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Winterbottom Stakes new Group 1 race at expense of WA Derby

July 22, 2011

The Winterbottom Stakes is Australia’s newest Group 1 race.

Perth’s feature sprint, run over 1200m at the end of November, was upgraded from Group 2 level following a meeting of the Australian Pattern Committee in Sydney today.

The Committee accepted a proposal from Racing and Wagering Western Australia (RWWA), which sees the WA Derby lose its elite status after a number of years of producing substandard form.

It is a victory for RWWA, who are hopeful of attracting wonder mare Black Caviar, among others, to the west for the race.

Australian Pattern Committee chairman Alan Brown said the upgrading of a sprint race at the expense of a staying race was indicative of changes across the industry.

“This reflects the reality that many distance races are under pressure to retain competitive fields, unlike good quality sprints,” Brown said.

Five Listed races have been upgraded and are now afforded Group 3 status, while two Group 3 races and one Listed race have been downgraded.

The races to be upgraded to Group 3 level are the Bow Mistress Stakes (1200m, Hobart), the B J McLachlan Plate (1200m, Doomben), the Epona Stakes (1900m, Rosehill), the Maybe Mahal Stakes (1400m, Flemington) and the Neville Sellwood Stakes (2000m, Rosehill).

The Randwick City Stakes (2000m, Randwick) and the Tasmanian Derby (2200m, Hobart) have both been downgraded to Listed level, while the Toowoomba Cup (2200m, Toowoomba) has been delisted.

Brown said that distance races remained of concern to the Pattern Committee.

“Apart from those recommended for downgrade today, a number of races are on the caution list and are being carefully monitored,” he said.

It is believed the South Australian Derby is on the shortlist to be downgraded next year, while the Queensland Oaks and the Spring Champion Stakes are under observation.

The new Australian racing season begins on August 1.

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