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Article 06_003_1
5th February, 2006
The 2yo Pattern Races for the 2006 Season
  3. 1988 COMPARISON


A brief look at the history of the development of race planning since 1965 is a good way to understand the meaning of 'The Pattern' along with how 'Classic', 'Pattern', 'Group', 'Listed' & 'Black Type' races relate to each other. In summary :-

    The responsibility for race planning and the Race Pattern Committee work is now part of British Horseracing Board's remit with the Jockey Club having stepped back to be a regulator of rules and licensing in the early 1990s. The Committee's role includes working with European and International equivalents to try to produce as wide a Pattern of high class racing as possible. Considerations will include trying to ensure a consistent standard within categories and with as few clashes between similar races as possible.

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The opening section of the article covered how the Pattern Race system developed for all racing ages. The table below gives the dates for all of the British 2yo Pattern Races for the 2006 season. There are 33 races scheduled and they are split in the table by the four race distances between 5f to 8f that they are run over. Note that the colours used are Group 1 Races in bold black, Group 2 Races in blue and Group 3 Races in red.

5f 6f 7f 8f
21st, Queen Mary (Asct, F)
22nd, Norfolk (Asct)
20th, Coventry (Asct)

23rd, Albany (Asct, F)
12th, Cherry Hinton (Nmkj, F)
13th, July Stakes (Nmkj)

29th, Princess Margaret (Asct, F)

14th, Superlative (Nmkj)
3rd, Molecomb (Gdwd)

4th, Richmond (Gdwd)

23rd, Gimcrack (York)
24th, Lowther (York, F)
2nd, Vintage Stakes (Gdwd)

12th, Sweet Solera (Nmkj, F)

26th, Solario (Sdwn)
27th, Prestige (Gdwd, F)

9th, Flying Childers (Donc)
2nd, Sirenia (Kton)

16th, Mill Reef (Nwby)
16th, Firth Of Clyde (Ayr, F)

28th, Cheveley Park (Nmkt, F)
29th, Middle Park (Nmkt)

8th, Champagne (Donc)

28th, Somerville Tattersall (Nmkt)

7th, May Hill (Donc, F)

23rd, Fillies' Mile (Asct, F)
23rd, Royal Lodge (Asct)
OCT 8th, Cornwallis (Asct)
14th, Dewhurst (Nmkt)
14th, Rockfel (Nmkt, F)

21st, Horris Hill (Nwby)
8th, Autumn (Asct)

21st, Racing Post Trophy (Donc)

Those races in the table which have an 'F' next to them are for fillies only. A number of the other races are limited to colts and geldings only where there is an equivalent fillies race - for example the Gimcrack Stakes has an exact counterpart at the York Ebor Meeting for the fillies with the Lowther Stakes. In general fillies only race against colts in a handful of Pattern Races during the year. Most notably in the 5 furlong section whereby the only three Group races after Royal Ascot are open to both sexes.

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    The previous sections have made the point that the races that make up The Pattern, and their status, is not fixed. In this context it is interesting to ask how the format of better races for 2yos has changed. For example, if we compare the 2006 schedule to an earlier year, let us take 1988, then what differences show up?

    The headline change has been the increase in the number of races by 7 from a total of 26 in 1988 up to 33 in 2005-6. The 7 new Group races are summarised in the table below :-

New Race Comments
Albany Stakes (6f, Fillies' only, Royal Ascot) New Listed race in 2002 and upgraded to Group 3 in 2005. Fillies' equivalent of the Coventry Stakes. Added as part of programme to add 7th race to each day of Royal Ascot.
Superlative Stakes (7f, Newmarket July Meeting) Upgraded from Listed status in 2003. Now the earliest 7f Group race which used to be the Vintage Stakes.
Sweet Solera (7f, Fillies' only, Newmarket July Course)  Upgraded from Listed status in 2005.
Sirenia Stakes (6f, Kempton) Upgraded from Listed status in 2003.
Firth Of Clyde (6f, Fillies' Only, Ayr) Upgraded from Listed status in 2004.
Somerville Tattersall Stakes  (7f, Newmarket Rowley) Upgraded from Listed status in 2000.
Autumn Stakes (8f, Ascot) Upgraded from Listed status in 2003.

     Also, between 1988 and 2005 four existing races have gone up in status from Group 3 to Group 2, they are the Coventry Stakes, Queen Mary, Vintage & the Rockfel Stakes.

       If you look at the previous changes with no prior knowledge a natural question would be to ask what improvement there has been to require 7 new Group races and four promotions of existing races. This is a difficult one to answer although the increase in strength in British racing and more foreign competition would undoubtedly be offered as possible explanations.

    A more cynical view is that it is the same problem that gets an airing each year in respect of A level results - if 90% of students pass is this a good or bad thing? The usual question posed on the news would be - Are 'A' levels getting easier? We should all be encouraged to shout at the reporters that they are asking the wrong question. The correct one is - What are we trying to achieve with our education and examination systems?

    Similarly, with the Pattern Race system the answer to the 'ease' question is that it is obviously easier to win a Group race in 2005 than it was in 1999 or 1988. If the aim of the Pattern Race system is to provide a tough set of examinations that identify the best performers in a championship series then it has drifted away from that goal. If the aim is to provide a wide range of 'products' that can be marketed as quality racing and give more opportunities for the largesse to be spread around then the increase is a good thing.

    Whether you are an athletic purist, marketer or anti-competition disciple who believes 'every pony should get a rosette' your view will be different on the changes. The important point to agree on is that, like examinations, people really do want to know who are the elite athletically or academically. If the 'examination' system in place does not identify the elite then other systems will be added to do the job. The three level Group Race system will end up getting partitioned into four or some other solution. Perhaps we could have 'Prestige' and 'Feature' Group 3 races? But that's where all this started in 1965.

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