Cheltenham Racecourse announces today a change to entry conditions for amateur riders taking part in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase and the St James's Place Foxhunter Chase races at The Festival in March.
From 2018 onwards, in line with the G2 National Hunt Chase, these two amateur races will be restricted to those holding a Category B Permit.
Amateur jockeys holding a Category B Permit require at least 15 completed rides under the Rules of Racing, the majority of which must have come over obstacles or at least 20 completed rides in Point-to-Points and/or under the Rules of Racing.
Holders of an equivalent permit from a recognised overseas racing authority will also be eligible to ride at The Festival (for example, a Category C Permit issued in Ireland will be valid).
In 2017, all those riding in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase held a Category B amateur rider permit and just four of the 23 riders having a Category A licence for the St James' Place Foxhunter Chase.
Simon Claisse, Regional Head of Racing, South West & Clerk of the Course at Cheltenham, commented: "The Festival is the best four days of Jump racing in the calendar and has grown into an event which receives worldwide attention.
"An important and historic dimension to The Festival is the provision of races for amateur riders alongside those for professionals. We are proud of this tradition, which goes all the way back to the foundation of Jump racing.
"This change to the entry conditions for amateur riders will ensure that all competitors have appropriate experience over fences to compete at this level and also by announcing this change now it gives jockeys enough time to qualify for their Category B licence."
Sarah Oliver, CEO of the Amateur Jockeys Association, declared: "It is welcome news to the Amateur Jockeys Association concerning this change in race conditions for the St James's Place Foxhunter Chase and the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase.
"These showcase races are anticipated from one season to the next by the amateur fraternity and it is only right that the race conditions should reflect the prestige of them. Thank you Cheltenham!"
Nick Sutton, Acting Chairman of the Point-to-Point Authority, added: "The St James's Place Foxhunter Chase is one of the most prominent races for amateurs in the sport.
"The competitive nature of the race, plus the additional pressures of a 70,000 crowd and TV coverage, make it only an appropriate contest for experienced riders who hold a Category B licence."
Jamie Stier, Chief Regulatory Officer for the British Horseracing Authority, said: "The Cheltenham Festival is the pinnacle of the Jump season, and each year the interest and scrutiny on all of the races run at the meeting grows.
"The changes to entry conditions for amateur riders announced today have the full support of the BHA and will ensure that only the very best-qualified amateur jockeys take part in what are thorough tests for both horse and rider.
"While we understand that this will impact current category A permit holders, the sport must always look at ways it can improve safety and welfare for our participants and our horses.
"Any riders currently holding a category A permit who wish to enquire about gaining a category B permit should contact the BHA Licensing team as a matter of priority."