Auckland Cup Retains Group 1 Status
The Auckland Cup will remain a Group I race for at least the next three years.
The Asian Pattern Committee has followed the lead of the European authorities and introduced a downgrade moratorium for group races run at 2600m or further. In the case of three-year-old races, it will apply to races run at 2400m or further.
The moratorium will be reviewed following the 2019-20 season.
The Auckland Cup’s Group I status had been under threat. The race had been on a second downgrade warning and the 2017 edition rated well below the level usually required to maintain a Group I rating.
However, the immediate threat has been lifted as a result of wide support for moves to boost the quality of the major staying races around the world.
The extension of the downgrade moratorium to the Asia-Pacific region has been supported by New Zealand Pattern Committee (NZPC).
The NZPC, which is an independent committee, has completed its review of the 2016-17 season and confirmed the schedule of group and listed races for the 2017-18 season.
Key reasons for the NZPC supporting the moratorium on staying races, which also applies to the Wellington and New Zealand Cups, included maintaining consistency with Europe and the historical importance of such races and their integral place in the Pattern.
The NZPC report also noted that New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing’s strong commitment to prize money increases for the major staying races may improve the field quality and recommended that a review committee be formed to examine the flow of staying races in New Zealand.
It was also considered that the review that the NZPC has requested of New Zealand two year old and three-year-old ratings might flow through to the staying races in future seasons.
Meanwhile, four races have been upgraded from listed to Group III status for the 2017-18 season status and another upgraded to listed status.
The races upgraded to Group III status were the Matamata Slipper for two-year-olds, the Northland Breeders’ Stakes at Ruakaka, the John Grigg Stakes at Ashburton and the Johnstone Handicap, an open 1200m at Te Rapa in December. The El Roca Trophy at Hastings was upgraded to listed status.
The El Roca and the Northland Breeders’ have already been run and their upgrades were announced ahead of the full NZPC report.
The Grigg Stakes (1400m) for three-year-olds will be run at Ashburton on October 21 and will now have a stake of $70,000. The 2016 edition was won by the subsequent Group I winner La Diosa, ahead of Heroic Valour and Savile Row, who were both Group I-placed as three-year-olds.
Two races were downgraded by the NZPC. The White Robe Handicap (1600m) at Wingatui was downgraded from Group III to listed status and the Taumarunui Cup (2100m) has lost its listed status.
The White Robe’s importance in the calendar, as a key target for South Island horses, was examined at length by the NZPC but the committee considered that the weak race ratings outweighed this factor.
However, the Otago Racing Club has requested that the decision to downgrade the White Robe be reviewed.
The NZPC also issued first warnings for 10 group races, including the New Zealand Cup, Rich Hill Mile, Avondale Cup, Royal Stakes, Japan Trophy, Taranaki Cup and Wellington Stakes.
However, second warnings were withdrawn for the Hawke’s Bay Guineas, Wellington Guineas, Championship Stakes at Ellerslie and the NZ Leger and first warnings were withdrawn for six races, including the Levin Classic, One Thousand Guineas and the Telegraph.