Royal Ascot gets new Group 1 as part of sprint revolution

Slade Power (red and white): latest Darley stallion (see story, right)

Royal Ascot hosts Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes and Diamond Jubilee

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (  

A NEW three-year-old only Group 1 over 6f will be held at Royal Ascot next year and is one of a number of changes to the sprinting programme in Europe designed to improve the quality of the competition.

The creation of the new race, worth £375,000, sits alongside the upgrading of races in Britain, Ireland, France and Germany, including the elevation of the Qipco British Champions Sprint on Champions Day to a Group 1 from a Group 2.

Brian Kavanagh, the chairman of the European Pattern Committe, said: “For horses performing at every distance other than sprinting, the European Pattern provides a three-year-old only programme until mid summer, when the Classic generation is considered ready to take on the older horses.

“The Committee believes it is no coincidence that when it comes to milers and middle distance horses, Europe can genuinely lay claim to having the best in the world, however, there is a definite lack of top class European three-year-old sprinters.”

The new Royal Ascot race, which has yet to be named, will be run on the Friday of the meeting and will replace the Buckingham Palace Stakes, a 7f handicap. The Diamond Jubilee will also be closed to three-year-olds although the King’s Stand remains open to them.

As well as the new race at Royal Ascot, the Prix Sigy at Chantilly, Pavilion Stakes at Ascot, Lacken Stakes at Naas and Prix Texanita at Maisons-Laffitte for three-year-olds will be upgraded to Group 3s and the Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock will be a Group 2 in 2015 having been Listed this year.

Kavanagh added: “We acknowledge the steps we have taken are bold, some may consider them radical. However, the committee believes they are warranted and that they will be of considerable benefit to European horseracing and breeding.”

For the older sprinters, the upgrading of the Champions Sprint is complemented by making the Greenlands Stakes, Flying Five Stakes and the Sapphire Stakes at the Curragh Group 2s. The Golden Peitsche at Baden-Baden will be a Group 2 in 2015 as well.

Slade Power - Champions Sprint Stakes 19.10.13

Slade Power: landed the Champions Sprint at Ascot last year

  PICTURE: Mark Cranham (  

“As is the case for any race granted Group status or an upgrade in exceptional circumstances, the performance of the races in question will be reviewed by the EPC after three years,” Kavanagh said.

Ruth Quinn, the BHA’s director of racing, believes the move is positive for British racing and will reduce the number of talented sprinters retiring to stud before their three-year-old season.

“The introduction of the new Group 1 race at Royal Ascot and the accompanying upgrades to existing races represents a tremendous opportunity for British and European racing and the overall package of measures is, I believe, a significant step forward,” Quinn said.

“We have seen a number of Group-winning horses retired to stud at the end of their two-year-old season, decisions which can only have been influenced by the absence of a suitable programme that plays to the horse’s strengths during their three-year-old campaign. We strongly felt that such outcomes are not in the best interests of the sport.”


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