CHELTENHAM ANNOUNCES NEW START TIME, NEW RUNNING ORDER AND NEW RACE FOR THE FESTIVAL 2009
Cheltenham Racecourse today announced some significant changes to The Festival in 2009, which takes places from 10th to 13th March.
The first of these is that racing will start each day at 1.30pm, 30 minutes earlier than in recent years. Commenting on this change, Managing Director Edward Gillespie, explained: “One of the lessons we learned from the unusual circumstances of The Festival in 2008, was that a significant number of our customers enjoyed the earlier start that we had on Thursday and Friday. With the gates opening at 10.30am, it can seem a long time until the first race, so we are going to commence racing at 1.30pm. This has the added advantage of allowing a majority of racegoers to begin their journey home while it is still light, even on those days when we have seven races. It will also mean that five races on each day are now broadcast live on Channel 4.”
There will be a new race at the meeting in 2009, with the introduction of a race for Conditional Jockeys at The Festival for the first time, making a total of 26 races, with seven race cards on Wednesday and Friday. The Conditionals’ Hurdle will be a handicap over an extended two and a half miles on totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup Day. Cheltenham’s Director of Racing, Simon Claisse, said: “We have long held the view that a race for the potential champion jockeys of the future would be a great addition to The Festival and a handicap for Conditional Jockeys was one of the races that was under close consideration when we first extended the meeting to four days. This will also be an opportunity for some of the large number of horses which are eliminated from the Coral Cup each year to have a run at The Festival.”
The third significant change is that on each day of The Festival, the feature race will be the fourth race of the day, giving more of a sense of building to a climax. Edward Gillespie said: “It was again apparent from the experience of 2008 that the greater period of build-up to the biggest races was almost universally popular. On that basis, the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle, Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase, Ladbrokes World Hurdle and totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup will be the fourth race on the card each day at 3.20pm. Given our earlier start time, these races will only actually be starting five minutes later than in the recent past, giving our friends in the media no significant issues in reporting the magnificent feats of horses and jockeys.”
The full Order of Running for The Festival will be revealed at a pre-season Media launch at the racecourse on Tuesday 7th October.