Grassroots Series run at Jockey Club Racecourses and it's great the expanded Challenger Series will be spread across even more Jumps courses in Great Britain.

"While the Series rightly is a nationwide opportunity,‎ the fact several courses in the North are staging qualifiers and with us hosting the £265,000 finals‎ at Haydock Park, hopefully this initiative will offer a good boost to Jump Racing in the region, in line with the recent Review."

Nick Rust, Chief Executive of the BHA, said:

“If you were to take a look at the top end of our sport, in particular the likes of the Grand National and Cheltenham Festivals, you would be forgiven for thinking that all is sweetness and light with compelling racing, growing attendances and increasing betting on the days concerned. 

“However, a look beneath the bonnet reveals that we face significant challenges, and one of those is attracting and keeping owners in the middle tier of the sport, which is a key focus of the Ownership and Breeding pillar of the industry's Strategy for Growth.
 
“I am therefore delighted that, amongst its overall findings, the industry's Jump Racing Review, led by the BHA team, has identified the scope to provide more meaningful targets for the middle-tier Jumps population. These Series, with their valuable Finals, offer a genuine incentive and viable end-of-season target for owners and trainers of those horses who are very talented but just below Cheltenham and Aintree level."

Edward Gillespie, Chair of the BHA Jump Racing Review, said:

"This first initiative from the Jump Racing Review gives a sense of the joined-up thinking of the Project Group and those with whom we consulted. The Cheltenham Festival and Aintree are shining examples of the shared success levels that need to be achieved at every level of the sport.  

“The Challenger Series will engage with a wide range of owners, trainers and racecourses and, with Finals Day being in the North, demonstrates how the Review sees an exciting opportunity there for gaining positive momentum.”