New Zealand Pattern Review Committee season 2017/18 report

The New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing Board has endorsed the pattern of black type races for the 2018/19 racing season, as recommended by the 2017/18 season New Zealand Pattern Review Committee (PRC).

The PRC was set up in November 2017 under the chairmanship of Mark Freeman alongside Bruce Sherwin, Jason Fleming and Andrew Carston.

The purpose of the PRC was to review the current pattern of black type racing, with particular emphasis on Group 1 and Group 2 races and recommend any changes to the pattern that would improve the quality and performance of New Zealand Racing and maximise participation of the best horses in the best races across the different race categories.

The most significant changes arising from the endorsement of the report by the Board of New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing are the return of the Group 2 Avondale Cup to Saturday 16 February 2019 where it will be the final lead-in race to the Group 1 Auckland Cup, and the return of the Group 3 City of Auckland Cup to 1 January.  

The two Ellerslie staying features had a change of date in the 2017/18 season. The Group 3 City Of Auckland Cup (2400m), previously run on January 1, was part of the Karaka Million race meeting on January 29, and the Group 2 Avondale Cup (2400m) was shifted from mid-February to January 1.

The PRC recommended a return to the previous dates for the Avondale and City Of Auckland Cups because of serious concerns over the number of black type staying and middle distance races in the second half of January in the current season.

The PRC also recommended that the non-black type Karaka Cup (2200m), run on January 14 this year, be added to the Karaka Million programme at Ellerslie on Saturday 26 January 2019, as a replacement for the City Of Auckland Cup, provided it remained at 2200m.

The PRC looked at the impact of the revamped Karaka Million meeting on the pattern and supported the Group 3 Concorde Handicap (1200m) and Group 2 Westbury Classic (1400m) being held on that programme, despite concerns that the two races might be unable to sustain their current back type rating on the new date in the medium to long term.

“The PRC is aware of the desire of the Auckland Racing Club to have a strong back type programme as part of the Karaka Million programme and wishes to accommodate that desire, provided that doing so does not impact negatively on the overall pattern.”

The PRC did not support a proposal that the Group 3 Waikato Cup at Te Rapa be moved from mid-December to February and also decided that the Group 2 Royal Stakes at Ellerslie, for three-year-old fillies, should stay on January 1.

The Northern Region Programming Committee (NRPC) had proposed (amongst other changes) that the Auckland Cup meeting be brought forward a week and that the Avondale Guineas be shifted to January, with the Group 3 Waikato Cup and Group 2 Waikato Guineas at Te Rapa becoming the final lead in races to the Group 1 Auckland Cup and the Group 1 New Zealand Derby, respectively.

“The PRC does not support the proposal that the Auckland Cup carnival move a week earlier in the racing calendar. In the PRC’s view, such a move would cause too much disruption to the pattern (and the racing calendar more generally) in January, February and March, without there being any clear and counter-balancing benefit.”

It did support a proposal that the Waikato Guineas be moved to Saturday 9 February as part of the Waikato Racing Club’s desire to hold a “Super Saturday” race meeting at Te Rapa, even though this will mean that the Group 2 Waikato Guineas and Group 2 Avondale Guineas would be just a week apart.

The committee acknowledged that NZ Derby contenders would be unlikely to contest both Guineas races and that the revised dates would provide alternative pathways to the Derby. 

There had also been an almost unanimous view from trainers spoken to by members of the PRC that the Avondale Guineas, which provides an opportunity to run horses over a middle distance at Ellerslie, should remain as the final Derby lead-in race.  Under the revised pattern, the Avondale Guineas and Avondale Cup will revert to being run at the same mid-February meeting at Ellerslie.

From a national perspective, the PRC is satisfied that the overall pattern of black type races in New Zealand is attracting the best horses in the best races across the different categories.

The PRC also recommended that NZTR look to develop races and race series for four-year-olds and intermediate and progressive staying horses, in an endeavour to build more depth among older horses.

Effective from August 2018, the Operating Procedures of the New Zealand Pattern Committee (PC) will be amended so that any proposed change by a club to the timing, distance, venue or conditions of any black type race must be referred to a standing Pattern Review Committee (PRC) for its consideration and approval.

The full Pattern Review Committee Report and the list of black type races for the period 10 November 2018 through to 4 May 2019 is available on:

Link Pattern Review Committee Report

Link Black Type Race