Has the lower age limit for "normal" handicap chases (not novice) been lowered from 5yo+ to 4yo+ and if so when did the change take place. According to my stats there have been 187 4yo+ plus hcap chases so far in 2006 as opposed to 15 in 2005.
No rule change but the race planners are probably reacting to demands caused by the importation of French horses who win chases much earlier in their careers (ie Cagnes Sur Mer frame 4 chases for 3 year olds only) and therefore rule themselves out of novice chases.
If you look at 2 mile chases, from tomorrow to the end of this year, they are all for 4+ with the exception of 5 races including the Tingle Creek, Castleford and the Desert Orchid.
Over 3 miles all handicaps bar two (the Mandarin and a race at Musselborough on 30th December) are for 4+
Novice chases over an extended trip tend to be for 5yo+ because otherwise the weight scale is too great and the older horses have to lump too much around to get the 4yos in off a racing weight (especially if you get penalties).
There are only 5 novice chases over 3 miles open to 4yos. This includes the Feltham at Kempton where the 4yos get 13lbs from their elders.
I don’t think there’s been a rule change, more a reaction to the greater number of precocious French-bred animals around.
Anorak moment: I remember an all-aged 2m handicap chase in 1960 or 1961 where the first three home were all 4-y-os. Admittedly it was in December, but it shows that all this sort of thing has happened before.
I’ve done some more checking, 185 of the 187 4yo+ handicap chases in 2006 so far have been since the 1st of August, so thats when the age limit was lowered, although to date of the 1584 horses that ran in these races only 16 were 4yo’s.