The Arabian Racing Organisation is expanding the number of races taking place this season in a bid to attract more grassroots runners.

This year will see the introduction of Banded Stakes, which will give mid-to-lower end horses a greater opportunity to run. Banded Stakes are level-weight races open to horses rated 60 or below.

Runners will be divided into three bands: Band A, which covers horses rated 51 to 60, Band B for horses rated 41 to 50, and Band C for horses rated 0 to 40. Some races will also be open to horses rated 61 to 65, which will carry a penalty. So for example a Three-Banded Stakes will be open to four-year-olds and older in Bands A, B and C, as well as horses rated 61 to 65 carrying a 1lb penalty for each lb over 60.

The minimum weight for Banded Stakes has been raised to 10st 4lb to make them more accessible to amateur riders.

“As with all sports, we know that it is vital that the grassroots of Arabian Racing are well catered for,” says the racing director for the Arabian Racing Organisation, Charlie Corbett. “The introduction of Banded Stakes is a real step forward in encouraging those who own a pure-bred Arabian to come and have a go. Banded Stakes have easy to understand race conditions and very attractive weights.”

Banded horses will also be able to enter Handicap races and weights will be allotted depending on the bands they belong to. For example, Band A horses will be allotted a weight corresponding to a rating of 60, while Band C horses will be allotted a weight corresponding to a rating of 40.

The overall number of races will increase by 35% and this should make “the need to ballot all but disappear”, according to Corbett.

Meanwhile, a change to the structure of top-end races should attract a greater number of quality horses. Group races will now have penalty charges to help “create a fairer playing field.”

No penalties will apply to Group 1 races, but in Group 2 races a Group 1 winner will carry a 5lb penalty while a Group 2 winner will carry a 3lb penalty. In Group 3 races, a Group 1 or 2 winner will carry a 5lb penalty and a Group 3 winner will carry a 3lb penalty.

The first fixture of the Arab racing year will take place on Sunday 15 May in Exeter. For more information about Arab racing visit: www.arabianracing.org.uk