Improved meetings help drive up quality across racing week
The final day of Cheltenham's Open meeting is the outstanding fixture of a strengthened programme of Sunday racing which is helping the BHA ensure the balance of quality racing is not tilted too much towards Friday and Saturdays.
One of the best established Sunday meetings in the calendar, featuring the Greatwood Hurdle and Shloer Chase, it is part of an autumn package of fixtures designed to satisfy widespread appetite for a better standard of racing on Sundays.
As a result it will be the sixth Sunday in a row where a meeting has comprised a Listed or Pattern contest, the sequence beginning at Chepstow on October 9.
Following Cheltenham, there is a lower-key Sunday, but then there are two £30,000 contests on November 27, while on December 4 Huntingdon hosts a Peterborough Chase card worth £124,000 and Kelso stages the £96,000 Borders National meeting.
BHA head of racing Paul Johnson said: "Sundays have been a real area of focus for the industry. We have listened to the views of the racing public and believe that there is an appetite for better quality racing on Sundays and that this will also work as a betting product for bookmakers.
"The programme of Sunday jump racing in autumn is an example of the quality that does exist on many Sundays, with a Listed or Pattern race on all but one Sunday between the start of October and early December."
Improvements to the Sunday programme is part of an ongoing effort to improve the overall standard of racing between Sundays and Thursdays, with so much of the premier races concentrated at the end of the week.
The BHA has incentivised racecourses by contributing £5,000 to tracks that put on cards worth £50,000 or more, of which there will be 194 next year, compared to 155 in 2015.
Johnson said: "Over the years we have seen an understandable creep towards the quality, higher-value fixtures being staged on Fridays and Saturdays. This makes sense because it means that more people can enjoy these events, and it also makes commercial sense for racecourses.
"Although this shift to Fridays and Saturdays has helped racecourses support prize-money across the whole fixture list, there was clear feedback that some targeted improvement to the quality of racing would be appreciated outside of these days.
"The industry has acted on this and worked together to begin to create a better balance in the fixture list. This is reflected by the fact we will be seeing 39 more Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays in 2017 which contain a £50,000-plus fixture, an increase of 25 per cent on 2015."