Gr. 1 Telegraph to become weight-for-age this season
Enzo’s Lad beating Kawi (black & white colours) and Ferrando in the 2018 Telegraph. Photo credit: Race Images
New Zealand’s richest open sprint, the $250,000 Group I Berkett Telegraph (1200m) at Trentham, will be run at weight-for-age this season.
The change will mean that New Zealand’s best gallopers will have two weight-for-age sprint opportunities in the space of three weeks.
The Telegraph will be run on January 18, with the Group I BCD (Waikato) Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa on February 8.
The Telegraph, which was first run in 1891, has traditionally been a handicap race but has been run under set weights and penalties since 2015.
The recent changes have been designed to assist the race to retain Group I status. The Telegraph has been under pressure to retain its rating and last met the Group I tolerance threshold in 2013.
The race has consistently attracted strong fields but has suffered in recent years through the first four placegetters often being among the lower-rated runners. The four highest-rated Telegraph runners last term rated above the Group I benchmark but the race rating is based on the average international ratings of the first four placegetters. The multiple Group I winners Melody Belle and Bostonian finished out of the first four in the Telegraph.
However, decisions on the re-ratings of Group I or Group II races are made by the Asian Pattern Committee, which last week voted to agree with submissions from the New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR) Pattern Committee that the Telegraph be allowed to retain a Group I rating for the current season. NZTR Chief Executive Bernard Saundry also attended the meeting.
A change to weight-for-age conditions will make the Telegraph a more attractive target for top-level horses and encourage three-year-olds to contest the race.
Wellington Racing Club president Wayne Guppy said he was optimistic that the change would “attract the very best horses from within New Zealand and we will be consciously targeting Australian contenders for the event.”
The NZ Pattern Committee made only two changes to the Group and Listed Race schedule for the 2019-20 season, with two races upgraded.
The Eclipse Stakes, a two-year-old race run at Ellerslie run on January 1, was upgraded from Group III to Group II and the Canterbury (War Decree) Stakes, a three-year-old 1400m run at Riccarton Park at Labour weekend, has been promoted from listed to Group III.
The Barneswood Farm Eclipse Stakes has become a key leadup race to the Karaka Million 2YO and the Canterbury Stakes has become a significant Two Thousand Guineas and One Thousand Guineas leadup.
Though no races were relegated in status, four Group I races are under a warning from the Pattern Committee. They were maintained for the Telegraph and Auckland Cup and imposed for the Thorndon Mile at Trentham and Herbie Dyke Stakes at Te Rapa.
The highest-rated races in New Zealand last season were the Livamol Classic (116.5), BCD Sprint (115.75) and the Windsor Park Plate and Bonecrusher Stakes, which both returned 115.25.