Cheltenham officials have assured amateur riders they will review a new policy of running hunter chases at a lowered weight, a move some claim is marginalising heavier riders.

Amateur weights used to be set at 12st but were lowered for the hunter chase evening meeting last week.

Weights for all six races — including the Connolly’s Red Mills intermediate point-to-point final — were set at 11st 7lb before penalties and riders’ allowances, a move based on horse welfare, say officials.

Director of racing Simon Claisse said that with the allowances for body protectors and for riders with fewer winners, horses could be carrying up to 12st 10lb.

“Statistics last year showed about 85 per cent of amateurs could ride at 10st 10lb or below.

But to those who say we’re pandering to a lighter jockey, that is not the case,” he said.

H&H columnist Polly Gundry said this hinders those who struggle with weight.

“The decision was made on the perception that with a lower weight [to carry], horses get less tired and there is less chance of injury — but with lower weight horses can go faster, so are just as likely to get tired.

“This leaves heavier riders fewer chances. I know jockeys who didn’t ride last week as they didn’t want to be overweight.”

Mr Claisse added: “We don’t want to disenfranchise anyone and we will review things — we may make a little adjustment.”

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (13 May, ’10)