The British Horseracing Authority has approved the upgrading of four races to Grade 1 level this season, including two at the 2014 Grand National fixture and one at the Cheltenham Festival.
The first of the four races to be raised in class is the Jewson Novices Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, always a serious betting race and now set to attract the very cream of the crop of two-and-a-half mile novice chasers.
Established at the showcase National Hunt fixture of the year as recently as 2011, the Jewson Novice Chase has proved a benefit for Irish raiders, Paul Nolan’s Noble Prince winning the inaugural running, while in 2012 Sir Des Champs scored for Willie Mullins. This year, it was the turn of Benefficient, trained by Tony Martin, to score at betting odds of 20/1.
The 2014 Grand National meeting at Aintree will now include no less than 10 Grade 1 contests following the upgrading of both the Mildmay Novices’ Steeplechase and the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle.
The three-mile-one-furlong Mildmay Novices’ Chase has long deserved top rating, having been won by some terrific horses over the last three decades. The likes of Burrough Hill Lad, Rhyme ‘n’ Reason, Royal Athlete, Barton, Silviniaco Conti, and none other than Big Buck’s, have all won the race in the past before going on to win races like the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Grand National, and World Hurdle respectively.
The other big Aintree race to receive Grade 1 status, the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle run over two-and-a-half miles, has also been won by some stars of the racing scene over the years. Wayward Lad, Morley Street, Barton, Tidal Bay, and no less a horse than triple Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Best Mate, have all used the race as a stepping stone to the highest echelons of the sport.
The fourth race to receive Grade 1 status is the Bet365 Celebration Chase run at Sandown’s April fixture over two miles, a race that often sees high-class chasers bidding for consolation after the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival a month earlier.
Edredon Bleu and Well Chief were among the top-notch runners earlier this century of the Celebration Chase, while the smart Sanctuaire scored in 2012, and earlier this year Gary Moore’s rapidly improving Sire de Grugy landed the Esher contest.
Representations were made by Aintree, Cheltenham, and Sandown to have their races considered for higher status, and Ruth Quinn, spokesperson for the BHA, was able to confirm the upgrades as well as to other races further down the scale at a recent press conference.Share on Facebook