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BHA concern at small fields after walkover.

Byline: Andrew Scutts

THE BHA admitted yesterday it was very concerned by the small fields for novice and beginners' chases that have materialised over the past week, highlighted yesterday by a walkover at Southwell, only the second in Britain since 2008.

However, the governing authority stressed that there were undoubtedly a number of factors at play - Southwell's clerk of the course mentioned two yesterday, going and below-tariff races at the meeting - and that six days was too short a timespan to draw firm conclusions.

Leicester suffered from a walkover in April, but that was trainer-organised and to do specifically with tariffs, and the same track was also forced to abandon a race due to no horses being declared, a situation unprecedented in the sport.

Larks Lad walked over in Southwell's beginners' chase after sole rival Fred Kennet was taken out due to lameness.

Prize-money for the class 5 was pounds 2,800, which met tariff, but four of the other six races did not.

Southwell clerk Roderick Duncan admitted: "It's disappointing to have a walkover and there aren't many runners in general, but it is no surprise as the six-day entries weren't strong.

"We haven't raced on the jumps course since August. Due to the unsettled forecast I decided not to water and it's good, good to firm in places, which may have put some off."

He added: "The fact that four of the races are under tariff hasn't helped, but we have found extra money for our next meeting to rectify that."

Sandown had two runners for its beginners' chase last Saturday and Exeter three for its novice chase a week ago, while Kempton's graduation chase eight days ago also attracted just three runners.

BHA assistant racing director Richard Wayman said: "The races at Exeter, Sandown and Southwell have fallen over too short a period of time to draw conclusions.

"We're always looking at field sizes and there will be no kneejerk reaction, but it is very concerning and discussions are ongoing with horsemen and racecourses with a view to making better use of the horse population across the race programme and to reducing the number of races with small fields."

Firm ground has disrupted Leicester's meeting on Monday. It is now hosting an all-hurdles card with the chase course unsuitably quick.

Talk of the Tracks, pages 8-9
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Nov 8, 2011
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