Novices' Handicap Chase removed from schedule with new Mares' Chase taking place on Gold Cup day
- We bring you news of major changes to the Cheltenham Festival schedule
- The Northern Trust Novices' Handicap Chase has been removed from the meeting to make room for the new Mares' Chase
- The Paddy Power Mares' Chase will take place on Gold Cup day
- The Boodles Juvenile Handicap and the Grand Annual have moved days to plug the gaps left in the schedule
Imperial Aura winning the final renewal of the Northern Trust Company Novices' Handicap Chase. (Getty)
Cheltenham Festival organisers unveiled some major changes to the schedule today, announcing that the Northern Trust Handicap Chase would be scrapped in 2021.
When plans to introduce a graded Mares' Chase were revealed, a decision had to be made as to which race would be removed to make room in the existing schedule. Many thought the Boodles Juvenile Handicap was the race most in jeopardy of being cut. However, today, Cheltenham's clerk of the course, Simon Claisse announced it was the Northern Trust Handicap Chase that would be getting the boot.
"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. "Claisse told the press on Wednesday.
"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."
The Novices' Handicap Chase, won in recent years by A Plus Tard, Mister Whitaker and Imperial Aura, had closed the card on day one of the Cheltenham Festival.
A 145-rating ceiling meant the race was usually contested by horses who didn't quite make the cut for the Grade One Marsh Novices' Chase. Yet, this year's Brown Advisory Plate was won by a novice in the form of Simply The Betts, so novice chasers who aren't quite up to Grade One level have that option open to them in 2021.
It was announced today that bookmakers Paddy Power would be sponsoring the newly created Mares' Chase. This two-and-a-half-mile Grade Two will take place on Gold Cup day, meaning several races have had to be moved around.
The Boodles' Juvenile Handicap Hurdle has been moved from day two to the final slot on day one, filling the gap left by the Northern Trust. The Grand Annual - the oldest race at the Cheltenham Festival - will now take place on day two, in between the Cross Country Chase and the Champion Bumper.
Willie Mullins' mare Salsaretta is the 6/1 favourite for the 2021 Mares' Chase with race sponsors Paddy Power. Put The Kettle On, Elimay and Elfile also sit prominently in the early betting.