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Wednesday, 12 February, 2003, 19:34 GMT
Extended Festival moves nearer
The connections of Best Mate celebrate their victory in the 2002 Cheltenham Gold Cup
The Gold Cup will be moved to a Friday
A four-day Cheltenham Festival has moved a step closer to reality after receiving initial approval from the British Horseracing Board.

The BHB's National Hunt Pattern Committee gave the green light to an extended meeting on Wednesday.

The proposal will now be considered by the BHB's Race Planning Committee on 25 February.

Shortlist of extra races
Juvenile handicap hurdle (2m)
Novices' chase (2m)
Novices' hurdle (3m)
Mares' race (bumper or hurdle)
Cross-country race
EBF hurdle

Cheltenham clerk of the course Simon Claisse said that a shortlist of six races had been drawn up, four of which would be introduced into the 2005 Festival programme.

Officials will now consult key figures from all areas of the racing industry to finalise a running order.

"We are keen to announce the plans for the 2005 Festival before the end of this season so as to allow owners, trainers and breeders plenty of time to plan ahead," said Claisse.

"Cheltenham's board has agreed that the format will be initially four days of six races, starting with the Smurfit Champion Hurdle as the feature contest on the Tuesday, and climaxing with the Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup on the Friday.

"The new races will be fitted around the existing 20 races over the four days but the daily programmes and running order are still subjects for further discussion."

The move to four days, which will be a massive boost to the local economy, would be one of the most important developments in the 101-year history of the Cheltenham Festival.

All the big race action over the jumps

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See also:

07 Mar 02 | Photo Galleries
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