The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and British racing have today welcomed the European Pattern Committee (EPC)’s approvals for its applications to upgrade prominent stayers’ races across Europe, and provided an update on its long-term plans to safeguard the future of the Flat staying horse in British racing.
These include a bolstering of the overall Black Type programme for the stayer in Europe, underpinned by substantial investment in prize money, and supported by further enhancements at grass-roots level.
As part of the plans, the Qatar Goodwood Cup has been upgraded to Group 1 status, while the Queen’s Vase at the Royal meeting has been the subject of an exceptional upgrade from Listed to Group 2, and its distance has been altered to 14 furlongs. Both races will be receiving substantial prize money boosts, and these upgrades are supported by further, complementary, enhancements to the stayers’ Black Type programme across Europe.
Moreover, it has been agreed that no 13 furlong-plus Pattern race in Europe is to be downgraded (unless voluntarily) before 2022.
As part of their long-term financial investment, Qatar has committed to match fund further increases in prize money and the Group 1 Qatar Goodwood Cup will now be run for a total prize fund of at least £500,000.
BRITISH RACING REACTS TO ENHANCEMENTS TO THE STAYERS’ AND FILLIES’ AND MARES’ PROGRAMMES
Alex Eade, General Manager of Goodwood Racecourse, said:
“Elevating the Qatar Goodwood Cup to Group 1 status is something that we have been very keen to happen for a number of years and we are very grateful to the BHA and EPC for supporting and approving the proposal. Alongside the other changes made to the Pattern, we hope that our race will now cement its position as part of a high-profile programme for stayers across Europe and provide yet another tantalising clash of the generations on the beautiful summer turf of the Sussex Downs.
“There will be some other changes to the programme of races during the Qatar Goodwood Festival, which have also been approved by the BHA and the EPC, and which will bring a better balance to the week and create a specific focus for each individual day, all part of our ambitious plan to deliver the best raceweek experience in the world. These changes will include switching the Group 1 Qatar Goodwood Cup to the opening day of the Festival on the Tuesday, positioning the Group 1 Qatar Nassau as the principal race on the Thursday, and moving the Group 3 Gordon Stakes to the Saturday. This will help us to grow attendances where we have capacity, which is not just beneficial to Goodwood, but also supports racing’s objective of building its audience and profile. With our long term partnership with Qatar we are also able to significantly increase the prizemoney on offer this season and it is an important point that this new money will not just sit at the top end but trickle down to the grassroots of our race programme. The two ends of the sport do not exist in isolation and an ecosystem needs a balanced approach to ensure all parts of it remain healthy supporting the whole.”
Nick Smith, Director of Racing Communications for Ascot Racecourse, said:
“We are pleased to be playing our part in the new, enhanced stayers’ programme. At Group 2, and at the reduced trip, the Queen’s Vase will hopefully become a true, quality race for developing stayers. It provides, amongst other things, a more coherent pathway to the newly promoted Group 1 Qatar Goodwood Cup, where the Gold Cup winner can now run penalty free.
“The sprinting programme was radically enhanced in 2015 and the BHA and the European Pattern Committee have once again shown vision and flexibility in addressing issues within the stayers division.”
In addition, the BHA’s Racing Department has invited applications from racecourses to stage additional high-value three-year-old only staying handicaps – as well as to boost the value of the existing three-year-old only handicaps over 14 furlongs,12 furlong maiden races and additional sire-restricted two-year-old maidens, and longer-distance two-year-old races, to encourage horsemen to support the staying breed at each stage of such horses’ development. Consideration will also be given as to how the Plus 10 bonus scheme might be developed over time to help influence this issue.
Ruth Quinn, Director of International Racing & Racing Development for the BHA, said:
“It has been the view of the BHA for some time that we need to find ways to grow the strength-in-depth of the stayers being bred, trained and raced in Britain. It is a subject about which many people feel passionately and we have been exploring the best way to tackle the issues involved. It is extremely promising that we are now in a position to press on and start putting in place steps to safeguard the future of these popular horses here in Britain and Europe.
“We have a weighty responsibility to protect the continued production of quality stayers in the future, for a number of wide-ranging and significant reasons. The rich diversity of our race programme, maintaining variety in the gene pool and, as a consequence, our horse population, creates one of the most important, enviable and fascinating dimensions of British racing. Our support must focus on both the aspirational top-end of the sport and the grass-roots.
