sport

New Group One at Royal Ascot

There will be an eighth Group One race at Royal Ascot from 2015, for three-year-old sprinters, in place of the Buckingham Palace Stakes.

The new race will be run for 375,000 on the Friday of the Royal Meeting and the Buckingham Palace Stakes will be removed from the programme and the race name retained for future use at Ascot.

Charles Barnett, Chief Executive at Ascot, said:

"Much discussion has taken place with the BHA and European Pattern Committee to address the decline in quality of European sprinters.

"As a result, we are very pleased to be able to stage what we hope will now become a significant new option for three-year-old sprinters at Royal Ascot before they go on to compete against their elders in the Darley July Cup and beyond.

"As part of the overall programme, the Pavilion Stakes at Ascot in the spring also goes to Group Three and, to deliver the necessary end of season championship race in Europe at six furlongs, the QIPCO British Champions Sprint has been promoted to Group One. This brings the number of top level races run at Ascot annually to 13 from next year.

"In order to maximise the field for the new Royal Ascot sprint, the Diamond Jubilee Stakes will be closed to three-year-olds going forward.

"Importantly for us, this won't have significant adverse effect on our overseas promotion of this race as Southern Hemisphere three-year-olds are counted as four-year-olds in the Northern Hemisphere. Equally, the sprinters we attract from Hong Kong, Japan, America and such like have always been older horses.

"The King's Stand Stakes remains open to three-year-olds as this is quite a different test to the stiff six furlongs at Ascot and all parties felt that three-year-olds should still have this option.

"We feel six race cards preserve quality and fit best at Royal Ascot so we gave a lot of thought as to which race should be removed to make way for the new race and decided on the Buckingham Palace Stakes.

"The Buckingham Palace does not have as long a Royal Ascot history as some other races and we have many seven furlong handicaps at Ascot outside the Royal Meeting. There are also several other handicap options for this type of horse during Royal Ascot.

"It is remarkable to think that, in 2001, there were just four Group One races at Royal Ascot, none of which were sprint races. We now have eight Group Ones at the meeting - three of them are for sprinters and the two established races amongst them are now major targets for international horses.

"Equally, when QIPCO British Champions Day was launched in 2011, there were just two Group One races on the card and from next year, there will be four, as befitting the final major event of the European flat racing season.

"I would like to thank Brian Kavanagh, Chairman of the European Pattern Committee, for leading on these exciting developments and all the racing authorities around Europe for demonstrating such confidence in British Racing and Ascot to deliver on the focal points of the new sprinting Pattern which has been announced today."