Ph: (06) 345-3968 | | The Racecourse, Purnell Street, Wanganui

Wanganui Jockey Club

Ph: (06) 345-3968 | | The Racecourse, Purnell Street, Wanganui

Ph: (06) 345-3968|

Wanganui Jockey Club

Wellington Cup demoted to Group 3

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Wellington Racing Club (WRC) is confident its flagship race will not be adversely affected by a downgrade in classification.

Trentham's iconic race, which was reinstated to two miles (3200m) last season, has been demoted from Group II to Group III level because it has failed to meet the Group II criteria in its last three editions.

The blow for the club will come into force immediately - meaning the race will be classed as a Group III event when it is contested on January 21. Group 1 races are considered the pinnacle for owners, trainers and jockeys.

The downgrade was the major talking point of the New Zealand Pattern Committee's (NZPC) annual review that was released on Tuesday.

Alasdair Robertson, chief executive of Race Group, which run the racing side of the Trentham-based club, said the decision was disappointing, especially given the race only reverted back to 3200m last year.

Robertson said the rise in distance from 2400m came too late for many trainers and owners, with nominations already accepted.

"It's disappointing we weren't given another 12 months to try and build it up," he said.

Robertson is confident the 2017 field will be stronger than last season because there is more preparation time available to trainers and connections.

"There was a strong argument to leave it where it was and I know (New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing chief executive) Greg Purcell fought bravely for us to keep it where it is."

The NZPC, which follows the Asian Pattern Committee (APC) ground rules, uses the World Thoroughbred Racehorse Rankings (WTRR) as its primary assessment tool.

Each race's rating is determined by the average ranking of its first four placegetters. 

The criteria for a race to meet its threshold is based on the race rating in the season under review and the pattern rating of the previous three years.

The decision to downgrade the Wellington Cup comes after it failed to meet the Group II threshold in each of the last three seasons.

In a worrying sign for staying races in New Zealand, the Auckland Cup has also failed to meet the tolerance threshold for a Group I during its last three editions but managed to hold its rating, pending a review of all staying races in the APC region.

The APC can show some flexibility on Group I races that do not meet their threshold but any Group II events and below that failed to meet their thresholds were downgraded.

Robertson said Race Group and the WRC club had not given up on regaining the Group II status in the future and said it will be working hard to strengthen the field.

He strongly believes it will not have a negative impact on the quality of the field or the three day Wellington carnival.

Because of the popularity and historical significance of the Wellington Cup, the NZPC is committed to the $200,000 race stake but Robertson said it was possible the WRC could increase the stake by January.

The other loser in the annual review was the Easter Stakes at Ellerslie which will drop from Group I to Group II status.

Raced over 1600m, the Easter Stakes has failed to achieve the Group I threshold in each of the four years it has been under review.

However, the Auckland Racing Club has had a 1300m three-year-old race in December being upgraded to Listed level.

In the only other change, the Rotorua Stakes, a weight-for-age fillies and mares race, has been promoted from Listed to Group III status.

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