A desire to level the playing field with Irish racing has led to a major overhaul of the way in which British jumps races are to be classified.
The BHA have confirmed that listed handicap races will be removed from the National Hunt Pattern entirely, and either promoted to Grade 2 or 3 status or demoted to Class 2 status.
Grade 3 handicaps have also been renamed as Premier Handicaps, with the emphasis on creating greater prize money and interest in the ‘third tier’ of jumps racing behind Grades 1 and 2.
British racing has come under fire for its relatively weak performance against Irish raiders at the major meetings such as the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree’s Grand National weekender. At the former, Ireland have won the Prestbury Cup in six of the last seven years, with a tie in 2019 the only crumb of comfort for domestic stakeholders in the sport.
The 2021 humbling, which saw Ireland win 23 of the 28 races held, was the last straw for some, and the BHA decided to take action by setting up the Jump Pattern Committee, via which the likes of Paul Nicholls and Emma Lavelle have had their say on the future of British racing.
Commenting on the classification changes, BHA director of racing development Ruth Quinn said:
“Work is underway to strengthen the performance in the upper tier of British Jump racing. This is focusing specifically on the size and shape of the Pattern and the financial reward for owners for competing in our highest-level contests.”
What are This Season’s Major Premier Handicaps?
As part of the classification changes, a handful of listed handicaps have been promoted to Grade 3, i.e. Premier Handicap, status.
Those include the Byrne Group Handicap Chase, won by Thyme White at Ascot in October, and the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter.
And then there’s the Grade 3 renewals that have simply been given the Premier Handicap name. They get underway in November with the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham, with the Betfair Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle at Haydock Park handing the big-lunged a chance to show they can stay the 2m 7f course.
December sees the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow just after Christmas, while before the Yuletide festivities there’s the gruelling Coral Gold Cup, Becher Chase and Betfair Handicap Chase, run over 3m 2f at Newbury, Aintree and Cheltenham respectively.
The new year will kick off with the Paddy Power Handicap Chase at Cheltenham, which Festival fans will be watching with interest, while later in January comes the Holloway’s Hurdle at Ascot.
February sees the Betfair Hurdle and Grand National Trial, before March is rung in with a catalogue of Premier Handicap renewals at the Cheltenham Festival: seven races, including the Ultima Handicap Chase, the Coral Cup and the Grand Annual Chase, will be run as Premier Handicaps for the first time in 2023.
Even as the National Hunt campaign begins to wind down in the spring, there’s no shortage of Premier Handicaps to enjoy in April. The Grand National and Scottish Grand National are the pick of the bunch, alongside the Topham Chase and Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown.
A full list of Premier Handicaps for the 2022/23 jump racing season can be found below.
|29/10/2022||Byrne Group Handicap Chase||Ascot||Listed|
|29/10/2022||Bateaux London Gold Cup||Ascot||Grade 3|
|05/11/2022||Badger Beer Handicap Chase||Wincanton||Listed|
|12/11/2022||Paddy Power Gold Cup||Cheltenham||Grade 3|
|13/11/2022||Jewson Handicap Chase||Cheltenham||Grade 3|
|13/11/2022||Greatwood Handicap Hurdle||Cheltenham||Grade 3|
|19/11/2022||Betfair Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle||Haydock||Grade 3|
|26/11/2022||Coral Handicap Hurdle||Newbury||Listed|
|26/11/2022||Coral Gold Cup Handicap Chase||Newbury||Grade 3|
|26/11/2022||Rehearsal Handicap Chase||Newcastle||Listed|
|03/12/2022||Becher Handicap Chase||Aintree||Grade 3|
|09/12/2022||Betfair Handicap Chase||Cheltenham||Grade 3|
|10/12/2022||Racing Post Gold Cup Handicap Chase||Cheltenham||Grade 3|
|17/12/2022||Silver Cup Handicap Chase||Ascot||Listed|
|17/12/2022||Betfair Exchange Trophy Handicap Hurdle||Ascot||Grade 3|
|26/12/2022||Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase||Wetherby||Grade 3|
|27/12/2022||Welsh Grand National||Chepstow||Grade 3|
|01/01/2023||Paddy Power Handicap Chase||Cheltenham||Grade 3|
|14/01/2023||Classic Handicap Chase||Warwick||Grade 3|
|21/01/2023||Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle||Ascot||Class 2|
|28/01/2023||Handicap Chase||Cheltenham||Grade 3|
|28/01/2023||Sky Bet Handicap Chase||Doncaster||Listed|
|04/02/2023||Heroes Handicap Hurdle||Sandown||Grade 3|
|11/02/2023||Betfair Hurdle||Newbury||Grade 3|
|18/02/2023||Swinley Handicap Chase||Ascot||Listed|
|18/02/2023||Grand National Trial Handicap Chase||Haydock||Grade 3|
|25/02/2023||Coral Trophy Handicap Chase||Kempton||Grade 3|
|04/03/2023||Greatwood Gold Cup Handicap Chase||Newbury||Grade 3|
|11/03/2023||EBF Novices’ Handicap Hurdle||Sandown||Grade 3|
|11/03/2023||Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle||Sandown||Grade 3|
|11/03/2023||Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase||Sandown||Listed|
|14/03/2023||Ultima Handicap Chase||Cheltenham||Grade 3|
|14/03/2023||Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle||Cheltenham||Grade 3|
|15/03/2023||Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle||Cheltenham||Grade 3|
|15/03/2023||Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase||Cheltenham||Grade 3|
|16/03/2023||Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle||Cheltenham||Grade 3|
|16/03/2023||Plate Handicap Chase||Cheltenham||Grade 3|
|17/03/2023||County Handicap Hurdle||Cheltenham||Grade 3|
|18/03/2023||Midlands Grand National||Uttoxeter||Listed|
|13/04/2023||Red Rum Handicap Chase||Aintree||Grade 3|
|14/04/2023||Aintree Handicap Hurdle||Aintree||Grade 3|
|14/04/2023||Topham Handicap Chase||Aintree||Grade 3|
|15/04/2023||Aintree Handicap Hurdle||Aintree||Grade 3|
|15/04/2023||Betway Handicap Chase||Aintree||Grade 3|
|15/04/2023||Grand National||Aintree||Grade 3|
|20/04/2023||Fillies’ Juvenile Handicap Hurdle||Cheltenham||Grade 3|
|22/04/2023||Scotty Brand Handicap Chase||Ayr||Listed|
|22/04/2023||Scottish Grand National||Ayr||Grade 3|
|29/04/2022||Bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase||Sandown||Grade 3|
|13/05/2023||Swinton Handicap Hurdle||Haydock||Grade 3|
|22/07/2023||Summer Plate Handicap Chase||Market Rasen||Grade 3|