“Clearly, this is not something that can be tackled overnight. Unlike the recent, major enhancements that we made to the three-year-old sprint programme in the first half of the season, where there was the additional attractive prospect of creating commercial stallions, it will be much more difficult to change behaviour quickly with this project. The aim is to introduce a number of changes to the programme, both in the short-term in 2017, and over the next three to five years. The project is about building for the future and this will take patience, commitment, and determination. We believe that in time our agreed strategy will help make the stayer a more desirable asset in British and European racing.”
John Gosden, two-time British Champion trainer, said:
“Any action taken to promote and improve the staying programme can only be of benefit to racing and to the breed, and I welcome the news.”
Simon Crisford, trainer and member of the BHA’s Flat Pattern Committee, said:
“This is an exciting and important project. As we all know, talented staying horses are a really vital aspect of British racing. Any improvements to the stayers’ programme will naturally take time to bear fruit, but the programme should be ambitious enough and knit together well in order to really encourage the development of horses with an aptitude for stamina. Upgrading the Goodwood Cup and the Queen’s Vase makes perfect sense and should certainly help to make a difference.”
William Haggas, trainer and member of the BHA’s Flat Pattern Committee, said:
“The BHA should be commended for the work that’s gone into exploring various options for improving the fare for the staying horse and encouraging such horses to progress. Another Group 1 Cup race in our programme has got to be welcomed, as have the changes being made to the Queen’s Vase. This is the key three-year-old staying race in the first half of the season and there is good reason to make it a real target, rather than an afterthought for horses felt to perhaps not be good enough to win over 12 furlongs. In my view having the race as a Group 2 should make a noticeable difference and the reduction in distance is something that I support strongly. The existing trip of two miles is a very stiff test for a three-year-old in mid-June, whereas the slightly reduced distance will see the race appeal to a wider pool of young horses with potential to be high-class stayers of the future.”
In addition to the enhancements to the stayers’ programme, further investment is being made in creating a more aspirational programme of races for fillies and mares. To this end, the Princess Royal Stakes at Newmarket has been upgraded to Group 3 status, and two new Listed races for fillies and mares have been added to the programme at Musselburgh on 3 June over 7f and at Ayr on 22 September over 5½f.
Julian Richmond-Watson, Chairman of the Thoroughbred Breeders Association and Newmarket Racecourses, said:
“We are really pleased to see the upgrade of the Princess Royal Stakes to Group 3. This will not only recognise that the race consistently attracts high-quality fillies, but will also help to improve the overall balance of the middle-distance fillies’ and mares’ Pattern programme in Britain.
“I’m also personally thrilled with the fact the EPC has agreed to some fundamental boosts to the European stayers’ programme, to complement the enhancements that the BHA is looking to introduce further down the scale, all of which come with the full support and encouragement of the TBA.”
Bill Farnsworth, General Manager at Musselburgh Racecourse, said:
“We are very pleased that the Edinburgh Cup on Derby Day will be part of the enhanced programme for three-year-old stayers. As a Class 2 14 furlong Open Handicap with £80,000 prize money it will provide an ideal stepping stone to the Group 2 Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot. In 2018 we will increase the prize money to £100,000 and it will become a Heritage Handicap. We are also pleased to be staging a new Listed race for Fillies and Mares on the same card making the Edinburgh Cup Raceday a high quality supporting card to the Derby at Epsom.”
David Brown, Managing Director of Ayr Racecourse, said:
“This is fabulous news for the team at Ayr. To add a Listed race on the Flat for the second year in succession is terrific and a huge boost not only for ourselves but horseracing in Scotland as a whole.”
Notes to Editors
1. STAYERS’ CONSULTATION
In 2016 a BHA consultation gathered views from a cross-section of breeders, owners, trainers, racing managers, racecourses, bloodstock agents, sales companies and media. The responses demonstrated very strong support for the proposal of finding effective means to increase the strength in depth of middle-distance and staying horses.
The general theme of the responses was: that it is important to find effective means to encourage the production of more quality stayers, and to incentivise people to patronise middle-distance and staying stallions; that more needs to be done to encourage owners to purchase middle-distance horses; and that an increasing number of high-quality future stayers are being lost to export to Australia.
