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Welsh Champion Hurdle to be run as a handicap

Updated: Wednesday, 02 Jan 2013 18:34 | Comments

The decision to change the Welsh Champion Hurdle from a conditions race to a handicap reflects a trend that delights bookmakers and disillusions punters - namely, that the percentage of handicaps on the racing calendar has been on the rise for a number of
The decision to change the Welsh Champion Hurdle from a conditions race to a handicap reflects a trend that delights bookmakers and disillusions punters - namely, that the percentage of handicaps on the racing calendar has been on the rise for a number of

Ffos Las has announced the William Hill Welsh Champion Hurdle will now be run as a limited handicap over two and a half miles, with an increase in prize money also confirmed.

Officials at the Carmarthenshire venue have made the changes to their feature race on 2 February in a bid to make it more competitive and to avoid a clash with the Betfred Mobile Sports Contenders Hurdle at Sandown the same day.

Tim Long, Ffos Las general manager and clerk of the course, said: "We are proactively taking this initiative to ensure that the William Hill Welsh Champion Hurdle is as competitive as possible in the years to come.

"Making it a limited handicap and increasing the prize-money - up by 16% next year compared to when it was last run in 2011 - will make the race more attractive to owners and trainers.

"There is no getting away from the fact that Sandown Park's Listed hurdle scheduled for the same day is very similar to our race, so the increase to two and a half miles makes ours a different type of contest.”

Oscar Whisky, owned by Ffos Las chairman Dai Walters, beat four rivals in 2011.

However, he is unlikely to bid for a repeat as his trainer Nicky Henderson said on Tuesday that the horse was likely to run in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham the week before.

"We'll know after the Cleeve if he stays three miles and if he does he'll be favourite for the World Hurdle" - Owner Dai Walters on Oscar Whisky 

Walters said Oscar Whisky would only run in the race if the Cleeve Hurdle was abandoned.

"We see the move as a positive step. Sandown staged a similar race on the same day and we don't race on many Saturdays so we wanted a race that attracted a bigger field," said Walters.

"By changing it to a handicap William Hill are happy and the trip will hopefully attract a better field.

"We would definitely look at the race for Oscar if the Cleeve was off.

"I had a good chat with Nicky the other day and we said if we don't go over three miles in the Cleeve we'll never know.

"We'll know after the Cleeve if he stays three miles and if he does he'll be favourite for the World Hurdle."

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