Cheltenham Festival 2021 decision on race scrapped for mares’ chase

Cheltenham chiefs have decided which race will be scrapped from The Festival programme from 2021.

The Listed 2m4f novices' handicap chase, won in 2020 by Imperial Aura, is no more, as it makes way for a mares' chase.

The new contest, over the same distance, will be run on Gold Cup day – and named the Grade 2 Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Steeple Chase.

As a result of its introduction, The Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, widely known as the Fred Winter, switches to day one, while the Grand Annual will be held on the second day.

Cheltenham's clerk of the course Simon Claisse, said: "Deciding which race to replace was not an easy decision and it was important that we took into account all the factors and feedback we received.

"But when we evaluated the other novice chase opportunities at the festival, as well as the importance of maintaining the current balance of chases and hurdles over the four days, this was considered the best option."

Paul Nicholls has revealed he plans to aim his new recruit and Grade 1 winner Laurina at the mares' chase.

"It looks like the obvious race for her, and she already has good form at Cheltenham so it will definitely be a potential target for her come March," he said.

The plan to introduce a new race was announced in summer 2019, as an enhancement to the programme for mares at National Hunt racing's most prestigious track.

A Listed novices’ handicap chase will be run at Sandown's Imperial Cup meeting a few days before Cheltenham, following approval from the BHA jump pattern committee.

Director of international racing and eacing development, Ruth Quinn, said: “It has been a considered process as to which race should be removed to make way for the mares’ chase and it is positive news that we will be retaining the Listed novices’ handicap chase as a key target for the relevant sector of the horse population, running it just a few days earlier at Sandown Park.”

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