Changes made to Cheltenham Festival

Cheltenham racing director Simon Claisse has confirmed that three Festival race distances have been changed to avoid “messy starts”.

The Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase on the opening day will now be staged over three miles and a furlong, rather than three miles and half a furlong.

The Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase will be extended by half a furlong to three miles and two furlongs involving 22 fences.

Thursday’s card will also be changed with the Brown Advisory & Merribelle Stable Plate returning to two miles and five furlongs after being run over two and a half miles last year.

Speaking about the changes, Claisse admitted that safety was paramount when making the decisions.

He told “People will be familiar with the handicap chases over three-miles plus on both the Old and New courses and the starts have always been difficult because they’re turning in off a chute to jump the ‘last fence’, which is actually their first fence, with the second-last behind them.

“We’ve tried all sorts of things to improve those starts, a job we made more challenging when moving the second-last fence to the home straight. I have sympathy for those that don’t like changing any details of the races, but we’ve gone for making those starts as safe as possible as the priority.”

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