Analysis of responses from the survey additionally revealed the following main points:
a. It is important to find effective means to encourage the production of more (quality) stayers, and to incentivise people to patronise middle-distance and staying stallions. The BHA plans to work with the TBA to explore ideas to help drive such behaviour.
b. More needs to be done to encourage owners to purchase middle-distance horses – including amending the programme to embrace:
o a small, graduated increase in races for the progeny of staying sires or dams;
o a small, graduated increase in the number of longer-distance (9f & 10f) maiden races for 2yos in the autumn/early winter;
o a graduated increase in the number of middle-distance maiden races for 3yos/3yos+;
o amending or extending the Plus 10 bonus scheme such that we specifically target horses, both at 2yo and at 3yo, who are likely to develop into stayers, rather than just focusing on precocity;
o improve and enhance the programme of high-grade 3yo only staying handicap opportunities in the programme;
o consider the introduction of a bonus scheme linking the principal Cup races, and/or a bonus linking the key 3yo staying Pattern races with the following year’s principal Cup races, to encourage progression.
(NB: Whilst there is likely to be only a limited and gradual increase in the number of longer-distance maiden races, or maiden races restricted by sire or dam, these races might help a certain type of horse to win who might otherwise struggle to progress to that point at an early stage of its development. This approach may, over time, help to effect some small, but hopefully continual and therefore cumulative, change in attitude towards the breeding and/or buying of this type of horse.)
c. The questionnaire revealed positive comment about the initiatives implemented for fillies last year and whilst there was no overwhelming urge to expand the programme of higher-grade fillies’ handicaps markedly at this stage, there was encouragement to invest further sums into these races, and to fill one or two further gaps. There was also support for future ambitions regarding the fillies’ Black Type programme.
d. The not insubstantial exodus of potential stayers to Australia is a fairly new and added element, and appears to have enhanced the growing awareness of a need to develop domestic strength in depth of horses destined to excel over longer distances.
These views are being used help to inform the decision-making of the BHA and the EPC sub-committee as the sport maps out a strategy to address these challenges over a period of time. As a result it has been agreed that, in order to address these issues, and to provide the best chance of achieving the required behavioural change, the British and European Pattern programme should be noticeably enhanced, for older horses, for fillies and for 3yos too, and that the staying race programme should see significant prize money increases to go along with any adjustments to Pattern status. This is reflected in the announcements of the EPC, though British racing has ongoing ambitions for further development in this area.
2. SUMMARY OF CHANGES IN GREAT BRITAIN
• Qatar Goodwood Cup (1 August 2017, Goodwood, 3yo+, 16 furlongs): Upgraded from Group 2 to Group 1
• Queen’s Vase (23 June 2017, Royal Ascot, 3yo, 14 furlongs): Upgraded from Listed to Group 2 and change of distance
• Princess Royal EBF Nayef Stakes (29 September 2017, Newmarket, 3yo+ f&m, 12 furlongs): Upgraded from Listed to Group 3
New Listed Races
• Name TBC – 3 June 2017, Musselburgh, 3yo+ f & m, 7 furlongs
• Name TBC – 22 September 2017, Ayr, 3yo+ f & m, 5½ furlongs
Downgrades – Listed
• Investec Woodcote, Epsom Downs, 2yo, 6 furlongs
• Timeform Jury Stakes (registered as the John of Gaunt Stakes) (Group 3 Haydock Park, 4yo+, 7 furlongs) to be run on 10 June 2017 from 28 May 2016
• I88Bet.co.uk Stakes (registered as the Pinnacle Stakes) (Group 3, Haydock Park, 4yo+ f & m, 12 furlongs) to be run on 10 June 2017 from 28 May 2016
• Tercentenary (Group 3, 3yo, Ascot, 10 furlongs): To revert to its previous name of Hampton Court
• Apollobet Cash Back If 2nd Achilles Stakes (Listed, Haydock Park, 3yo+, 5 furlongs) to be run on 9 June 2017 from 27 May 2016
• Lewis Badges 1832 March Stakes (Listed, Goodwood, 26 August 2017, 3yo, 14 furlongs) to revert to being restricted to 3yo only
• Totepool Pontefract Castle Stakes (Listed, Pontefract, 25 June 2017, 4yo+ f & m, 12 furlongs) to be restricted to fillies and mares only
• Group 1 Qatar Goodwood Cup moved to the opening day of the Festival on Tuesday 1 August
• Group 1 Qatar Nassau Stakes moved to Thursday 3 August
• Group 3 Gordon Stakes moved to Saturday 5 August.